Running With Mark 45



Day Forty-Five – February 11, 2020  



I have spent many years working in children’s ministry.  Music is a great way to teach children the Bible and the faith.  The only problem is that those songs get stuck in my head.  During VBS week, I will wake up in the middle of the night with  that year’s theme song running through my head.


Music has always been a powerful way for me to memorize Scripture.  I learned the Books of the Bible by singing a song, so if you ever see me at the front of a sanctuary, turning pages in the big Bible, chances are good I am singing the Books of the Bible song to help me find the right page.


A simple song that I use with preschoolers contains big Biblical truths.  You can see the silly pastor singing it here – 2 Fish, 5 Loaves


What did it take to feed 5000?  Well, probably many, many more than 5000, since 5000 was the number of males who were fed.  With the women and children included the number would have been much, much higher.


It was late and the people were getting hungry. The disciples came to Jesus telling him to send the people back to their homes, but Jesus tells them to give them something to eat.  Right away the disciples started listing all the reasons they couldn’t feed them.  It would cost so much money Jesus!  Jesus says, “How much bread do you have?”.  In John’s version of the story John 6:1-15 the disciple Philip says, “Six months wages wouldn’t be enough to feed them.” 


Andrew chimes in, “There is a boy who here who has five barley loaves and two fish.”  This detail about the kind of bread is very revealing.  Barley bread was the bread of the poorest of the poor.  2 Kings 4:42-44 tells the story of a man who brought twenty loaves of barley, as an offering of the first fruit, to the prophet Elisha.  Those twenty loaves fed over 100 people and there was food left over.  Would the disciples think of this story when the boy gave Andrew his two fish and five loaves of bread?


Jesus tells the people to sit down, and they do in groups of fifties and hundreds.  He looks up to heaven, blessed and broke the bread (are you seeing another Bible story here?).  The food was passed around and all ate to their fill. There were twelve baskets of food left over. 


  • If you were the little boy, would you have shared your lunch? Why?
  • What is the significance of the boy being poor (as evident in the barley bread)?
  • Do you think it is harder for a rich person to give or for a poor person? Why?


Some people are called to work systemically to eliminate poverty, homelessness and hunger.  Others are called to provide direct relief by serving meals, working at shelters, etc.  Which are you called to do?  Why?


Challenge: Consider fasting for one meal, or one day this week.  Give the money you would have used on food to an agency that provides hunger relief.

In Minneapolis, please consider giving to the Joyce Uptown Foodshelf.

If you are outstate, check for local agencies that are providing hunger relief.

National and international groups to check out include:


Bread for the World



God of Justice by Tim Hughes


Prayer Focus:

On the day you choose to fast, when you begin to feel hunger pains, or your stomach growls, turn to God in prayer. 


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

Read more

Running With Mark 44


Day Forty-Four – February 10, 2020  


Psalm 122

 My spirit soared when a Voice

                        spoke to me:

            “Come, come to the Heart

                        of Love!”

How long I had stood within the

                        house of fear

            yearning to enter the gates

                        of Love!


The New Jerusalem, the Holy City,

            is bound firmly together;

All who seek the Heart of Love,

            those who have faced their fears,

Enter the gates in peace and with

                        great joy,

            singing songs of thanksgiving.

There, in harmony with the cosmos,

            the community gathers united

                        in love.


Pray for the peace of the world!

            May all nations prosper as one!

May peace reign among all peoples,

            and integrity dwell within

                        every heart!

Then will friends and neighbors, and

                        former enemies as well,

            cry out, “Peace be within you!”

For the good of the universe and

            in gratitude to the Beloved,

Let us serve the Holy One,

                        of all nations

                        with glad hearts.


From Psalms for Praying © 2007 Nan C. Merrill

Continuum International Publishing Group


Jerusalem was the site of the first temple and referred to as the “holy city”.   In Matthew 23:37 Jesus lamented over Jerusalem saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

The image of Jesus as mother hen is a tender one.  How Jesus longs to gather all of God’s children under her wing, but we are unwilling.  Yet Jesus will over and over again in the gospels, set his sights on Jerusalem, knowing what was in store for him there.


What does it mean to you that Christ would choose to go to Jerusalem?


How does the image of Jesus as a mother hen speak to you?



