Running with Mark 98


Day 98 – April 4th, 2020



Mark 15:6-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Pilate Hands Jesus over to Be Crucified

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.


Who was Barabbas?  He was in prison for being part of an insurrection in which people were killed. 


The name Barabbas drips with meaning.  Bar means son.  Abba means father.  He is the Son of the Father.  Bat is the Hebrew word for daughter.  You and I are all bar abba or bat abba, sons and daughters of God. 

Brabbas represents all of us.  Like him, we have all sinned.  We have all failed to live into Christ likeness and fullness of grace.


Matthew’s gospel makes his name even more significant.  In Matthew he is known as Jesus Barabbas.  The crowd could choose to follow Jesus Barabbas or, as Pilate calls him sarcastically, Jesus the King of the Jew

Why would they have chosen Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus?  As a Zealot, he had fought against the Roman oppression and this would have made him popular with the Jewish people. 


Pilate is in a very awkward spot.  He realizes that the High Priest was jealous of Jesus and wants him crucified, but Pilate doesn’t like being manipulated.  There is a battalion of soldiers in Jerusalem to keep the peace during this Holy Week.  Pilate doesn’t want the crowd to get out of control.  To placate the crowd, he hands Jesus over to be flogged and crucified.




“Behold the Man” by Antonio Ciseri



A God Like You – Kirk Franklin     A great hip-hop style song.



Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about what it means to be bar abba (Son of the father) or bat abba (daughter of God).  How does Barabbas represent you?


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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God is with Us – 04.02.2020

Hello Friends,
It’s almost Friday and you’ve been stuck in the house all week.  If you are a parent, there probably was a temper tantrum…..and your kids may have had one too LOL!!!!
Rev. Sally Johnson is a retired Deacon in the MInnesota Annual Conference.  She is a writer and blogger.  .
Sally has written a book (available on Amazon) called:
She recently posted a piece called, “Temper Tantrum” that was so good that I asked if I could share it with you.  She agreed.
Temper Tantrum
Posted on March 18, 2020
I have not written in these pages for some time. There are many reasons for this on which I may elaborate at some time in the future. But over the last few days I have been drawn back to this place I named “Pause” over a decade ago. It seems these days we are living are bringing their own pause, a stopping point none of us anticipated or planned to take. A pause that is filled with a tapestry of emotion and much anxiety. A pause that has many in a heightened state of fear and feelings so raw that sometimes we hardly know what to do with ourselves. Listening to the news and the rapid fire changing landscape that swirls around us provides what we feel is the information that we need. At the same time, taking all this in can have us walking in circles trying to figure out what we should do next, worrying for our future health or that of those we love or have never met, watching well laid financial plans roller coaster up and down. It is unnerving and perplexing to feel so out of control. It is as if the very air around us is pulsing with an uncontrollable energy…an energy that threatens to overwhelm us.
During all this, for some reason, I have kept thinking of the times when our sons would be in a state of frustration or anger that led to what might be called a temper tantrum. I can honestly say this did not happen very often but when it did I always felt as if I wanted to do something…anything…that would make them stop. Their tears, their hurt, their behavior was so painful to watch. The first time it happened I remember allowing my own frustration to rise with theirs as I tried everything I could think of to stop their crying or halt their tiny fists from pounding. I learned quickly that my entering into their frustration and anger only seemed to escalate what was happening. Over time I realized that the best way to help them and to keep my own heart from breaking as I watched them work out whatever it was they needed to do was to simply sit quietly and hold space for them, making sure they were safe and knew they were loved, allowing them to take control of their own emotions, their own frustrations and come to their own peace.
These memories have brought me a certain calm over the last days. I have asked myself what good it will do if I enter into the anxiety of the moment, whipping myself into a frenzy. There are so many elements of this global crisis and I have no control over any of them. What I do have control over is my own emotion, my own reactions, and the energy I put into the world. What I can do is hold the space. I can breathe deeply and send that breath into the world. What I can do is call people and offer kindness. I can walk outside and notice the change of seasons that is arriving without knowledge of the whirlwind we are experiencing. I can listen for the geese making their homing call as they return and watch for the early push of green from the earth. I can smell the earth returning to itself.
During these times which we continue to call unprecedented, we each will find our role to play. Many people are working countless hours to mend what has been broken, to heal what needs to be healed, to right the ship of our world. For this I am thankful beyond words. Some have chosen the role of hand wringing and hoarding. Perhaps it will always be so. Others are using their gifts for caring and compassion, for offering what they can to be of help. The truth of it is that we are all in this together and at times our role may be to simply hold the space, quietly, deeply, bringing calm as best we can.
The poet Pablo Neruda says this:
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much…
…Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

