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.


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 17, Evening – Easter Sunday

By Rev. Jan Buxton Wade, Minister of Spiritual Enrichment

Spirit of the Sycamore

Read: Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV

“You learned Christ … and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life… and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Once, on a day hike with my husband and brother-in-law in the Smokies, we decided to test ourselves in identifying the various trees we encountered along the way. I did fairly well in the task we set for ourselves that afternoon, but I actually was no match for my two companions who grew up in the mountains and who hike every chance they get. Instantly, however, I recognized the one beautiful giant sycamore on the trail because of its peeling bark, discarded and strewn upon the forest floor.

I recalled my college botany professor describing the sycamore as the most tenacious grower in the Southeast. As its branches ascend to the heavens, the increasing tension on the bark causes the outer layer to simply split apart. It was the beautiful underneath layer that held my attention that day, for it revealed a mosaic of mottled white, tan and gray, resembling an old medieval map. I could trace some of the “roads” with my finger, but most of its paths were indistinct, crisscrossed, and seemed to lead nowhere. Its intricacy held such mystery that I lingered too long and was almost left behind!

Moving on across the ridge, I began to think of the maps of our own lives – we don’t always know if we are headed in the right direction; our paths are indistinct and sometimes we feel we are going nowhere. But we are called to grow in trust, depending on grace to get us through. Maybe that grand sycamore reigns on the mountainside even now. With mounds of bark cast aside, it calls to us: “Begin afresh! Begin afresh!”


 Designer of the Blessed Earth, how grateful we are that your message of renewal is written in so many ways throughout your holy creation. Give us eyes and ears and hearts to find you this very day. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 17, Morning – Easter Sunday

By Katie (& Evie) Strangis

Mouths of Babes

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26

“…then he diiiieeed, and he was kiiillllled, and now Jesus lives in my heeeeaaarrrrttt.” That is the song my 3-year-old has made up and started to sing (and dance!) to recently, with an unremarkable tune but some very powerful words.

When she started singing it, I had some questions and, frankly, really worried about what was going through her head about this story of murder and death and spirits – Where did you learn that?! Who is singing about death and murder with you?! How can you possibly understand this at age 3?! Help ME understand it at age 38! She sounded so innocent, yet confident, when she sang the song. She was not fearful at all – just matter-of-factly telling the story of Christ’s death and resurrection as she prepared some pretend cookies for us in her play kitchen.

It caught me off guard – not the words, necessarily, but her nonchalance and acceptance. Some of my own earliest memories involve my anxiety and obsession over a body’s physical death, my fear of dying and my family dying, not to mention grappling with how cruelly Jesus was treated before and during his crucifixion and the idea of eternal life. I’ve felt the shame and betrayal in how humans treated one of their own so horrifically and the guilt that I can never do enough to make up for Jesus dying for me. It feels unjust that we receive so much because he sacrificed everything. I feel guilty that I couldn’t be there to stop that inhumanity from happening, even if it was meant to be that way in order for us to have eternal life.

Those were some serious thoughts for a young child to ponder in the mid-80s. But there’s a lot of serious stuff happening in the world today: a pandemic, political division and violence, climate crises, hostage situations, school shootings, drug addiction and overdoses, war, police brutality, domestic abuse, illness, an increasing suicide rate … to name a few. Some days I can’t fathom finding Jesus’ loving, forgiving, and eternal spirit in those circumstances. And yet, I know it’s always there because of what happened that Easter day.

What struck me most about my daughter’s resurrection song is what I too often forget: Death is not the end. We don’t have to be afraid. We are forgiven. Jesus lives on eternally … in my heeeaaarrrttt.


Compassionate God, your love finds full expression in the gift of Jesus Christ your Son, who willingly met betrayal and death to set us free from sin. Thank you for the gift of your son. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, April 16, Evening – Holy Week Day 6

By Bill Terry

The Miracle of Life

Read: John 10:10b

“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Many years ago when I was caring for children with cancer, one family was unique. The father was a physician, and both parents were very religious. As we tested their child to diagnose him and begin his treatment, there were regular prayers by the parents. Although most children respond well to therapy, when this child began his medications, within 24-48 hours all signs of his large tumor disappeared.

The parents were eager to discuss theologically what had happened. The child went on to complete his therapy with his tumor gone, and he was eventually lost to follow up. I can only remember one other patient having such a dramatic early response.

As we come toward the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we should be aware of the miracles that happen in our lives and even of the miracle of life itself. I will let people wiser than I am explain how all of this comes about. I will simply be thankful.


Dear Lord, We thank you for the gift of life and are grateful for the gift of your Son. During this Lenten season we will try to focus our lives on remembering Him and His sacrifice for us.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Saturday, April 16, Morning – Holy Week Day 6

By Ann Reego

Holy Saturday

Read: Matthew 27:62-66

“The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”

My father passed away on Dec. 26 while visiting us for Christmas in Salt Lake City, Utah. I remember being too stunned and shocked to fall asleep easily, but after a good cry to release tension I got some troubled sleep. When I awoke the next day, the sun was shining, the air crisp and cold. But I was hurting. The hole in my heart was painful, and I couldn’t believe what I had witnessed in the hospital the night before. My heart was in as much pain as his was because of the heart attack that took him from us. The next day, Mom and I went through the motions of what had to be done at the funeral home and made arrangements to fly to Dallas. She was scared about how she would live without him after 40+ years. I was simply lost. My father, my rock, my first love, my mentor was gone

I can only imagine how the family, followers and disciples of Jesus felt the “next day”. First, it was the Sabbath and certain rituals had to be observed. Second, I’m sure they were terrified that they would be the next ones arrested. Third, they were without a man that they had become close to and followed for the last three years. He had been their source of strength. They believed in him. Would he come again as he had promised? I’m sure they wanted to believe, but at that point, it was just too painful.

The “powers that be” were scrambling to make sure the disciples did not steal the body and claim that He had risen. They placed guards in front of the tomb and marked it with a seal so that Jesus couldn’t get out. But an earthquake rolled the stone away, and the guards were so afraid that they shook and became like dead men.

Of course we all know what happened. The body was gone and arrayed in glory. The women did not know Him at first and neither did anyone else. But He revealed himself to all of them and they realized that they had been a witness to history.

Then Jesus gave them their instructions:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

These Orders Remain for Us Today!


Heavenly Father, we thank you for your son. We thank you for relationships we have here that we mourn when we lose them. We pledge to follow your teachings and teach your ways to all people … even to the end of the age. Amen.

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