Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 31, 2024 – Easter Sunday

By Rev. Catherine Nance


Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand…”

We all know the scripture reading for today – “He is not here. He has risen.” The next line of good news we hear is, ‘He appeared.’ We think of Cleopas and his friend in Luke’s Gospel and Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel. We could think of these as stand-alone stories; events that happened in the past to someone else. But, we claim that WE are an Easter People. In the Epistle reading for today, Paul reminds us that the appearances keep happening. “Now, I would remind you,” he begins,” of the Good News that I proclaimed to you.” He reminds us that Jesus died, was buried, and raised on the third day. Then, the thens begin. Yes, the THENS. 

THEN he appeared to Cephas, 

THEN to the Twelve, 

THEN to more than five hundred, 

THEN to James, 

THEN to all the apostles. 

In dramatic storytelling style, Paul concludes, “Last of all, he appeared also to me.”

This is where we get to interrupt the story and say, No, Paul; you were not last of all, because THEN he appeared to me!

When we say we are Easter People, we are not simply retelling a story that happened over two-thousand years ago. We believe Resurrection continues to happen and Jesus appears to us! I have seen Jesus in your faces when you speak of your hope. I have seen Jesus in a hospital room. I have seen Jesus when a child served me communion on Christmas Eve. I have seen Jesus when someone offered grace.

THEN, he appeared to me. Where have you seen Jesus? 


O God of Resurrection, thank you for being alive in our hearts and in our world today. Help us to see you and THEN, to tell others the Good News! Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, April 30, 2024 – Holy Saturday

By John Eldridge


Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (NKJV)

I love Springtime; but then I love all the seasons. The earth warms and all the plants and trees begin to come alive again. All different shades of green begin to appear. 

My wife Phyllis and I have, through the years, planted a number of perennial flowers. We love to watch their progress as they shoot up through the mulch, coming out a little more each day until there is a Hosta or a new flower. It’s all a miracle! A miracle that unfolds right before our eyes. 

My Methodist minister father once preached a sermon about the Surprise Lily. The Surprise Lily is called that because there is nothing there until one day the Surprise Lily is suddenly a gorgeous flower. 

Lent is like that. Slowly we begin to “wake up” to the coming of Spring and soon know the joy of the Gospel reining in on us. Also a miracle. Then comes Holy Week and God’s greatest surprise – the Resurrection of Christ. Easter then comes and we celebrate.  


Help me, Lord, to see the miracle of Spring, when the world comes alive after a season of sleep. Help me to know and feel that I am a special child of God. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, March 29, 2024 – Good Friday

By Rev. Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor

God With Us

Psalm 22

I was in college when I learned that Jesus’s “cry of dereliction” was from Psalm 22. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Jesus relied upon scripture to express himself in a moment beyond words. In the midst of suffering Jesus relies upon the wisdom and words of scripture. When we fail to acknowledge that Jesus is invoking scripture, we think he is just invoking raw emotion. Rather, Jesus is interpreting his own experience of suffering through the language of the 22nd Psalm. Any doubts that lingered about Christ’s humanity are dashed upon the hard edge of his cry of anguish. Yet, because he invokes this Psalm, we see that his trust and obedience to the Father remains steadfast. 

In his suffering Jesus shows us the way to encounter our own suffering, and how to seek God in the midst of that suffering. First, Jesus shows us that scripture gives us the words to be honest. It is not faithful to pretend as if our suffering isn’t real, or that it is not truly suffering. Jesus voices a sense of abandonment, calling out “My God, why have you forsaken me?” When we feel abandoned or dejected, we too can cry out to God truthfully. Second, Jesus demonstrates how thoroughly scripture can be a source of vocabulary and language for us. When we do not have words, we can pray through scripture. 

All this week it has been tempting to rush towards the victory of Easter. Yet, their is no victory if there is no Friday. We all experience suffering and pain. In Christ’s own suffering we see a solidarity with our humanity, another lived example of what “God with us” actually means. 