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Running with Mark 95


Day 95 – April 1st, 2020


Read: Mark 14:1-2

The Plot to Kill Jesus

14 It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”


I have something to admit to you friends.  I have spent days trying to write today’s Running with Mark.  Every time I come to it, I find my mind drifting to the events of the world.  Maybe that’s where God needs me to be for now, sitting with the fear and anxiety with which we are all dealing.


This is a time when people’s true colors are seen. 


Maybe that is where Jesus would be in this passage too.  He was able to see all that was happening in the disciples, in the Romans and in the religious leaders.  He sees what’s happening today.  Here are some parallels I see:

  • Governmental leaders who are like Herod, puffed up and wanting to appear that they have all the answers. Herod was always worried that the attention would be drawn away from him.
  • Religious leaders like the pastor in Florida who refused to comply with the Stay-at-Home order and held religious services, putting hundreds of people at risk. His reply was that they would “lay hands on the sick and heal them” which is taking a Biblical imperative way out of context. 


Yet I also see things that Jesus also saw:

  • People leading with grace and humility, like our own Governor
  • Medical professionals putting their own lives on the line to love and serve their neighbor in need
  • Acts of compassion practiced by ordinary citizens


It is indeed a strange Lent this year.  To be stuck inside most of the day, when the sun is shining, and early spring flowers are starting to pop up through the soil.
We worship the God who, for three days, was contained in a dark, cold tomb. Yet, the tomb could not contain him.  Glorious life burst forth from that grave.  
We may feel like we are stuck in the dark, stone, tomb.  Yet, even there, God is present.  We are not alone.  Thanks be to God!


How is it with your soul?  I’d love to hear from you.

If you want music on today’s Scripture passage, check out this scene from Jesus Christ Superstar.  If you need something calling out your best self, click on the True Colors video.

This Jesus Must Die – Jesus Christ Superstar 2000 –   

True Colors





Prayer Focus:

I will speak for myself only here.  I need to work on praying for the leaders of government both the ones with which I agree, and those I do not.  What about you?


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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God is with Us – 03.31.2020

On Sunday, March 29th I shared this video at the beginning of the worship service.  I am sharing it here because it continues to stick with me.  
We talk a lot about the virus and how it is carried from person to person.  It is very contagious.
But so is hope.  
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Romans 12:12
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13
Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for God who has promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.  Psalm 33:22
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Jeremiah 29:11
My friends, be carriers of HOPE!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 94


Day 94 – March 31, 2020



Mark 13:14-23 New Revised Standard Version

This is another difficult reading about persecution and suffering. 


One of my heroes is a man who was persecuted and suffered by an evil regime, yet his faith remained strong.  His name was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  He was a German pastor and theologian who spoke out against the Nazi dictatorship and especially against Hitler’s euthanasia and persecution of the Jews.  Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for trying to overthrow Hitler.  He was executed just two weeks before Germany was liberated.

To learn more about him, check out this introduction to the last 12 hours of his life –

Jim Belcher on Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Listen to Bonhoeffer’s words in his poem “Who Am I?”