The Holy City sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Made to Worship by Chris Tomlin


Prayer Focus:

Pray to God as a mother hen covering you with wings of love and grace.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


Read more

Running With Mark 43


Day Forty-Three – February 9, 2020  



Mark 6:1-29 Common English Bible

  • The Herod in this passage is not the same Herod who was ruling at the time Jesus was born, that was Herod the Great. This is one of his sons who is known as Herod Antipas.  This Herod’s territory is only one-fourth the size of his father’s. 
  • John had gotten under Herod’s skin by telling him he should not be married to his brother Philip’s wife Herodias’
  • Did you catch that Herod feared John the Baptist. Why do you suppose that is?  Herod also listened to the words of John.
  • Herod has a birthday party at which his daughter Herodias danced. She was such a hit that Herod said he’d do for her whatever she wanted, and what she wanted was to have John the Baptist killed.  A guard kills John and brings his head on a platter into the birthday party.  What an unbelievably violent act has been committed on such an innocent man.
  • John’s disciples take his body away to be buried


What do we do with such a gruesome story?  As I read the story this time, I have been thinking about how John was a person who told others the truth about themselves, even when they did not want to see it.  He was known as the prophet in the wilderness calling people to a baptism of repentance.

Do you have someone you really trust in your life who will tell you the truth?   Who holds a mirror up for you to see yourself?


Be honest with yourself, how often has your doctor suggested that you need to lose a little weight or exercise a little more?  Even when you know the doctor is telling you the truth, have you acted on it?


Sometimes a boss may need to give some feedback to an employee about their performance.  It can be hard, but necessary, to hear the ways in which we are being coached to improve our job performance. 


It can be hard to hear some things, and we may be tempted to lash out at the truth teller, like Herodias did with John. 


Think about a time when someone told you a difficult truth that you truly needed to hear.  Was it a parent? A coach? A boss? A friend?  What did you do with the truth they told you?  Did you act on it?


Sometimes when we have gotten off track, we need someone to remind us who we are, holy and beloved children of God.  Who can you count on to remind you of this?


Buddha said, “Three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth”. 


The hymn, “Open My Eyes that I May See” has powerful lyrics about bringing ourselves fully to God, with all of our failings and foibles.  As you read the words and listen to the hymn, meditate on the line that says, “place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unlock and set me free”. Click on the link to listen to the hymn Open My Eyes that I May See

Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth you have for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!



Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Grey



Prayer Focus:

Ask God to prepare your heart to receive the truth.

Offer thanks for the people in your life who will tell you the truth because they love you.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


Read more

Running With Mark 24

Day Twenty-Four – January 21, 2020  

Read: Mark 3:31-35 New Revised Standard Version

Today’s reading is very short, and very confusing! 

Jesus’ mother, sisters and brothers, are outside asking for him.  It’s pretty clear that they do not understand who Jesus is and what he is about.  How can we blame them?  Mary had given birth to him.  His siblings had grown up with him. 
Mark 3:20 tells us that his family had gone to Capernaum to get him. The NRSV says they have come to “restrain him”.  The NIV says they came to “take charge of him”.  Why, because they think he is “out of his mind”.


We can understand their confusion.  Here was this guy they had grown up with.  He is telling people he has the authority to forgive sins.  He is debating with the religious leaders.  He is hanging out with fishermen, tax collectors and sinners.  It’s been reported to his family that he is casting out unclean spirits and healing people.  It’s hard for them to fathom.

Imagine their surprise when they confront Jesus and he says to them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  Family was everything in that culture.  Multiple generations of family often lived under the same roof.  Caring for one’s parents was a strong culturally held value.  Refusal to care for one’s family would have been a cultural taboo.


Jesus says that “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

God is starting a new family; a family made up of not of biological family, but of spiritual family, and this family will extend out into the world receiving any who would follow Jesus. 

St. Paul, in Galatians 3:28 paints a picture of this new family when he says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”


Interesting theological tidbit for today – the Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin, in other words, she did not have a normal marital relationship with Joseph, and therefore would not have had other children.  The “sisters and brothers” mentioned they believe are cousins of Jesus, or that they were half-siblings because they were Joseph’s children.  To learn more about the Catholic understanding of the family of Jesus click on this link Did Mary Have Other Children?


