2021 Lenten Devotional
Welcome to Trinity United Methodist Church’s 2021 Lenten Devotional!
Each of this year’s contributors from our Congregation chose a scripture important to their faith journey, and wrote a devotion focused on the scripture they selected. The devotions include the chosen Scripture for the day, a short prayer, and sometimes a spiritual exercise.
John 14: 1: “Let not your heart be troubled…”
Although this passage is frequently used at funerals, I find it appropriate for our time in today’s world. Jesus is speaking to YOU as an individual. He is telling YOU to take control of your feelings.
I could write a “laundry list” of reasons why our hearts are troubled today. (If you don’t know what a laundry list is, ask someone over the age of 75 who remembers those days.)
Do all that you can every day to guard your health and happiness. Be strong for your family and friends. Walk with Jesus. Talk with Jesus. Pray with Jesus. Trust him. He’s the answer to your troubled heart.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, let me always remember that you are with me. Let my heart focus on that thought and let my daily troubles be lessened by your presence. Amen
“Serendipity” is a word that every spiritual seeker should understand. It means “an unexpected and fortunate discovery”, or “a beneficial surprise”. My Lenten serendipity occurred when I found, tucked away on the back of a cluttered shelf, a small book about Nicholas Herman, who was born about 420 years ago.
Nicholas Herman was injured as a soldier in France during the “Thirty Years War.” He then became a footman, who waited on tables, held doors for visitors and moved furniture, and who, he admits, “was clumsy and broke everything.” He then became a cook in a monastery in Paris where he discovered a pure and uncomplicated way to work continually in God’s Presence. He took the name of “Brother Lawrence” and lived a life that is best described as “the practice of the presence of God.”
He is remembered for his holy life, which he described by saying, “I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him…. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.” Every single thing he did, even the menial and routine, was recognized as an opportunity to be in the presence of God.
The small book, which was my Lenten serendipity, consists of four conversations and 16 short letters, which demonstrate a pure and uncomplicated way to live and work continually in God’s presence. He explains that to be continually walking with God involves not just the head, but also the heart.
Brother Lawrence demonstrates for me what The Psalmist meant when he wrote:
“You will show me the path that leads to life;
your presence fills me with joy
and brings me pleasure forever. (Psalm 16:11)
Practicing the presence of God is not only something we do during Lent. It is a lifestyle.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for revealing new ideas in our head, and new feelings in our heart, so that your will is done everywhere we practice your presence. AMEN
Reverend Dr. Regi Thackston
Trinity UMC Pastor Emeritus
Psalm 139: 13-14: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.”
Cohen and Heath were born at 29 weeks and 6 days at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, NC. They lived in the NICU for 90 days attended by skilled doctors and nurses whose extraordinary training met the boys’ physical and medical needs and also showed incredible care and compassion. During the first year of their lives all thoughts were about survival but after that came thoughts of learning and integration in their home and community. Would they meet milestones, develop language for communication, enjoy playing with other children, and go to school?
When the boys turned one I started providing therapy services to them in their home. In the beginning we focused on skills like playing appropriately and learning to ask for toys and foods that they wanted and they excelled eventually using vocal language instead of sign. Over the next years the boys continued to work with therapists who focused on building skill that would allow them to be fully incorporated into all natural environments.
These brothers made incredible strides. They are now 3 years old and we run an in-home preschool program for them preparing them to enter a school based preschool program independently in the fall. These boys are so interested in learning, they love to play, and they TALK, TALK, TALK!!!
In our home preschool we introduced a Bible literacy program and they love it. Their favorite part of our day together is studying our daily Bible lesson. They have learned so much about the Bible and know that Jesus loves them and knew them before they were born. Depending on the week, if you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, they will tell you they want to be Moses, Joshua, Jonah, the big fish, or Peter the fisherman.
My prayer for Cohen and Heath is that they will come to love the Word of the Lord more and more each and use it to light their walk and heed the call we all have to become fishers of men.
I am thankful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to serve these precious boys and tell them of His love for them. I am also thankful for our Children’s and Youth ministries and the dedicated leaders who share the gospel with boys and girls and young men and women.