O God, You who sent your Son into the world to know and endure our suffering; grant that in the midst of our own suffering we would know you hear our prayers and care about our plight. Prepare our hearts for Easter that we may know the joy of your love in the good times and the bad. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, March 28, 2024 – Maundy Thursday

By Dan Kelley

Turn Around and Repent

Read: Psalm 139

In January 1994, a 6.7 earthquake hit the San Fernando Valley of California centered on the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge. There were two major 6.0 aftershocks and hundreds of smaller ones. The quake had the highest ground acceleration measurement ever taken in an urban area.

The quake did major damage in the cities of Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Santa Clarita. It was felt as far away as San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. But most damage was done in Northridge. At between $13 and $50 Billion dollars of damage, it was one of the costliest natural disasters in US History. Fifty-seven people were killed and 9000 injured.

A young student at Cal State Northridge named Carl lived in the Meadows Apartment Complex. When the quake hit Carl’s apartment was destroyed. He was knocked down and trapped in the kitchen. He awoke hours later when he heard sirens blaring nearby. His hope rose. If he could free himself, he could be saved. But the room was full of dust and smoke from nearby fires. He could not see. He struggled from under the fallen cabinets that had pinned him to the floor and crawled to the front door. If he could get through the west facing door to the outside he could be saved. 

But the door frame was jammed and no matter how hard he pounded it would not open. He yelled. He cried but no one heard him. The fear of fire burning him frightened him. The smell of gas caused anxiety. The irrational thought of earthquakes causing a tsunami that might drown him drove him to panic. He smashed on the door again and again but to no avail.

Then he bargained with God. He negotiated what he would do for God if only He would save him. He made promises. He would atone for all his sins. With this hope, he again pushed on the door with all his might. But the door did not move. He cursed God in the dark. Why won’t you save me? He collapsed in exhaustion and despair. He felt totally abandoned.

Early the next morning Carl felt sunlight on his face. In confusion he turned around to see that the eastern wall of his apartment had fallen away and he could walk out to safety. 

The word repent means to turn around. When Carl turned around and opened his eyes he could see the light. He could see the way God had prepared for him to escape those things in his life that had trapped him.


Dear Lord and Savior, You have prepared the Way for us with your own blood. Help us to turn away from the traps of the world and see the light of your love. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

By David Lineberger

A Time of Introspection

Read: Jeremiah 29:11

“Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

The first time I remember hearing about Lent I was amazed that there was a religious time to concentrate on belly button dust. Of course, I was 8 years old at the time. Later, I was curious to learn that this was not a celebration like Christmas or Easter, but something very personal and introspective, and that it was different for every person.

Historically, new Christians were baptized and confirmed at Easter. Leading up to that was a period of preparation centering around your relationship with God, how you were living your own life, and how you were sharing God’s love with those less fortunate. Doing these things gave you a renewed perspective of your faith and an appreciation of God’s love.

Today, we use the season of Lent to emphasize these same spiritual ideas. To focus on how important various things are in your life, imagine a blank piece of paper. Imagine there is a circle in the center of the page with your name on it. Now place  things or people that are most important to you nearest the circle in the center. Continue with other less important parts of your life and place them farther from the center, depending on their importance to you. Once this is complete, put God where He belongs in your life, being honest and not where He should be, but is in reality. This mental exercise should give you a picture of your life currently, and how important God is to you. Do you see anything that should change? Does God deserve better?

Now look at the paper and ask yourself how many of the items nearest you reflect selfishness or greed, or harm to yourself or others. Are there items that should move away from you in the center, or items near the edge of the paper that belong nearer the center?

And last, realize how many of your items focus on the needy or those who are desperate for help from those more fortunate. How close are they to the center of the page? How much are you sharing God’s blessings and love with others?

In doing these things, Lent can become a personal celebration of your faith in God and a renewal of what it means to be His disciple. Lent can also be a time of a renewed appreciation of His greatest gift to all of us. What could be better than making our lives all about sharing His love instead of all about ourselves?


Dear Heavenly Father, forgive our selfishness and greed, our tendency to exclude you from our lives, and our willingness to look the other way when needs of others cross our path. Help us to see You in others,  and help to show You to others! In the name of your precious Son I pray, Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

By Steve Richardson

Go. And Do.

Read: Luke 10:29-37

“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

These days, with all the turmoil happening across the world, there are times I just want to hunker down and hide inside a bubble. Everything seems safer that way.