Questions to ponder:

  • What would it have been like to be Jesus’ sister or brother? Do you think they were ever embarrassed by him or jealous of him? 
  • Mary sometimes lost her patience with him, as when he stayed in the temple in Jerusalem when he was 12 years old, instead of traveling home with his extended family.
  • Did Jesus hit a growth spurt like most teenagers? Was he always hungry?  Did he get acne?
  • At what age do you think Jesus understood who he was? A toddler? A boy? A teen? a man?


Visual Liturgy:





We Are Family by Sister Sledge  (going old school here!)

No Longer Slaves by Brian Johnson Joel Case Jonathan David Helser



Prayer Focus:

Family relationships


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

Read more

Running With Mark 23

Day Twenty-Three – January 20, 2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


Psalm 126 is a joy-filled song of praise for the good things God has done. The image of “mouths filled with laughter” is so vivid.


We’ve all experienced times in our lives when we’ve laughed so hard our bellies ached and our eyes leaked tears of joy. After those moments of such deep laughter, our bodies feel a physical release and a deep contentedness.

For today, think of some things that God has done in your life that have brought you that deep joy.


My family brings me joy. I remember being on a family vacation in Alaska one summer with my husband and all of our boys. There was a point at which I looked around at these five men that I loved, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of deep gratitude and joy.

Diverse babies sitting on the floor

Babies and children bring me joy. I love the photos from family court on the day of an adoption, or meeting a newborn baby and celebrating with the parents. I am that person in the grocery store that waves at toddlers and coos over babies in car seats.

It brings me joy to laugh at silly dog videos on Youtube.

It brings me joy to watch hugs and reunions at the airport.

What brings you joy?


Can you imagine the joy both in heaven and earth if the dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was finally fulfilled?


Click on the link below to watch Dr. King’s speech. Watch, as he with passion and purpose, points us toward a vision of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Visual Liturgy:  I Have a Dream Speech by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Free at Last

We Shall Overcome – Morehouse College Choir

Prayer Focus:
Racial reconciliation

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


Read more

Running With Mark 22

Day Twenty-Two – January 19, 2020

Read: Mark 4:1-34 Common English Bible

Visual Liturgy:

A tiny mustard seed is held between the index finger and the thumb. A perfect illustration of Jesus’ teaching in the Bible.


 “With many such parables he continued to give them the word, as much as they were able to hear. 34 He spoke to them only in parables, then explained everything to his disciples when he was alone with them.” Mark 4:33-34


Why would Jesus speak to them only in parables?  Why then later explain it only to the disciples?  I often wish that there would have been times recorded in scripture when Jesus “gave the answer” and said what the parable meant.  Parables are stories that invite us into the story and to draw our own conclusions about the meanings. 


In Crazy Book – A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Biblical Terms, the authors say that a Parable is a story with not only a point, but a skewer.


In the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Steve Martin’s character launches (and we mean launches) into some good advice: “When you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea: Have a point!  It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”


Because admit it.  We have all been there, listening to a story and wondering, “Why is he telling this?  There is no point!”


A parable is a story designed not to be entertaining or amusing, or to pass on family history. It is a story with a point.  In fact, the biblical parables are often pointed.  You might say that they have lance-like point – a sort of “gotcha” moment in which we realize that the point of the story has, in fact, punctured us.  While there are parables in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, most of the biblical parables occur in the Gospel because Jesus often taught using parables.


sticks for canape and kebab isolated on white background

A key to reading Jesus’ parables is to realize that we are the ones who are being skewered by Jesus’ parables.  He pokes a hole in our illusions about ourselves in order to let the hot air out and the Holy Spirit’s healing breath in.”[1]



Parable of the Soils – what does the soil mean to you?

Parable of the Lamps – what does the lamp mean?

Parables of God’s Kingdom – what does the mustard seed mean?  Why would Jesus choose it?

Who is the best storyteller you have ever known?

How can you use stories to share your faith?



Jesus Be Near to Me – Tommy Walker    


Build Your Kingdom Here – Rend Collective


Prayer Focus:

A parable is like a skewer, poking holes in our illusions about ourselves.

Where are the holes in your life that God would invite you to consider?


