Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 3, 2024

By Dona Bunch

Little Acts of Lent

Read: Zechariah 4:6

Each little act of love matters. The day of big things is coming, but until then, we are not to neglect the day of small things. Zechariah’s words again ring true: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts”.

When I was a child, my church had little coin holders for kids during Lent. Each week we put a dime of our allowance in the slot instead of spending it on candy or other treats. We were learning the spiritual discipline of Lent.

Lent is one of the “big” religious seasons of the year. As  Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Lent acknowledges His death and ultimate resurrection. What is a bigger event than resurrection?

To commemorate this season, Christian churches use the practice of fasting,  sacrifice, and denial as participatory actions.  Because Lent is so big, we feel our observation should be equally huge. I often have trouble deciding on something big enough to be worthy of the cross. Sacrificing coffee or chocolate doesn’t do it,  and fasting is just beyond me.  

I was reading an article by a novelist who spoke of eschewing the “bigness” of best sellers and tv appearances and all things that authors dream about in favor of the small, daily acts that eventually turn an idea into a printed book. She sang the praises of  going small.

It struck me that maybe the “bigness” of Lent was what made me so tentative. Maybe I could focus on actions and sacrifices that were smaller but still  meaningful. 

After all, Jesus was the ultimate minimalist. He cared nothing for material things and encouraged others to think similarly. He was the  very model of small, individual acts of service. So, what if we gave up  the grand gesture for the small act? 

  • We could give up self-ness for otherness. We could help someone who’s suffering by providing for their needs, be it food or the comfort of a friend.
  • We could give up our love of the physical – new clothes, that new Apple watch – for meaning without cost, maybe family time or calls to loved ones far away.
  • We could give up the pain we’ve been holding from past experiences and recapture the peace that’s been lost.
  • We could give up noise for solitude and quiet – like  walking without a podcast or taking a break from scrolling and tv.

Ultimately, we would be giving up “bigness” for the small miracles, the quiet moments of prayer, silence, reflection, and service  that draw us ever closer to the heart of God. And when we’re renewed and refreshed, the bigness of Easter might move us even more.


Precious God, help us to recognize the bigness of your sacrifice, and show us ways that our small, human acts can express our devotion and love to You. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, February 25, 2024

By Nancy Carmon


Read: Psalm 51:10-12

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” 

Recently while reading in my devotion guide I discovered a faith practice that I plan to use during Lent. It is called the Prayer of Examen. It is a prayer of reflecting on the events of the day in the presence of God. This style of prayer was originally developed in the 15th century by St. Ignatius of Loyola and typically includes five steps: rest, request, reflect, reconcile, and renew. 

Rest — take some time to rest in gratitude for today’s gifts including the presence of God. 

Request — give thanks for the Holy Spirit and invite the Holy Spirit’s presence during your prayer time. 

Reflect — as you review the interactions with others and your thoughts of the day, think about whether you were moving towards or away from God.  

Reconcile — identify where you need to change in your relationships and interactions with God and others. 

Renew — look forward to tomorrow and ask for God’s guidance. 

Pray — Restore in me an open heart and renew my delight in your presence. Sustain me through the day and night by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Perhaps this Prayer of Examen might be your Lenten practice this year.


Restore in me an open heart and renew my delight in your presence. Sustain me through the day and night by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, February 18, 2024

By Rev. Catherine Nance

Teach Me, O Lord

Read: Psalm 25:9

“He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.”

Here we are. First Sunday of Lent. For some of us it may feel like a do-over or a restart. It was just seven weeks ago that we made resolutions and promises and set goals. Things we were going to change. Things we were going to do better. Be better in 2024.

Maybe today, we tell ourselves those same things. Really going to do it this time. 

There is nothing wrong with setting goals at the start of a new year. However, using the season of Lent as a second chance calendar for self-improvement is … well, missing the mark. That is what happens when we start with ourselves. What do I need to improve? What do I want to change? Instead of starting with Self, the Psalmist begins with God. To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust. Make me to know your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth. The emphasis and focus is on God. Not me. I am still the recipient of grace and teaching and truth, but it is God’s grace. God’s teaching. God’s grace. God’s goodness. 