But when looking at Biblical examples of Jesus, Paul, Peter and other God-led role models, self-preservation was nowhere near the top of their lists of priorities. In fact, self-preservation wasn’t even on their lists at all.

Maybe it’s amid social and cultural commotion that God looks to us to contend with it, and to use such times as opportunities to be God’s agents for peacemaking, advancing justice and building community.

At crossroads of hesitancy in my life, sometimes I’ve been nudged by a snippet of wisdom from St. Thomas Aquinas: “If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” Like ships are made for sailing, we as God’s people need to be out in the tumultuous world sharing and living lives reflective of God’s grace and love. 

Granted, Lent is a time for introspection and reflection. This might imply that Lent is a time to pause or retreat, to moor our ship in a sheltered harbor for a few weeks. Likely, though, the full richness of the transformational power of Lent can be best realized when we augment the season by applying our resources and talents to building God’s kingdom, by giving of ourselves to God’s work, by venturing out into a troubled world with acts of kindness, mercy and justice. 


God of fervor, God of opportunities, forgive our hesitancies to respond when action is needed, especially in service to others. Instill in us a passion for going and doing in Jesus’ name. Call us and use us to be conveyors of your Holy Spirit throughout all your creation, especially when everything seems turned upside-down! Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, March 25, 2024

By Laura Still

The Presence of God

Read: Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there. If I take the wings of the morning, if I fly to the furthermost depths of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,” even then the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

Lent is traditionally viewed as a time a self-denial, as a time when we focus on the dark side of ourselves and try to improve our faith practices through exercises in self-discipline, fasting, study and prayer. It is a time we are meant to move closer to God, but another way to improve our relationship with our Lord is to seek joy—the joy of being loved by God.

One of the joyful things about teaching children is the questions they ask, even the ones that are meant to sidetrack the lesson plan. In a recent discussion of our lesson, which was about the baptism of Jesus, the kids managed to turn the conversation to the omnipresence of God—not that they used that particular phrase. They wanted to know, if God was everywhere, was He here in the room? Was He also out in the hallway? Could He be in the closet? Or in the trash can even? I replied ‘Yes’ to every question, and seeing a certain look in some of their eyes, I went on to say, “I don’t care where you are thinking of, no matter how weird or inappropriate you think it is, God is there. There is no place you can go that God cannot be. He is everywhere, because nothing is impossible for God.”

After that I managed to get them back to our lesson, but their questions are never unwelcome. They always give me the feeling that God wants me to think about something, because I hear echoes of these questions as I go through the week, remembering times I have felt distant from God’s presence, when I have tried to hide myself in the darkness, and forget that God is with me no matter how lonely or confused I am feeling. Whatever is troubling me, God is listening and present, constant and steadfast in his love. I may not see a dove descending or hear a voice from the heavens, but I do hear God speaking in the voices of the children, reminding me I too am his beloved child.


Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 139:23-24)

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 24, 2024

By Rev. Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor

Look Around

Read: Mark 11:1-11

“The king shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks,

When beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes.

And let the endless bliss begin by weary saints foretold,

When right shall triumph over wrong and truth shall be extolled.”

“Morning Song,” a hymn by John Brownlie, 1907

My first memory of attending a parade was the annual “Jubilee” in mid July in my hometown. I remember the convertibles and the fire trucks filled with smiling people throwing candy. It was a celebration! 

That’s what parades are supposed to be all about. Palm Sunday begins with a celebratory parade. Once Jesus arrives in the heart of the city he goes to the temple. While there, Mark tells us he “looked around.” Every Palm Sunday we focus upon the grand entrance into Jerusalem. We dress our children up and give them palm branches, and sometimes tambourines, and have them march around the church. We shout “Hosanna” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

Do we look around? As we begin this Holy Week let us take time. Let us look around. We look at the story of each day of this week. We look at the ways Christ’s Lordship seeks to transform and renew our lives. When Christ looks around your life, what does he see? When you look around our church, what, and who, do you see? Keep your eyes open this week. Look around and see where it is that God is leading.


