Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, April 12, Evening – Holy Week Day 2

By John Eldridge

The Abundant Life

Read: John 10:10b

“…I have come that they might have life and that they might live it more abundantly.”

In 1971, when I was in my early 20’s, my older brother, Joe, was a Methodist Missionary serving a little Methodist Church in Santiago, Chile. It was during this time that the worst that could happen, did happen. My older brother’s wife died. When we met Joe at McGhee Tyson and he got off the plane clutching the urn with his wife’ ashes, I knew he was in trouble. I had been planning an adventure to Chile for a long visit, but now I knew I did not just want to go, I needed to go be with Joe when he returned to his little Methodist Church in Santiago.

Before we left for Chile, however, Joe had to consult with his bosses at the General Board of Global Ministries in New York. It was in that Global Ministries office that I learned a great lesson that continues to serve me well. One of Joe’s bosses wanted to talk to me, ostensibly to discern if I had the metal to assist my brother in Chile as he recovered from his wife’s death.

I started that conversation with something like this: “I thought I would take some time out of my life…” and this person at UMC Global Ministries quickly interrupted me, saying: “Instead of taking time out of your life by joining your brother in Chile, are you not putting something in your life?” And boy, was he correct! I had the adventure of a lifetime. Living in Santiago for more than six months, learning Spanish, helping with the kids at the little Methodist Church, traveling literally all over Latin America, and in the process, providing companionship to my hurting brother. Yes, I put all that in my life.

And so it can be with Lent. Instead of thinking what you can give up for Lent, think instead about what you can add during these weeks. What can you put into your life? Perhaps you can create a more active prayer life, visit the sick or lonely, do daily scripture readings, call friends that you have not had any contact with in a while, achieve greater patience? And the list goes on.

Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and that they might live it more abundantly. ”Putting meaningful experiences in your life is the way to living more abundantly. Yes, Lent is the opportunity to give up some things, but it is also an opportunity to put some good practices in your life as well.

Prayer

Help us Lord, to engage with Lent in a way that brings us closer to you, whether that be by adding to or subtracting from life’s regular living.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Tuesday, April 12, Morning – Holy Week Day 2

By Rev. Palmer Cantler, Associate Pastor

Challenge for a Tuesday

Read: Luke 20:1-2 NRSV

“One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’”

During Lent 2021, a group of young adults in the church and I studied Amy-Jill Levine’s Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week. The book is an excellent exploration into Jesus’ last days before his crucifixion and resurrection. The book begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry to Jerusalem and closes with Jesus being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each chapter focuses on the risks Jesus embodies throughout the week, from reputation to rejection, to the loss of friends.

It’s easy, when reading this book, to understand each day as corresponding to a day of Holy Week. But what happens on Tuesday? Exciting, interesting things never seem to happen on a Tuesday. In the chapter that could be the Tuesday of Holy Week, Levine focuses not on a singular event, but on Jesus’ teachings in the Temple. He risked challenge regularly by the priests, scribes, and pharisees by sharing the good news in the Temple.

And I think that’s important to remember on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Even on the seemingly uneventful days, Jesus shares the good news with all who would hear. Jesus chooses not to argue the source of his authority, but instead tells parables that, when examined, reveal God as the source of his authority. As you continue your journey through Lent and Holy Week, how are the stories you tell revealing Jesus as the authority on your life? How might your uneventful Tuesday become a reminder of the power of our Savior?

Prayer

Sovereign God, as we journey through Holy Week, help us to remain grounded in your teachings. Give us opportunities to take risks that allow us to mature in our discipleship and see where you are calling us to grow. In the name of our great teacher, Jesus, we pray. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, April 11, Evening – Holy Week Day 1

By Julia Kelley

The Imitation of Christ

Read: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

In 1500, Albrecht Dürer, the German artist and devout Catholic (who later embraced the Reformation), painted a self-portrait which now hangs in a Munich art museum. Dan and I bought a print of this work after a trip to Germany and have it hanging over our fireplace.