Before I make a list of things I want to do or give up during Lent, I will make time to pray. What is it that God desires for me this Lenten season? 


Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Amen. (Psalm 25:5)

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Weekly Prayers for the Church Street Family

Week of February 14, 2024

Written by Steve Richardson

God in heaven and in our midst, source of agape love, in your graciousness hear our prayers. 

The ancient writer said you created us in your image, God. Even though we might question what that means about your physical appearance, we’re confident about one trait of your image: You, the God of love, infused in each of us the innate ability to love. Jesus affirmed this in his straightforward command: “Love one another.”  He never would have told us this so succinctly if we were not capable of doing so.  

So, Lord, help us learn ways to better reflect this facet of your sacred image. Sometimes it is hard to love, especially when our self-interests take over. Other times, it’s easy to just step aside, taking no initiative at all when love is needed. Forgive us, God, when we fail to live as people imitating your image of love. Accept our repentance, particularly on this Ash Wednesday. Through your merciful compassion, revive us with new hope and energy to be ever-more obedient to Jesus’ charge: “Love one another.” 

Also as Jesus taught, we plea that your kingdom comes, that your will is done, among us on this Earth as you have already done in heaven. Sometimes we casually presume that only you can make this happen. Help us acknowledge that we, too, have roles and purposes in your kingdom coming. Again, keep us mindful that Jesus told us how: “Love one another.” 

Yet circumstances of suffering and strife do exist that are out of our control. For these we pray with faith and hope that you instill peace in war-torn and conflict-laden areas; heal the physical and mental illnesses beyond scientists’ abilities to remedy; reveal passages for moving forward to people experiencing loss, separation and grief; rehabilitate lands shattered by natural disasters; restore social justice and equity for all your children; rouse mutual self-respect among all people; and lead all humankind to accept and adhere to the way of living espoused by our Savior: “Love one another.”    

Thank you for Church Street United Methodist Church, our base for our journeys through the Lenten season. Thank you for the wisdom and spiritual insights shared by members’ and pastors’ Lenten devotions. Thank you for clergy, staff, teachers and volunteers who forge paths for growth, learning, mission, fellowship and transformation. Thank you for reawakening our minds and hearts to your clear call: “Love one another.”      

Merciful God, please hear these needs and prayers of others in our church community. Surround each person with your loving embrace and comfort… 

We pray for ….

  • Our clergy and staff as they lead us through this Lenten Season.
  • For dear friends; a husband who is in ICU with infection and other concerns, and for his wife
  • One who continues to grieve for her husband while dealing with some family tensions
  • Comfort for those who grieve …. Many funerals this past week, this weekend, and next week
  • Victims of Israeli-Hamas war
  • Loved ones who are transitioning from ‘home alone’ to ‘assisted living’ 
  • Those for whom Valentine’s is a difficult day
  • The family of the deputy in Maryville and all affected by gun violence

We give thanks for ….

  • The birth of a baby boy!
  • The opportunity to provide an educational opportunity for our Holston Hispanic Ministry Team
  • Sunshine that lifts our spirits!
  • The one-hundredth birthday of a dear church member and friend!

We continue to pray for ……

  • Caregivers who feel they are alone.
  • A member who has brain tumor; may she feel God’s comfort and healing presence
  • Children who were recently hospitalized; prayers for continued strength and healing
  • Our youth and young adults who carry so much inside

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

By Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett

Lenten Love

Read: Psalm 51: 1-17

This year we experience a calendar rarity as the U.S. Valentine’s Day and Western Christianity’s Ash Wednesday fall on the same day. (The last three times this happened were in 2018, 1945 and 1934). Though these two special observances are quite different in focus, they have a commonality. Both point toward love.

