Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 26, 2023 — Morning

By Laine Thomas

Opening My Ears

Read: Hosea 12:6 NIV

“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.”

Read: Micah 7:7 NIV

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

Prayer is a challenging daily practice in my life. I turn to it when I need something but I don’t often just listen in prayer for what God has to say to me. Instead, I try to determine my own path and pray just to make sure He’s on board with the direction I’ve already planned on heading.

These forty days are a chance to refocus away from the world and grow spiritually. It’s a time to make our hearts and minds ready for God. Sacrificing something we enjoy becomes an opportunity to fill that missing piece with Him. Because talking it out in prayer is how I try to manage things, instead I’m giving my words to God. I’m spending this Lenten season in prayer. I’m planning to give my time to the Lord. I’m not looking for answers to my prayers. Instead, I want to remind myself that I’m not meant to conquer this world alone. I’m using this Lent to listen to Him and let His words and intention guide me. My house will be quieter this season, but my ears and heart will be open for all He has to tell me.

Sacrifice and spiritual growth can come in many forms and this Lenten season, I hope we all find our way closer to God and are reminded of our need for him minute by minute in our lives. It’s never easy to change our habits, to reset, and we are blessed for this reminder to work on it every year knowing that our God will hear us.

Prayer

Lord, I pray for every person sacrificing comforts, serving you, and giving a bit of themselves this season in order to refocus our faith and grow closer to You. Hear their hearts and minds this season and let them hear you in return. Thank You for the promise you give us that our sins are forgiven and there is life after death. It sustains us on the hardest days. Guide us in Your will always. In Jesus’s name we pray, Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 12, 2023 — Evening

By Steve Richardson

Symbols

Read: John 13:34-35

“…Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this,

everyone will know that you are my disciples…”

From small to large, symbols are everywhere in Church Street’s spaces. Even the very architecture and design of the building, nave, windows and other spaces are symbols reflecting devotion to God. We not only see symbols, though. We also can hear them through chimes and music and words spoken. We smell and taste them in communion. We feel them in sacred moments such as water as part of baptism, laying of hands in Confirmation, and exchanges of rings in marriage.

And there is the cross. Such a simple design, yet such a profound, multifaceted, multidimensional symbol of Christian faith. Emanating from it are our foundational beliefs. It is a symbol to which we bow or kneel, which many wear or carry, and about which we sing, such as, “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim … Come, Christians, follow this triumphant sign.”

All such symbols are important. But even more than these is each of us. I believe that each of us is called to be a living symbol, to be an expression and representation of God-centered living; to serve one another in the name of Christ; and to love one another as God loves us unconditionally.

Church Street’s “Welcome Statement” aptly captures and symbolizes the character of our collective congregation:

“We believe every person is of sacred worth and created in God’s image. We welcome and celebrate the gifts God has given to all persons without regard to race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. We respect diversity of opinion and expressions of Christian faith. We believe God loves everyone unconditionally! As God loves us, so let us love and serve in the name of Christ.”

Let each of us, too, as an individual living symbol, strive daily to reflect this.

Prayer

Because all of us are symbols of something, God, inspire us to choose to be symbols of your love and grace today and every day. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 12, 2023 — Morning

By Suzanne Matheny

We Have Work to Do

Read: Luke 24:13

“Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about

seven miles from Jerusalem.”

Our church history hearkens to the Civil War division in America – a division not yet healed. I have vivid memories of the Jim Crow era and my job as a nurse’s aide at the newly built UT Hospital with segregated spaces. I recoil at the memory of raw racist hatred spewed by a white male patient at the black nurse who was training me. How she could bear it is unfathomable! I later worked on third floor – designated for black patients, one of whom was teenage David, same age as I. Too soon, I mourned his death, and I wonder what his life would have been had he survived his heart illness. What if? The future held injustices for us both; however, mine would not be because of my skin color; some of his would have been.

Reflecting on racial division, the late Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd, III, imagined anew the Emmaus road.

“Those disciples knew plenty about injustice, hatred and loss… I imagine not just two disciples, but two types…some black, some white…seeking a new Easter where people of both races could share each other’s lives and honor and respect each other. What would it mean if we really embraced the fact that Christ crucified and risen has broken down the dividing walls between black and white, rich and poor…Easter happens when tombs are opened, old divisions heal, when people learn to forgive and to understand each other, when a society becomes more just and hopeful.”*

Prayer

God of Creation and Easter: We are created in your image and you are Spirit. Convict and forgive our human ways that see color over spirit. We know we have work to do. Help us see how and give us courage to build a just and hopeful world. Amen.

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*Lloyd, Samuel T., III. Sermons from the National Cathedral: Soundings for the Journey, pg. 167ff

Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 5, 2023 — Evening

By Sarah Elliott

Fasting from Fear

Read: Psalm 27:13-14

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the

living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

In a recent study performed by Penn State*, 91.4% of worry predictions among the cohort of participants with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) did not come true.