Gracious and loving Lord, as you journeyed to the temple, journey with us this week. Open our eyes and our hearts that we can see and hear where you are speaking and leading in our lives. Give us the courage to follow you through this week and show us how to live with the same love, humility, and compassion that you displayed in your trial and passion. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 17, 2024

By Suzanne Matheny

Bread for Life, Bread of Life

Read: 1 John 3:17-18 (NRSV)

“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”

I grew up next door to my beloved grandfather, enjoying the bounty from his vegetable gardens, fruit trees and chickens. Our meals were satisfying and are a favorite today. Gratefully, I have never known hunger. However, our world is in a global crisis with 828 million people (10% of world population) going to bed hungry, accompanied by death rates exceeding those from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Fortunately, there are programs, such as United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) or Feeding America, to address these issues.* Yet as I reflect, my wealth of food juxtaposed to this reality is sobering. How can I help?

God commands us to feed the hungry. Jesus demonstrated that when he fed the hungry crowd (miracle of 5 loaves and 2 fishes). Subsequently, Jesus included spiritual sustenance. (“I am the Bread of Life.”) Centuries later, Ghandi said, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of food.” How best, then, do I/we deliver God’s love in the form of life-sustaining food that also opens the door to the light of the Bread of Life?


Merciful God, we are blessed with well-stocked grocery stores and meals set before us. As we receive this nourishment, deepen our awareness and compassion for those who suffer from hunger. Increase our understanding of the circumstances. Use our minds and bodies to work for remedies where we can. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

*UMCOR: https://umcmission.org/advance-project/982920/

*Feeding America: https://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 10, 2024

By Dan Kelley

Boon Companions

Read: Matthew 25:21

One summer in the early 2000s my wife Julia and I toured Civil War battlefields of the Western Theatre. We had started in Chattanooga at the Chickamauga Battlefield and were heading toward Florence, Alabama on US highway 72 to see Brice Cross Roads and Shiloh Battlefields. Just west of Tuscumbia we saw a large green highway sign that read “Key Underwood Memorial Coon Dog Cemetery”. We had to see that. So we turned onto Alabama 247 and went 12 miles to Coon Dog Cemetery Road. 

There among the dusty redtop Freedom Hills was a small green oasis that used to be a hunting camp. We were greeted by a tall stone column of two coon dogs treeing a raccoon. We learned that Key Underwood had loved hunting in these woods with his dog Troop. When Troop had died in 1937, Key had buried him here as a memorial to their 15 years together. He placed an old chimney stone on the grave on which he scratched “Troop was a joy to hunt with”. Other bereaved hunters followed his example, when their beloved dogs died, to bury them and mark their graves.

There were over 300 dogs buried there. To qualify they needed to be AKC recognized breeds; Redbones, Black and Tans, English Blueticks or Redticks, or Treeing Walkers. Or they needed to be Southern hunting hounds; Black Mouth Curs, Plott Hounds, Catahoulas, or Mountain Curs. And they had to have 3 witnesses that had seen them tree a coon singularly. They were not just any dogs but coon dogs. working dogs who were varmint hunters and protectors of crops and livelihoods. No poodles or lapdogs.

Many had marble or limestone headstones that were professionally carved. They listed their AKC or UKC registration and the trophies they won. Some were local champions, some were State Champions, some were National Champions, and a few were World Champions at their craft. Famous Amos was buried there. He was Ralston Purina’s “Dog of the Year” in 1984. 

While the marble headstones show the pride of the owners, the metal markers that had  welded messages or the wooden markers that had wood burned messages showed the love and companionship that was shared by the hunter and his dog.  One of my favorite was a 4 x 4 post with a dog collar and tag nailed to it. It said, “Old Blue, he weren’t the best but he was the best I ever had”.

Key Underwood reminded me of all the companions that had helped me on my spiritual journey; those who had taught me, encouraged me, and worked with me. Not all were champions but all were of a recognizable breed: loving, compassionate, and full of the Holy Spirit. And there were at least three witnesses to their ability to keep sin at bay.

In this Lenten season, as we remember what Our Lord and Savior has already done for us, let us remember those that have helped us on our way learning to follow His example.


Dear Lord of Mercy Divine, Thank for your sacrifice, for sending your Holy Spirit to us, and for the many faithful companions you have placed in our lives to help us return to you. Help us to be good companions to others of your children that we may help them on their journey home. Amen.

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