When visitors first see the print, they often think it’s a depiction of Christ. This may be in part because the pose that Dürer used for his self-portrait is used in numerous paintings of Jesus. The face looks straight out at the viewer and one hand is centered near the bottom.

No one knows what Dürer’s intention was, so art historians have many different interpretations of the painting. Our favorite is that Dürer, having read the Thomas   Kempis popular devotional, The Imitation of Christ, was reflecting on the book and living out the writer’s call promoting solitude and self-reflection. Dürer completed his self-portrait after many hours alone in front of a mirror. Kempis describes love as “swift, sincere, pious, pleasant, gentle, strong, patient, faithful, prudent …” Art historians see Dürer’s original as so masterful it brings elements of Kempis’ abstract descriptions of love to something visible in oil paint on linden wood.

Thankfully, our own time of self-study doesn’t need to result in a masterpiece self-portrait. But this time of Lent is a time to think about how we imitate Jesus and how we show His love to others. Can we use this time of reflection to make our lives better emulate the image of Christ?

Prayer

Dear Lord, help me to be more like you. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Monday, April 11, Morning – Holy Week Day 1

By Jenny Cross, Director of Youth and College Ministries

Restoring Joy

Read: Psalm 51:12

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

A popular trend during the month of January is to choose a word of the year. The idea is to pray for guidance and to land on a word that will help set your intention and focus for the year. I have tried this before, but it hasn’t quite worked for me. This year, as I prayed, reflected, and prepared for 2022, a verse came to mind instead. It comes from Psalm 51 — a psalm that often coincides with our Lenten season. It includes verses like “Create in me a new heart, O God” and “Have mercy on me.” We are familiar with the phrases, but it wasn’t until I was working through the Bible last year that I really understood the context of this psalm. David writes this song in the midst of one of the darkest seasons of his life. He has committed a horrible sin, hurting God and other people. And yet, in the midst of his grief and brokenness, he turns to God instead of away. David responds to his own sinfulness with repentance and worship. He asks God for mercy and forgiveness, to be cleansed and renewed. Isn’t that what we all need?

The focus verse I’m using this year is v. 12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” I want the source of my joy to come from Christ and His love for me. My hope for this Lenten season is to draw closer to the heart of the Father and to be transformed as I come to know Him more fully.

Prayer

Holy God, You love us deeply, even as we sin and fall short of Your Glory. We repent and turn away from the things that separate us from you. Help us become more aware of your presence as we prepare for the joy of Easter. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 10, Evening – Palm Sunday

By Suzanne Matheny

Aha! Don’t Neglect the Important Things

Read: Luke 11:42 NLT

[Jesus said,] “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

Here in the season of Lent, a time of deep reflection, it seems that only yesterday we were celebrating Epiphany—that season of the Magi and the “aha!” of life. Have you ever had an “aha!” moment that dramatically changed your thinking or life, as the Magi experienced when they saw that star? Seared into my memory is an “aha!” when, while traveling in Jordan, passing through small villages, seeing crowds of Jordanians going about their lives, I had an intensely emotional realization of how the human Jesus likely looked – dark (olive?) complexion, black hair, dark eyes, all of which also led me to think about his life as a human.

What kind of childhood games did he play? What was he like as a teenager? A young Jewish adult? How did he come to understand his mission? So many unknowns that we wish St. Luke could have shared with us. What we do know, though, is that he grew and transcended race or ethnicity, or any man-made construct. His words and actions teach justice and God’s love for all. Recently, I have experienced some “ahas!” as I have read, listened and understood more clearly how many of our marginalized neighbors have been/are oppressed. I am compelled in this season of Lent to reflect on this and examine my thoughts, actions and also the actions of systems and institutions. Jesus reminds us not to ignore justice and God’s love. The Good News is that in Jesus’s death and resurrection, justice and the love of God are the hope and the light that darkness cannot extinguish, and we disciples are called to shine that light.