While many of us don’t have GAD, how much of our worry is unwarranted? How does excessive worry take away from our faith in God? David had faith. In the face of his enemies, he was always confident that the Lord would be victorious. Did he worry? Absolutely. In Psalm 3, David displays his fear for the many of his foes. However, he had faith God would deliver him. He waited for the Lord and was victorious. He could have ran and hid when he was afraid, but he had faith. How was his faith so strong?

Why are we fearful? Are we not promised a bright future by God? Like David, we can anticipate victory in the land of the living. God sent his son Jesus who promised to return and take us home to be with him. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” John 1:17. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Can I strengthen my faith by fasting from fear? This Lenten season, when I find myself full of worry of things that might happen, I will replace the word fear with faith. I will have active faith that the Lord will deliver me. Active faith is a conscious effort to retrain my brain from focusing on fear to focusing on faith. The fear is likely not to occur, but if it does, God will walk with me and make me victorious.

Prayer

Most Heavenly Father, replace our fear with faith. Hear our confessions of hope, for we know you will keep your promises. Though our walk in the land of the living is filled with anxiety, grief, and illness, we hold strong to your promise of an eternal walk with you. Guide us with grace and truth in this land of living so our faith can be strengthened and overcome our fears. Amen.

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Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 5, 2023 — Morning

By Rev. Rick Isbell

Fasting from What to What?

Read: Matthew 6:17-18

Fasting is normally not a real popular word. When I was growing up I heard that others fasted from meat on Fridays. As I grew and began reading and studying the scriptures, I learned that fasting was more than just a “Friday thing.” The practice of fasting is scriptural and in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus fasted; he gave instructions for fasting; and even the early church practiced fasting. Fasting is part of our Christian DNA.

Most people think about fasting during the season of Lent. We think about something that we can easily give up like chocolate and say we are fasting. The more I learn the more I realize that fasting is more than depriving ourselves of food and drink. Fasting is an act of humbling yourself before God and relying more fully on God’s strength and guidance. Fasting can involve abstaining from physical nourishment; but it can also involve abstaining from things and behaviors that seem to control our lives. If we give up or fast from nourishment, things or behaviors, then what are we to take up in its place?

Lent is a good time to start practice fasting, but don’t stop there. Fasting is not just a Lent thing, it’s a year-long spiritual discipline. Fast from a meal each week and give that money to a food charity. Stop using social media for a certain time period and actually write or call a homebound person. Get away from the iPad or TV for a couple of hours or half a day and volunteer at a local nonprofit. Fasting is denying ourselves so we can take up what God would have us do.

Prayer

God, give me strength and guidance to deny myself this Lent and beyond for the sake of others. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, February 26, 2023 — Evening

By David Lineberger

Who has Moved?

Read: Psalm 27:8-9

“You have said, ‘Seek My face.’ My heart says to You, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek.’

Hide not Your face from me. Turn not Your servant away in anger, O You who

have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!”

 

There is a decades old joke where a couple is riding in their car together, and the wife says to her husband who is driving, “Sweetheart, do you remember how romantic we used to be when we first got married? We snuggled so close together in the car every time we drove anywhere.” The husband replied, “Yes dear, I remember, but I’m not the one who moved.”

During the season of Lent we focus on Christ’s suffering and death, and the reason His sacrifice was so needed. What better way to do that than an examination of our own relationship with God. Do you ever feel that God has abandoned you? Do you feel that you and our Creator are no longer close?

Sometimes we leave our prayer time until the last minute, lying in bed as we voice our concerns and thanks to God before sleep overtakes us. Sometimes we stop praying and feel like we’re just talking to ourselves. We begin doubting that God is listening to us at all!

The Psalmist speaks about our relationship with God in Psalm 27: 8-9, where he writes “You have said, “Seek My face.” My heart says to You, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” Hide not Your face from me. Turn not Your servant away in anger, O You who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!

In reality, God has not abandoned us. He is right where He always is, loving us and desiring a close relationship with us. So often it is us who have pulled away, even trying to hide our sins from God.

For our salvation, God did turn away from Jesus as He was dying on the cross. Jesus suffered this abandonment so that we would never have to be forsaken by God. We can turn to the empty tomb and know that we have the assurance that God is always there for us! We pray for his strength and purpose to guide us on our journey. The last verse is a good prayer for Lent, or any time we want to open our hearts to God.

Prayer

Forgive me, ever present and loving Lord, for the times I have pulled away from you. Help me to seek a close and dependent life with You and know that you will always be there with your unfailing love. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, February 26, 2023 — Morning

By Laura Still

When Jesus Came to Jordan

Read: Matthew 3:13-17, 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-13, Luke 21-23, 4:1-13 John 1:29-34

“When Jesus came to Jordan, to be baptized by John

He did not come for pardon, but as the Sinless One.

He came to share repentance, with all who mourn their sins,

to speak the vital sentence with which good news begins.”