The legends and history around the origin of Valentine’s Day are manifold and the subject for another time. In short, contemporary societies across the globe associate this international holiday with romantic love.

On the other hand, Ash Wednesday emphasizes God’s love as it launches Lent, the six- and one-half weeks season of the Christian year that highlights Jesus’ life and ministry. Ash Wednesday and Lent have been observed in the Western Christian Church for centuries. This season highlighting human mortality, penance, and Jesus’ suffering culminates in the greatest expression of love the world has ever known- our Savior’s death on the cross. Three days later, on Easter Sunday, we observe Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, the world-changing first century event that broke the power of sin and death.

In addition to reminding us of God’s amazing love for humanity, Ash Wednesday and Lent provide us with avenues to respond to Jesus’ actions on our behalf. Some people give up a favorite food during Lent, like chocolate or desserts. Others add actions to their lives such as serving at a food pantry or doing a daily good deed. The point in Lenten observances is not to earn God’s favor or to demonstrate how “holy” we are. Rather, Lenten practices are a way to express our gratitude for Jesus’ love in our lives.

The fourth verse of a great Issac Watts hymn beautifully states the why of observing Lent. “Were the whole realm of nature mine; That were an offering far too small; Love so amazing so divine; Demands my soul my life my all.” https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/298

February 14 is a day when we celebrate love. This year, with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day, for Christians the emphasis expands to God’s love. How will you respond to God’s love this Lenten season?

It is a joy to serve as your bishop. Blessings!

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023 — Evening

By Rev. Catherine Nance

Stay with Us

Read: Luke 24:28-29

“As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.”

We remember the words from Good Friday, “It is finished.” We might be tempted to say the same thing this Easter evening. With a sigh of exhaustion or satisfaction — maybe both. It is finished. Easter is over. It was glorious!

Some of you gathered early this morning for a sunrise service. Many have been involved in Lenten studies, choir rehearsals, and Lenten collections. Today will be a full day of joyful worship and gathering with family and friends. As night comes, we feel tired, but what my mother would call a good tired; physically and emotionally spent from all the celebration. It is over.

As we prepare to retire for the evening, I encourage you to say instead, “It is beginning.” 

The two men on the road back to Emmaus had no idea who their traveling companion was but encouraged him to remain with them as night was falling.

On this Easter, we do know who our companion is. We do know Jesus is risen. We do not put Easter away. Thanks be to God! Jesus remains with us, abides with us. On the church calendar, we observe Easter for fifty days.

Get a good rest tonight … Easter is beginning!


Dear Jesus, thank you for a glorious Sunday morning! May all of the joy of Easter spill over into Monday morning and the next day and the next day. Stay with us. Abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel! Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Easter Sunday, April 9, 2023 — Morning

By Katie Heatherly

He Arose!

Read: Psalm 130

I have to say that I cannot think of an Easter season without hymn 322 “Up from the Grave He Arose”. This song has been a staple in my family for funeral and Easter services alike. My dear grandfather introduced this song to me as a child. He tragically passed away when I was 8 years old. I can vividly remember hearing this song and thinking of him with our risen Lord in heaven.

What more do we need as Christians, be we 8 or 108, than this assurance in Christ from the chorus of the hymn: Up from the grave he arose, with a mighty triumph o’er his foes; he arose a victor from the dark domain, and he lives forever, with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Prayer (from Psalm 130)

Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my cry. Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. If thou, Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word do I hope. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Holy Saturday, April 8, 2023 — Evening

By Beth Stubbs

We are the Church!

Read: Psalm 115:14-18

Many years ago when I was serving on the committee at the church designated to raise the church budget, about $1.5M, it became clear that we might not be able to raise the amount needed. There have been many times that this was the case. I cannot remember the exact composition of the committee, but someone said, “It seems that we are always asking folks to give, but when they do, we don’t celebrate all that we have received. Let’s have a celebration after the campaign comes to a close — whether we make our goal or not!” As you can imagine, a few were skeptical … a celebration if we do not meet the goal? Ultimately the naysayers were convinced to celebrate … no matter what.