Prayer

Stir us, O Lord, to feel a fresh “Aha!” – every time we see a need for and then find a way to shine the light of justice and the love of God in our world, remembering that “goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger than death, and victory is ours through Him who loves us.” (excerpt from, African Prayer Book by Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 10, Morning – Palm Sunday

By Fran Wheeler

A Royal Welcome

Adapted from Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12

It was a day of glory—no doubt about it. Christians love the imagery—palm branches waving, crowds cheering, children running alongside the procession. What a celebration!

But we know the rest of the story.

Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. As they followed the road, the disciples began joyfully praising God in loud voices for the miracles they had seen. Many others joined them, spreading their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches to wave. Praises and shouts of joy rang out from the procession—

Hosanna!

Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heavens!

Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

Blessed is the king of Israel!

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!

 

The disciples were elated. Surely this was the road to coronation—the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams. The Kingdom of God must be very near indeed. But we know this road of glory led first to a crown of thorns.

The darkness was coming.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” Jesus replied, “If they keep quiet, the very stones will cry out.”

The crowds grew larger as others came out from the city. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him.” The darkness grew closer.

In Lent, we recognize that these words and this great parade formed a prelude to the coming darkness that would haunt Passover Week.

 

The darkness descended.

Prayer

O Lord, let us praise you on this day of your glory. Throughout the coming darkness let us reflect on your willing sacrifice. Keep us praising you in our own days of personal darkness, and give us grace to remember the glory to come. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 3, Evening

By Dan Kelley

The Chicken Man

Read: Hebrews 10:35-37

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”

In the 1980s I went with First UMC in Maryville on a mission trip to Haiti. We met a man there with an old, faded Ralston Purina checkerboard hat. The Haitians called him the Chicken Man. He had worked for many years as an agronomist and animal nutritionist at Purina’s St. Louis plant improving the quality and nutrition of their chicken feed.

He had become depressed when he hit mandatory retirement age and his wife of many years had died. His pastor had talked him into going on a mission trip and he reluctantly agreed. He was surprised to notice that there were not many chickens in Haiti. When his mission team left, he stayed behind to teach them how to raise chickens.

He found a small hut to live in. He found discarded pallets to tear apart. He had his church send him rolls of chicken wire. With those he made cages. He studied the native plants and determined which had the most nutrition for feeding chickens. He started growing the best plants in his small lot. And he started raising chickens.

The Haitians watched the Chicken Man and his chickens. They learned to make the cages. They learned to grow or find the plants. They learned to grow the chickens. Sometimes the chicken would die from too much heat, not enough water, or an animal would get it. Sometimes the family had nothing else to eat and would eat it. The Chicken Man softly, calmly, and patiently talked with them and gave them another chicken to start over.

He had been doing his mission for almost 7 years when I met him. I asked him how he felt about it. He said he felt good in the second year when he started seeing eggs for sale in the market. He felt better in the fourth year when he started seeing chickens being sold in the market. And he knew it was a success in the sixth year when he saw children taking hard-boiled eggs to school for their lunch.

Prayer

Dear Lord of Mercy Divine, grant us the patience and perseverance of the Chicken Man to continue our mission. Teach us to speak softly, calmly, and with love to those who fail, as you have spoken to us when we fail you. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, April 3, Morning

By David Lineberger

Living Lent for Years

Read: 1 Peter 2:21

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.”

Two years ago it became apparent that everyone on earth would be impacted in some way by the Covid pandemic. It seemed that, for a while at least, many things that we had always taken for granted would be put on hold. We gave up parties, having friends over, eating at our favorite restaurants, going to movies, taking vacations, and so much more. Even a trip to the grocery store was not possible without adequate preparation. Suddenly, life seemed to be one sacrifice after another.