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first encountered this hymn, but I was an adult, because I was standing in the balcony of Church Street, the one on the lectern side where I still sit to this day. The memory is very clear, because the last line of the above verse lit a spark in my head. Suddenly I wasn’t just trying to follow the tune, I paid attention to the words, and the next verse:

“He came to share temptation, our utmost woe and loss,

for us and our salvation to die upon the cross.

So when the dove descended on him the Son of Man,

the hidden years had ended, the age of grace began.”

Now the spark was a flame—Jesus begins the age of grace, his ministry, after his baptism by John. The descending dove is recorded in all four of the gospels, testifying to the vision and the voice of God. Luke tells us that Jesus was about 30 years old when this happened. In the previous chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is only twelve and has just frightened the life out of Mary and Joseph by disappearing in Jerusalem in three days before being found in the temple. He was taken back to Nazareth by his parents and settled down to being an obedient son. The years between twelve and thirty are a mystery to us; many scholars and writers have speculated about what Jesus was doing during that time but no one really knows. Remembering what those years were like in my own life, I wonder about Jesus, facing all the challenges of adolescence and becoming an adult. He had to have handled it better than I did—the words “he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” are enough to tell me that. Those hidden years were spent learning, gaining self-knowledge and understanding, till he felt called to go to Jordan, to begin his ministry and his journey to the cross.

The story of Jesus and his temptation in the desert shows clearly that Jesus knows who he is, has turned his life toward God, and is determined to follow God’s plan from now on. This is our decision too, and every year during Lent we are asked to renew it: to turn our lives toward our Lord, and pray for his strength and purpose to guide us on our journey. The last verse is a good prayer for Lent, or any time we want to open our hearts to God.

Prayer

“Come Holy Spirit, aid us to keep the vows we make;

this very day invade us and every bondage break.

Come give our lives direction, the gift we covet most:

to share the Resurrection that leads to Pentecost.”

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023 — Evening

By Rev. Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor

Depending on the Divine

Read Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent has always been a time for me to reflect upon my great need for God. I admit this has largely been a philosophical or emotional exercise. Don’t get me wrong, the “need” I have felt has been real, but has always seemed like a need that not everyone had to know about. I liked that. I like being able to honestly tell folks “I need and depend upon God” without having to tell them how exactly. I am more private than I often let on; I share all sorts of things, all types of facts about my life. But it is hard for me to share my needs or fears.

In recent months I have had obvious and public needs. I have been unable to drive and have had other limitations due to a vision condition that, at least as I write this, persists. Our lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday all contain this theme of need for God. Much of the emphasis is on need for repentance and renewal, but we can understand the call to be an invitation to recognize our dependance upon God. As we begin this Lenten season may we all honestly evaluate our needs and open ourselves to how God is seeking to care for us.

Prayer

Lord, may you renew us this lent that we may always know our need for you and trust in your grace. Amen

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023 — Morning

By Donald Rickels

Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days

Ash Wednesday is a time to begin reflection on life. It is almost like a New year. What would you like to get rid of this season of Lent? Guilt? Sorrow? Regrets? A burden? This wonderful service is a time of reflection to think about things and release them. It truly is an important time for all who are followers of Christ to begin their Easter journey.

Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite services. A mark on the forehead seals you to the fact that you have reflected and chosen a path to release the things that so easily consume us and take us away from being a Light to the world. Begin your Easter journey in reflection and with confidence that there can be change in your world.

Prayer

Be with us through this season, Lord, and all our earthly days, that when the final Easter dawns, we join in heaven’s praise. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, April 18 – Afterword

By Nancy and Barry Christmas, On Behalf of the Congregational Care Committee

Let Your Light Shine

Read: Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

One morning in January we awoke to a beautiful blanket of snow, pristine white and shimmering in the bright, reflective sunlight. Overnight the world around us had been transformed from barren and sterile to the breathtaking panorama of a winter wonderland. There was wet snow clinging to all the trees, rooftops and fences, and windblown onto the sides of houses and light poles, with tiny crystals of snow glistening and twinkling. It brought to mind Jesus’ ability to take our broken and lifeless spirit and transform it into the radiant beauty of his love, that we might reflect that love onto all others around us.

For so many months we have traveled in the wasteland of a pandemic with all the sickness and death that has accompanied it. We are tired of our personal journey through the wilderness. Many people are weary, discouraged, frightened, and despondent. It’s so encouraging to receive a sign from above that there is hope for our future and there are better days coming. He alone has the power to transform our world.

He tells us in Matthew, we who believe in Him are the light of this world and we should not hide that light, but let it shine forth. We are to reflect His love in our actions toward others, so they will see that He can and will transform their lives, too. May we each search our hearts and ask Jesus how we can be His light in this world and His beacon of hope for those who have lost all hope.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, show me how and where I can serve as your light in this world, to be your messenger of hope and renewed life. Amen.

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