Who Am I? a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer



He Never Said a Mumbalin Word



Prayer Focus:

Heroes of the faith


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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God is with Us 03.30.2020

March 30, 2020
Blue Bike Prayers
I’ve been riding my bike around my neighborhood and the city.  As I have been riding, I am praying for people and things I see. 
Click on this link to see and hear my blue bike prayers.  
Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 93


Day 93 – March 30, 2020



Mark 13:9-13 New Revised Standard Version


Before we jump in, take a listen to this rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” performed by brass players from the Minnesota Orchestra.  This was recorded at an area lake, while practicing good social distancing.  Since that time even gatherings like this are not encouraged.  But enjoy this joy break! Click on the link below.

You can shut down Orchestra Hall – but you can’t stop the music.


This feels like the longest Lent ever!  Lent is such an important season of the church year, as we intentionally focus on our own separation from God, and the great lengths to which God will go to close the gap.  The readings for this late in Lent are always pretty heavy.  Jesus is facing persecution by the Romans and religious leaders.  He faces betrayal by one of his own.  He will be deserted by his friends. 


In today’s reading Jesus is warning the disciples that these same challenges face them.


What challenges are you facing this Lenten season?

  • Are you home alone?
  • Worried about an elder who you cannot visit?
  • Have your hours at work been cut, or perhaps you have been furloughed?
  • Are you working from home while trying to keep your children safe, healthy and fed?
  • Are you a health care worker facing COVID 19 every day you go to work?


During these challenging days, let us remember to turn toward one another and toward God.  Here is a beautiful prayer that comes from the United Church of Canada.

In this time of COVID-19, we pray:
When we aren’t sure, God,
help us be calm;
when information comes
from all sides, correct and not,
help us to discern;
when fear makes it hard to breathe,
and anxiety seems to be the order of the day,
slow us down, God;
help us to reach out with our hearts,
when we can’t touch with our hands;
help us to be socially connected,
when we have to be socially distant;
help us to love as perfectly as we can,
knowing that “perfect love casts out all fear.”

For the doctors, we pray,
for the nurses, we pray,
for the technicians and the janitors and the
aides and the caregivers, we pray,
for the researchers and theorists,
the epidemiologists and investigators,
for those who are sick,
and those who are grieving, we pray,
for all who are affected,
all around the world…
we pray
for safety,
for health,
for wholeness.

May we feed the hungry,
give drink to the thirsty,
clothe the naked and house those without homes;
may we walk with those who feel they are alone,
and may we do all that we can to heal
the sick—
in spite of the epidemic,
in spite of the fear.

Help us, O God,
that we might help each other.

In the love of the Creator,
in the name of the Healer,
in the life of the Holy Spirit that is in all and with all,
we pray.

May it be so.

—A prayer during times of COVID-19 by the Right Rev. Richard Bott, originally posted on Facebook. Moderator Bott encourages the sharing of prayers he posts throughout his term.



How Can I Keep from Singing – Lauren Daigle

Prayer Focus:
Those of any faith, who are persecuted for their faith.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 92


Day 92 – March 29, 2020



Mark 13:1-8, 24-37 New Revised Standard Version


Today’s passage concerning the end times, is fascinating to read as the world watches the COVID virus spread and take more lives.  We are facing a crisis like none we have faced before.  We are on edge, nervous and worried.


There are some very wise people working on this pandemic and sharing helpful information.  But there are also people

  • denying the threat is real
  • using the virus to make racist pronouncements
  • hawking “miracle” cures on the internet
  • politicians using it as yet another way to divide us
  • there are pastors who are not cancelling public worship because.

A church in Louisiana refused to cancel in-person worship and held a worship service with more than 1,800 people in defiance of social distancing mandates. Parishioners could be seen touching one another and gathering closely without wear masks. The Pastor claimed that the people would not get sick and that if they did, he would lay hands on them and they would be healed.


Jesus said to beware of those who will try to lead you astray.  Deceivers prey upon people at times of crisis. 

What can you and I do to beware of the deceivers?

  • Listen to news from more than one perspective.
  • Resist the urge to put other people in boxes.
  • Check out what the deceivers are telling you. Does it fit with the Jesus you know and read about in the Bible? 


“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8


May you be safe.  May you be well.  May you rest in God’s Shalom.