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] Jacobson, Rolf A., Karl N. Jacobson, and Hans H. Wiersma. Crazy Book: a Not-so-Stuffy Dictionary of Biblical Terms. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2019. pg.212





Read more

Running With Mark 21

Day Twenty one – January 18, 2020

Read Mark 3:19b-30 New Revised Standard Version

Have you noticed who is responding to Jesus?  The crowds continue to grow in fact to the point that it is difficult for him to move about freely.  They have heard him teach and have received healing.  The unclean spirits have called him out by name as the Son of God.  It is clear to them that Jesus has a power and authority that is not of this world.

Have you also noticed who is troubled by Jesus?  The religious leaders aren’t sure what to with this many who invites tax collectors to follow him, touches a woman, heals on the sabbath and challenges their teachings.

In this chapter his family “…went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”  (Mark 3:21). Mark uses a literary device known as intercalation––a story within a story.  You’ll see it again in the story of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage.   

Jesus’ family thinks he is having mental health issues and go out to try to restrain him.  Suddenly the Jerusalem scribes show up and try to discount Jesus––to undercut his authority––by saying that Jesus works by the power of Beelzebul (3:22) and that he has an unclean spirit (3:30).  They want people to think that Jesus has no authority. 

They accuse him of being the Tempter (which is sometimes translated as Satan, or the accuser, or sometimes as Beelzebul who was an arch-demon) in order to cast out demons.    

“Some also thought that false teachers could speak by demons.  If this association is at all in view here, it suggests a serious charge, since the penalty for leading God’s people astray was death.”[1]  You can already that a movement to stifle Jesus has begun.  What is not clear yet is just how far they might go.

Jesus asks them how can Satan cast out Satan? Their argument makes no sense.   They have labeled Jesus’ work as from the Tempter.  Jesus’ ministry is really the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why he says it is blasphemy, because they are calling the work of God, the work of the Tempter. 


Jesus is really firm.  “Truly I tell you…….” Pay attention when you hear Jesus say those words, “I tell you” or often “they say this, but I tell you….”

“I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”(Mark 3:29-30).

To blaspheme means to speak evil against, to speak slander or abuse, or to speak ill of God.  According to Torah law, blasphemy was a capital offense (Leviticus 24:16).


What do you think he meant when Jesus said, “They can never have forgiveness”?  Most of us have been taught that there is no sin beyond forgiveness.  I did some reading this week that has been helpful to me on this topic.  Scholars say that this blasphemy is about refusing the Holy Spirit, refusing the gift of grace and forgiveness that is offered to us by God. Those who call Jesus Satan are not open to receiving his help.

Can grace be refused?  What do you think?  If grace is a free gift, offered to us without price, without having to earn it, can we refuse to accept it?  If someone gave you a new car, you could choose to accept it, or you can turn it down.

Faith is not something you can make someone else have.  It’s a really strange thing to acknowledge that the God of the universe, who created us in love, has given us free will to choose not to love God back.

I find the writing of Brennan Manning to be powerful.  In his book, All is Grace, a Ragamuffin Memoir he writes, “This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”
― Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

Here’s what I believe about those who refuse to accept or receive God’s love, I believe that God offers us many, many opportunities during our lifetime.  It’s not a once and done sort of deal.  I do believe that a person can refuse grace during their lifetime here on earth. 

If God is the God of unfailing love and grace, and I do believe God is, then I wonder what it will be like when we die.  When we come face-to-face with the great I AM, when we finally experience the fullness of God, I think there will be lots of people who says, “Oh, I get it now.  This is God.  This is holiness.  This is Shalom. This is what I have needed. This is what will set me free.  Oh yes, Lord, oh yes.”  But I guess until we die, we will not know for sure.

Standing in line

I once visited an elder who was approaching death.  As we were chatting, she said that she sure had a lot of questions for God and that as soon as she got to heaven she was going to go right to the front of the line with her questions.  She died a few days later and I couldn’t help but think that now she had her answers.  It also made me chuckle to think of this dear soul budging to the front of the line so she could talk with God.


What do you think will happen when we die?

What will God be like for us then?

Is heaven a place? A relationship? A state of being?  Who will be there?



Your Grace is Enough by Chris Tomlin


Great is Your Love by the Walls Group


Prayer Focus:

Jesus’ family worried about him.  Do you have any worries about your family?

Talk to God today about your family worries, relationship struggles, concerns etc.