Prayer: Dear Father, I am thankful for your call to serve Cohen and Heath. I am thankful for the call many others in our church have received to serve our children and youth. Give us a boldness to teach your Word with conviction and tell of your excellent greatness, mercy, and grace beyond all comprehension. Help us show love and compassion to each and every child and youth we encounter. In the words of Nehemiah, “Let me be your successful servant.” In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Excerpts from A Point of View from Meg Creech on the Guatemala Trip:
Matthew 25:40-45: “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
We knew from the start this would be a special group put together “for such a time as this”. We…excitedly awaited our first day we would travel to set up our first medical clinic for the week. We saw beautiful people who obviously love their country and value their belongings as we traveled lots of very narrow, dusty roads! We made it to the school we would be in for the day in about an hour and saw many people already lined up to be seen by the doctors.
I knew being one of the two there with NO medical training that my job was going to be to lend a hand where I could and love on the people as much as I could. I loved my job because I got to see ALL of the wonderful trained medical folks…as they served as the hands and feet of JESUS! And I mean really served! The “patients” were checked in, asked some general questions, had their weight, blood pressure, oxygen, and heart checked. They were then sent to a provider who examined them and prescribed medicines, vitamins, etc. as they saw fit.
After a couple hundred patients were examined, given worm pills, vitamins, medicines, and small prizes for the children, we headed back to Bethesda with full hearts, blessed and ready to take on another day in another village with another couple hundred patients.
There are no words to describe the blessings we had, the provisions that were in place for us to have a great week, and the miracles we witnessed daily!!
Acts 4:13 – When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
What does the future hold for our spiritual lives, and for the life of our church? I find great hope in the story of the early church, as told in chapters 2, 3, and 4 of the New Testament book of The Acts of the Apostles. Good things were happening, people were sharing, the church was growing, and “many miracles and wonders were being done.”
One of the miracles was the healing of a lame man at the “beautiful gate” entrance to the Temple. That was when Peter said to a beggar who asked for help, “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give to thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3;6, kjv)) That event is important for many reasons, but especially because it led to a hearing before the High Priest and other leaders in the courts, who asked of Peter, “How did you do this?”
When Peter explained, the Council was amazed, because Peter and John were “ordinary men of no education . . . but that they had been companions of Jesus.”
Many people excuse their lack of spiritual involvement in faith because they consider themselves ordinary, or uninformed. The season of Lent is an opportunity for those who want to grow in understanding and service, to accept a daily discipline of study and prayer, and to find a way to help someone. As Peter said, “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give to thee.”
Prayer: Thank you, God, that you made me who I am. I ask that you will empower me through my focus on you during Lent, to discover your will for me, and to respond to the opportunities you give me to be your companion. AMEN.
Reverend Dr. Regi Thackston
Trinity UMC Pastor Emeritus
Galatians 5: 13-26: “13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
Today’s reflection comes from the 5th Chapter of Galatians. Here Paul is discussing with the local church the freedom of living a life through Christ, a life wrapped in the fruits of the Spirit, a life summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
By being in the Spirit, you avoid the desires of the flesh. What the flesh desires is opposed by the Spirit; the Spirit desires is opposed by the flesh. Live avoiding impurity, jealousy, anger, envy and strife. Let your life reveal in you the fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, and self-control. “If we live by the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.”
During the constraints and quarantines brought on by the coronavirus epidemic, we have witnessed a need to regain our sanity and to restore our hope for a better summer and fall in 2021. We see those so overcome that they have lost their spirits and have forgotten to love their neighbors as themselves.
As we prepare for Easter 2021 we hope to celebrate more joyously than we did last year. Our faith has been there, but we have been limited in ways to fulfill our commitment to Christ. Let us be freed to give to others the fruits of love, joy, peace, and kindness. It is amazing that with how much small effort and on how much a small scale this can be done to the benefit of all.
PRAYER: Easter is coming! He is risen! May the fruits of the Spirit be evident in me today. Amen.
Dr. Arland Compton
Proverbs 13:20: “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with the fools and get in trouble.”