Holy Spirit Truth Divine


Spend some time reading over the lyrics to the hymn “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine”.

1 Holy Spirit, truth divine,
dawn upon this soul of mine.
Voice of God and inward light,
wake my spirit, clear my sight.


2 Holy Spirit, love divine,
glow within this heart of mine.
Kindle every high desire,
purify me with your fire.


3 Holy Spirit, power divine,
fill and nerve this will of mine.
Boldly may I always live,
bravely serve, and gladly give.


4 Holy Spirit, law divine,
reign within this soul of mine.
Be my law, and I shall be
firmly bound, forever free.


5 Holy Spirit, peace divine,
still this restless heart of mine.
Speak to calm this tossing sea,
grant me your tranquility.


6 Holy Spirit, joy divine,
gladden now this heart of mine.
In the desert ways I sing –
spring, O Living Water, spring!




Prayer Focus:

Ask God to help you follow the true Light, the true hope, the true Way.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 91


Day 91 – March 27, 2020



Deuteronomy 6:1-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Great Commandment

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.



What lessons do you think are most important for children to learn?

When our four sons were young, every day  I would say to them “I want you to be men of______” and they would say back, “Men of honor, excellence and integrity”.  For us honor meant that you were a person who practiced respect and that you treated others with honor.  Excellence did not mean perfection.  We are all going to make mistakes or behave poorly from time to time.  Excellence meant that we would strive to do our best.  Integrity meant that we would be people who kept our word and acted with integrity.  I used to joke with them when they were going out as teenagers, “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your grandmothers to see you doing.”


My greatest hope and prayer for my children and grandchildren, and for the children of Lake Harriet UMC, is that they would come to love God with all their heart, soul and might.  Then as Jesus added, “And a second command is like it – you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22:39)



You’ve Got to Be Taught” by Rogers and Hammerstein

Mr. Rogers – It’s You I Like   This classic clip should be watched with a tissue at the ready.


Prayer Focus:

What lessons from childhood have helped you?  What lessons were unhealthy and you’d like to be rid of?


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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Running with Mark 90


Day 90 – March 27, 2020



Psalm 22:1-2, 14-21 New Revised Standard Version

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 22:1


Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help.

Psalm 22:11


I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.

Psalm 22:14, 15


These words, written by David, are true words of agony.  This psalm is called a “Psalm of Lament”. Lament psalms can be individual or communal.   Lament psalms take on a very specific form:

Verses 1-2 = statement of the problem (I)

Verses 3-5 = expression of confidence (I)

Verses 6-8 = statement of the problem (II)

Verses 9-11 = expression of confidence (II)

Verses 12-18 = statement of the problem (III)

Verses 19-21 = entreaty for relief (I)

Verses 22-31 = the certainty of being heard and the vow.


I encourage you to go through the entire psalm, and see this pattern at work.


The psalmist feels free to cry out to God with all of his hurt, his fears, his agony.  For Jesus, the psalms were a primary means of prayer.  He learned them when he was just a boy, and continued to draw on them in his ministry.  Jesus will pray part of this Psalm while he is hanging on the cross.  “My God, why have you forsaken me?”.  After praying this psalm, Jesus will offer more gut-wrenching prayers from the cross, until at last he says, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit”.  As the psalmist in Psalm 22 states his faith and hope in God, so too does Jesus.


As I prepare this devotional it is Sunday, March 22, 2020.  As of today there are 32,644 cases of COVID19 that have been tested positive.  There are of course many more people who are ill than have been tested due to the shortage of tests. Senator Rand Paul revealed that he has tested positive, and now several other senators are quarantined.  What will these counts be by the time you read this on March 27th


If ever there were a time to pray in the words of Psalm 22, this is the time.

So beloved, cry out to God with your whole heart.  Pour out your fears.




Nearer My God to Thee – BYU Vocal Point

Yo Yo Ma on encouraging “Songs of Comfort” amid global crisis.  PBS


Prayer Focus:

Christ himself understands our feeling forsaken.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

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