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

Read more

Running with Mark 97


Day 97 – April 3rd, 2020



Mark 15:1-5 New Revised Standard Version

Jesus before Pilate

15 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.


This event took place on Saturday morning. 

  • On Thursday Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper with the disciples.
  • On Friday he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.

He was arrested in the Garden, with Judas identifying Jesus by kissing him.  From there he was taken before the High Priest, the elders and the scribes. 

  • On Saturday morning Jesus was taken to Pilate who hands him over to be crucified.

Here is a map of the events that took place over those days.  Jesus was moved again and again through the city, always under heavy Roman guard.  Did they do it to show the public who was in charge, to show just who the real king was?


Spend some time with your Bible.  Read chapters 14 and 15 of Mark.   Find the places mentioned on the map.



King of Heaven – Paul Baloche


Prayer Focus:

Spirituality in the Ignatian tradition uses imagination.  Imagine that you were a bystander watching Jesus be brought before the Chief Priest, scribes and the elders.  What do you hear?  What do you see? 


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

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

Read more

Running with Mark 89


Day 89 – March 26, 2020


Watch: Here is a short introduction to PSALMS from The Bible Project.

The Bible Project – Introduction to the Psalms



Psalm 116:12-19 New Revised Standard Version


Questions to ponder:

  • Why is the psalmist so devoted to God?
  • What troubles may have emerged in the psalmist’s life?
  • What is the Cup of Salvation?
  • Is your devotion based primarily on what God has done for you? If so, what happens when something bad happens to you?



Do you remember this old song from church camp or Sunday school?

I Will Call Upon the Lord




Prayer Focus:

In the midst of these trying days, for what do you give thanks?  Talk to God about those things.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

Read more

Running with Mark 88


Day 88 – March 25, 2020


Psalm 121

Please enjoy this video reflection of Psalm 121.  Psalm 121 – The Work of the People

 Psalm 121:7 says, “The Lord will keep you from all harm–“
What do you make of that verse when Covid19 is spreading?
As you wrestle with that question, it may be helpful for you to look at a classic piece called “Understanding the Will of God” by Leslie Weatherhead.  Weatherhead posits that there are three types of God’s will; the intentional will of God, the circumstantial will of God, and the ultimate will of God.
  1. The intentional will of God – is God’s ideal plan for humanity. This is God’s plan for wholeness, for Shalom.
  2. The circumstantial will of God – is God’s plan within certain circumstances.  I like to use the example of physics.  God created objects in motion to stay in motion, that is God’s will.  But what happens when two cars try to occupy the same intersection at the same time?  The cars crash.  It is not that God willed the crash to happen, but God did will the laws of physics.  The car accident took place not because of God’s intentional will, but because of circumstances.
  3. The ultimate will of God – is the glorious and final realization of all God’s purposes.  
Here’s a quote from Weatherhead: (he uses very old language that is gendered “he” for humanity)
“When a dear one dies, we call it “the will of God,” though the measures we used to prevent death could
hardly be called fighting against the will of God, and if they had been successful we should have thanked
God with deep feeling that in the recovery of that dear one his will had been done. Similarly, when
sadness, disease, and calamity overtake men they sometimes say with resignation, “God’s will be done,”
when the opposite of his will has been done. When Jesus healed men’s bodies and gladdened men’s
lives in Palestine, he was doing the will of God, not undoing or defeating it.”
Covid19 was not God’s intentional will.  It was caused by circumstances of this world, by the power of genes and viruses to change and mutate.  God’s ultimate will in this awful situation may be seen when humanity acts in the best ways of God.
Beware of bad theology!  There will be people arguing that COVID19 is God’s will, and this is not so.


I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman

Prayer Focus:

An Affirmation of Faith for Lent

We are not alone; we live in God’s world. We believe in God who has created and is creating; who has come to us in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new; who works in us and others by the Spirit. We trust in God. We are called to be the Church, to celebrate God’s presence; to live with respect in creation; to love and serve others; to seek justice and resist evil; to proclaim Jesus’ message of hope, inclusion and grace. In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.

—Adapted from the United Church of Canada.





Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

Read more

Running with Mark 87


Day 87 – March 24, 2020



Psalm 102:12-17

Yet You, O Comforter, are ever near,

your kindness is made known to all generations;

You answer the prayers of those who cry to You.

Come! Melt every heart;

the appointed time is nigh.

Those who trust in You find solace for their souls;

tears soon turn to joy.

All who reverence and honor the Beloved,

are nourished and held by Love.

For You, O Healer, invite us to wholeness,

to be co-creators along Love’s way.

You hear the cries of the afflicted, and answer their prayer.

Yet beware! Our thoughts are also our prayers,

May they be for the well-being of all!


Compassion Hymn


Prayer Focus:

A Prayer of Compassion by Mother Teresa

Lord, open our eyes
that we may see you in our brothers and sisters.
Lord, open our ears
that we may hear the cries of the hungry,
the cold, the frightened, the oppressed.
Lord, open our hearts
that we may love each other as you love us.
Renew in us your spirit.
Lord, free us and make us one.




Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

Read more