As I read this bible verse in my devotional recently, it stood out to me. I am a 13-year-old girl who really enjoys being with my friends. Friends are people who I hang out with in my free time. I ask my friends for their advice on things, and I count on my friends to be there for me. I am sure you have friends that you count on too.
This bible verse is a good reminder to choose the right friends to be around and depend on. We need to find the friend that follows Christ the same as we do or even better to bring us closer to God. We need to be careful not to be led by friends that don’t desire a closer relationship with Christ.
We should be the wise friend that leads our friends closer to Christ and be the person that our friends come to be closer with God. Today I encourage you to be the wise friend.
Dear God, I pray that we can shine your light in everything that we do, and Lord please help me to walk with the wise and not with the fools. I pray that you can lead us in the right direction and to the friends that we need to be around. Lead someone to me who needs me to show them who you truly are. In your name we pray. Amen.
John 13:1-17 – “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him….”
Prayer: Help us to be cautious with our lives and to practice humility in all that we do. Help us to be humble, charitable and to find happiness in service to others…and to You.
“Be still and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation
I will be honored throughout the world.”
Lent is a season of reflection and preparation. Boy, do we need this opportunity after the last 12 months. This verse is often a mainstay that I use to help calm my soul. With all the chaos, anxiety, fear and uncertainty that has abound, this verse has gotten a workout! During this time, it has been easy to become overwhelmed and give into our emotions. We try to fix things or imagine how things will change. We feed our fears and anxiety when we feel the loss of control. I especially do this when I can’t get together with family, I hear of a dear friend who is hospitalized, lost their job, lost a loved one, we are advised to not leave our home except for necessities, and we can’t go to church for reassurance. So we get lost and then God gives us his reassurance and promise. If we are still and know our God, we honor Him. Just being quiet in the storms of 2020, we have peace. So let’s try and take a moment as we prepare and reflect during Lent to be still and know God.
Let us pray:
Dear God, may we find refuge and strength in the stillness of remembering that you are God. I invite you to work through me each day to show others Your love and peace by my words and actions. Thank you for Lent and the gift and reassurance of life everlasting that Easter brings. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
“Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight; Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight” – From “Be Thou My Vision, O Lord of My Heart”
“But You are a Shield around me, O Lord; You bestow glory on me and lift up my head.” – Psalm 3:3
When David wrote this psalm he was in trouble. It seems his son Absalom was leading a rebellion against him, and many thought David was beyond God’s help. In fact, some thought that God was even unwilling to help David. But David knew that God was his shield, and he would not be moved from his trust in God.
There are many things that help shield and protect us physically – our homes, our clothing, our caregivers, law enforcement and fire fighters, doctors and nurses – the list is long. But the Lord is more than a physical shield. His is our protection from everything that the battle of life may send our way. He speaks peace to the storms of life and wards off the spears of living. He gives us the strength to confront life’s challenges, to endure sorrows and despair, and to help those around us. In times of trouble, when we are overwhelmed, He lifts us up and gives us dignity. We can delight in God and His willingness to take on our troubles. What a glory He bestows on us that we can trust in Him! What a privilege to be able to rely on Him in times of danger or sorrow or fear or doubt!
“He is my Shield, my Delight, my Dignity!”
Prayer: O God, no matter what temptations confront us, what troubles befall us or what crosses we have to bear, please let us never forget that You are our Strength, our Protection, and our Shield. We give thanks that You sustain us so that we can stand against any foe! Amen.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice.” – Philippians 4:4
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
On a crisp December afternoon, I merrily opened the wreath-laden front door heading to the mailbox hoping to find Christmas cards and letters filled with news and pictures from friends. Waiting patiently on the front porch was a sweet, beautifully wrapped Christmas present, adorned with an adorable metal and wooden ornament, left by a close and kind friend. The gift was deliciously sweet – a box of Ghirardelli hot cocoa mix with semi-sweet chocolate chips and a container filled with delicious chocolate peppermint snaps, but the sweetest part was that wooden ornament – one of those cute ones that forces a smile on a face. A curly metal hanger suspended a green and white striped metal bow atop a wooden disk decorated with Christmas colors of red, green, and white and the words “JOY to the World.” The carefully selected size, color, and design of the graphics emphasized the word JOY, as the ornament’s creator obviously intended for JOY to be the centerpiece of the ornament. And that is what is so sweet to me – JOY!