As the dialogue turned to what this celebration would look like, it took the shape of a potluck dinner with a show of talents, all ages, from church members who normally do not show their talents. There would also be prayers and hymns sung. Names were given of those who played instruments, sang, would be good Masters of Ceremonies, or were good cooks. Of course, I volunteered my family. My husband Tony had been teaching Thomas, our 4-year-old-son, to sing. We thought that if Tony were up on the stage with Thomas, that Thomas would not be afraid to sing to the crowd. Someone from the Children’s department had taught Thomas the refrain to “We Are the Church.” The refrain goes:

“I am the church! You are the church. We are the church together!

All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!”

It was a great evening indeed. About 250 people packed into the Parish Hall, eating and having great fellowship. I heard people entertain the group that I had never met, folks from Murphy Builders, and several other Sunday school classes. The program went off without a hitch and Thomas sang his song, “We Are the Church,” and then asked the crowd to sing with him. Thomas was not afraid. I believe the Lord was with him then and now. The Lord is with all of us. We need to celebrate and give witness always. The gifts that God gives us are immeasurable. When I begin making my list of gifts from God, the list goes on and on, and then I realize … it is ALL from God. I am so grateful for his love and for his son, Jesus.


May we all give thanks for the mystery and the victory of Jesus’ resurrection and celebrate what has been given us through his life and death Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Good Friday, April 7, 2023 — Evening

By Ann Reego

O Sacred Head Now Wounded

Read: John 19:2

Imagine a hymn so powerful that it has been a favorite and beloved Passion Hymn for 900 years! That is the story behind O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. Written by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), it was based on John 19:2. I fell in love with J.S. Bach’s harmonization in college when my first theory assignment was to copy it from the Episcopal hymnal. Later we sang it and studied the flow of each line and how it emphasized Christ’s death and anguish through dissonance and moving parts. This hymn makes me feel as if I am at the feet of the cross.


God, bring us to the cross this Lent with aching hearts and broken spirits so that when we awake on Easter Sunday, our hearts and healed and our spirits are lifted and ready to follow the risen Lord. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Good Friday, April 7, 2023 — Morning

By Suzanne Matheny

Seeing the Love in His Glance

Read: Psalm 22:1, Mark 15:34, Matthew 27:46

“‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

Read: John 14:20

“‘On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.’”

Sister Monica Joan, elderly nun/midwife, is a favorite character in the BBC series, Call the Midwife. She suffers from dementia and feels purposeless. Yet, she has moments of lucidity and wisdom, with surprising clarity of memory or piercing observations. Yet, a day comes when she has a crisis of faith, despite her decades of prayer and service. She is distraught, questioning God, feeling lost.*

Biblical stories attest to God’s people, even God’s son, were subjected to doubts or feeling forsaken. Is it possible that any person of finite mind has not felt this tension? Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross, coined the term “dark night” of the soul. And, recently, we have learned that Mother Teresa, in the midst of having done so much good, struggled with her doubts. What are we to think? We are human. We are not exempt. The irony is that wrestling with this tension may deepen our faith.

Sister Monica Joan also dreams of a white stag that becomes her symbol of knowing God’s presence – the Divine blessing she needs. In later scenes, she does see that white stag and exclaims, “I knew him at once for the love in his glance.”** In those dark nights, when we yearn to know God’s presence, it may seem elusive; and we are left to exercise faith that Christ is, as he said, in us. We may also need to learn new ways of seeing so that at once, we know him for the love in his glances.***


Love Divine, pure unbounded love that You are, open our eyes that we may see anew your presence in us and catch new glances of Love You send our way, in whatever form they may come. Amen.

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*Call the Midwife, BBC drama, Season 10, Episode 1.

**Call the Midwife, BBC drama, Season 9, 2019 Holiday Special.

***Lloyd, Samuel T., III. Sermons from the National Cathedral: Soundings for the Journey, pg.43-47.