For most Christians, preparing for Lent involves giving up something we enjoy or hold dear which serves to remind us of the tremendous sacrifice Christ made on the cross for each of us. Not only does this help us realize God’s unlimited love for us, but it helps us appreciate the everyday, ordinary things in life which we sometimes take for granted and for which we often fail to give thanks.

Christ suffered for us, leaving an example to follow. What greater way do we have to emulate the suffering of Christ than to take this opportunity to make sacrifices in these pandemic months so that others may be spared, that others may live, and we can mentally focus on making sacrifices that show our love for each other. May our examples of our Savior’s sacrifice be a blessing to each of us, especially in the season of Lent.

Prayer

Dear Lord God, help us to show our love for you and each other by our willingness to sacrifice daily for others. Amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 27, Evening

By Jo Terry, Parish Health Team

You Will Be Satisfied

Read: Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, and Luke 9:10-17

Our family had a fabulous trip to Australia and New Zealand before Covid. One of our adventures was an overnight boat trip with 10 other people in Doubtful Sound, truly one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth.

One of our activities was fishing for our dinner. Our daughter, Julia, caught the first fish – a sizable Blue Cod. It turned out that no one else had luck. We wondered if there would be enough fish for our group to share.

I told our boat mates that this reminded me of the story about Jesus and the boy who had two fish and five loaves that fed a crowd of thousands. Our companions were from across the world – Sydney, The Netherlands and New York City. They did not know this story and asked me to tell them.

As a kindergarten Sunday School teacher for over 30 years, my colleagues and I have shared this story with our CSUMC children many times. I told our boat companions: “Jesus was teaching on the hillside to a crowd of thousands. His disciples told him that the people were getting restless with hunger. A boy had a basket that contained five loaves and two fish. He offered what he had. Jesus blessed it and all were satisfied. No one went away hungry.”

The stories of feeding large crowds who were following and listening to Jesus are repeated in Matthew, Mark & Luke. These Gospel writers all wanted this important message to be shared.

During this Lenten season, can we offer what we have –our “loaves & fishes” – whether it is in devotional time, service, sharing our talents and our resources to our Lord as we contemplate his sacrifices for us? May you be blessed as you do. You will be satisfied!

Prayer

O Lord, help me to see what I may offer to others in Your name. Use me to be a blessing to someone else that they might see Your love for them. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Daily Lent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Sunday, March 27, Morning

By Dena Wise

So Little Time, So Much to Do!

Read: Mark 9:30-32

“They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.”

During this time in his ministry, Jesus was having to balance his time on earth to proclaim the good news, nurture and teach his disciples, and establish his kingdom against the ultimate trajectory of his death on the cross. Some Bible scholars have contended that, knowing his claim to being the Son of God would ultimately lead to his death, Jesus bought time by veiling his messages in parables, generally staying away from populated areas, and sometimes telling his followers and the recipients of his miraculous healing to not tell others about him or who he was. Whether or not this was the case, we know that it was dangerous to claim to be the Messiah in an age when both the Roman authorities and Jewish leaders were strongly protective of their power. We can easily imagine that Jesus felt urgency to ground his disciples in the ways of love, to provide examples of humility and service, and to strengthen their faith to the point that they could carry on his message and his work. He went about his work all the time knowing that his death was imminently, and perhaps immediately on the horizon. History shows, indeed, that he was given a scant two years to establish a new perspective among God’s people on earth—a task that would challenge even the most savvy agent of social change today.

Our good news is that two years were enough! The work of the humble carpenter of Galilee has lived through the ages. Two-thousand years after his ministry, the Gospel is proclaimed across the whole world. It has provided hope to millions who struggled, and comfort and peace to those whose circumstances gave them none. It gives us hope for the future of the world, and for our own eternity.

Prayer

Lord of Time, grant us urgency for the tasks you assign us. Thoroughly convince us that the best hope for today’s world lies in your purpose, both now and for ages to come. Make our faith and courage strong, so that no danger deters our work to realize your perfect vision for all. Amen.

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