A wise friend once told me, “NEVER let anyone steal your JOY.” Happiness is nice, but happiness depends on happenings, and happenings are fleeting. Joy is everlasting as it is the confident assurance of God’s love and work in my life and is dependent on my relationship with Christ. Therefore, my relationship with Christ is to be cultivated and steadfast so that JOY abounds in me. Philippians, a joyful book, emphasizes the real joy of the Christian life. As the author of Philippians, Paul relates that JOY is found in suffering for Christ, serving Christ, believing in Christ, and giving for Christ. As I progress from the joy of the Christmas season through the Lenten season to the rejoicing of the Easter season, I will aim for the ultimate joy of Christ dwelling within me and will strive to imitate Christ by filling my mind with thoughts that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This is thinking from God’s perspective and will create an abounding sprit of JOY – Joy that is to be shielded and defended because JOY should never be stolen.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, may I always have the kind of relationship with You that fills me with joy. Remind me that my joyful attitude is a display of Your love and that I should always defend the joy I find in You. I look forward to celebrating Your resurrection, my Lord and Savior, and I will rejoice in You always. Amen.
“For this is how much God loved the world, he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.” – John 3:16 (The Passion)
At Easter’s approach, people get excited about celebrating Christ’s resurrection and all that it means in their lives. But His resurrection wouldn’t mean nearly as much without His sacrifice on the cross and His work in people’s lives in the world today.
It might be tempting just to Skip Lent – the traditional 40-day period of reflection from Ash Wednesday through Easter that commemorates Christ’s own time of hardship and reflection in the desert. But doing so would deprive us of many opportunities to invite God to transform our life. If you take advantage of those opportunities, you’ll have deeper and richer reasons to celebrate when Easter arrives.
- Ask God to help you focus on the true meaning of Easter; after all, it wasn’t the Easter bunny who rose from the dead.
- Thank God for all the blessings He has given you – time, money, energy, talents, skills, etc. Then pray about how you can best use those blessings to serve God.
- Skip your favorite television program and use the time you would have spent watching it to pray or do a kindness for someone in need.
- Keep a daily journal to record the ways God is working in your life.
- Consider the discrimination that Christ suffered on earth and ask God to show you the ways you discriminate against people who are different from you.
Prayer: Lord, help us to not just give up something for Lent but to do something during Lent that will further your kingdom and make disciples for Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Max K. Jackson
Acts 3:19-20: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”
Ash Wednesday is not, and never was, an observance in Biblical times. It came later as the church searched for ways to call people to life-change experiences, especially as it relates to the Lenten season. Historically, the church liturgy has used an obscure prophet’s writing about a little-recorded event to focus on God’s word and His will for the beginning of Lent. The minor prophet Joel tells of an invasion of locusts that devastated Palestine, and interprets that as the coming Day of the Lord, when God will destroy all who oppose His will. That was a popular interpretation by the Prophets of The Old Testament, and continues to get attention by some religious people today. Joel calls on the people to “repent sincerely and return to me with fasting and weeping and mourning.“ (Joel 2:12)
When Peter, the Apostle, preached his moving sermon in the Temple, he echoed that significant truth by saying, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins.” (Acts 3:20) Repentance, then and now, means to turn toward God, or to re-focus our spiritual lives on God, which is the purpose of every Lenten observance.
As a physical reminder, we who seriously plan to observe spiritual disciplines begin when a minister often says in putting a cross of ashes on our forehead, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It is a reminder of what God said to Adam and Eve as they left the Garden, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) Job lamented at the end of his book, “So I am ashamed of all I said and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6) Ashes on our forehead is our determination to remember who we are, and who we will become, if we repent and start a new and fresh spiritual experience.
Prayer: Loving and forgiving Father, I am grateful that you respond to our willingness to make a fresh start by empowering us by your grace. AMEN
Reverend Dr. Regi Thackston
Trinity UMC Pastor Emeritus