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] NIV Cultural Backgrounds, Study Bible.  ©2016 by Zondervan.  pg. 1690


Read more

Running With Mark 20

Day Twenty– January 17, 2020

Read Mark 3:13-19a New Revised Standard Version

Right away we know something important is taking place because Jesus goes “up the mountain”.  Remember that mountains are place of great spiritual significance in the Bible.  They are places where people encounter God. 

Jesus calls twelve people up the mountain.  Why twelve?  The number corresponds with the twelve tribes of Israel in the Hebrew Scripture.  He is calling the twelve out of the world, and into the kingdom of God.  So who were these people?

  • Simon, whom we call Peter he would do some great things for Jesus, and some painful things too.  His brother was Andrew.  Andrew’s name is always listed with at least another disciple.  These brothers were fishers who lived in Capernaum.
  • James and his brother John (who with Peter make up kind of an inner circle among the disciples.  These two were the Sons of Thunder, a bit fiery and tempestuous and they often were competitive.  They were fishers too, and likely came from some means because when Jesus calls them, they leave their father and their hired men. John is often referred to as the “disciple whom Jesus loved”.  He would write 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and Revelation.
  • Philip and Bartholomew Philip brought Bartholomew to Jesus in Mark 3:18 but that’s really all we know about either one.  The gospel of John lists a man called Nathanael who was likely also known as Bartholomew.
  • Thomas and Matthew Thomas the one who wanted proof of the resurrection. Thomas had moments of doubt, as do we all, but he was also incredibly loyal to Jesus and was willing to die for him.  He declares Jesus, “My Lord and my God” in John 20:28.  Matthew collected taxes for the Roman government, which meant he was equally hated by the Romans and the Jewish people. 
  • James who is identified as the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus who is sometimes called Jude or Judas.  He is not often mentioned in scripture.  We know that his mother’s name is Mary and that he has a brother named Joseph.  Some of the most faithful followers of Jesus are never in the spotlight.  They humbly and consistently do their ministry of loving God and serving others. 
  • Simon the Zealot  He was a hot-tempered, right wing extremist. He was a political activist.  He believed that Rome should be defeated, even if that meant violence. 
  • Judas Iscariot. He is the one who will betray Jesus and eventually take his own life. 
    After the death of Judas, and after the resurrection of Jesus, Matthias will be called to be the twelvth disciple. You can read more about him in Acts chapter 1.


Why would Jesus call these twelve? They are not leaders or scholars.  They come with some of their own baggage, questions, doubts, gifts and skills.


These 12 are called both disciples and apostles.  What is the difference?

Disciple means “learner”.  They are an apprentice or pupil attached to a teacher.  Followers of a rabbi were called “disciples”. When the word disciples is used in the New Testament it is used to refer to these twelve students/disciples of Jesus.  One of the best descriptions I have ever read for disciple is someone who walks so closely behind their teacher that they are covered in dust kicked up by the rabbi’s footsteps.

Apostle means “one who is sent out.”  In this chapter Jesus sends them out to do three specific things: 1) to be with him 2) to proclaim the message 3) to have authority to cast our demons.  An apostle is a messenger or an ambassador.  Paul never met Jesus in the flesh, yet he became an apostle.


You and I are called to be both a disciple and an apostle.

  • How are you learning more about God? Are you walking in the dust of the rabbi?
  • Where are you being sent in the world to serve?
  • Who was an apostle who brought God’s message to you? A church school teacher? grandparent? parent? friend?


Visual Liturgy:



Follow You by Ben Rector

I Will Follow by Chris Tomlin


Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about your desire to learn more and grow more in your relationship.

Ask God to help you discern where you are being sent as a messenger?  With whom will you share the good news?


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


Read more

Running With Mark 19

Day Nineteen – January 16, 2020

Read Mark 3:7-12 New Revised Standard Version

This map shows the regions in which Jesus’ ministry took place.  Many of the names are familiar, with the exception of Idumea.  Herod the Great was from this region and many people from Idumea would one day come seeking Jesus.  Herod the Great died around 4 BCE.  After he died, Caesar Augustus divided the kingdom between Herod’s sons, but he refused to give the sons the title.  The sons were known as Herod Archaelaus, Herod Antipas and Herod Philip. It was Herod Antipas that will feature prominently in the gospels.  Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as “that fox” in Luke 13:31.   

Jesus’ authority has expanded to include women, men and children, and diverse crowds of Jewish, Idumean, and Gentiles (beyond the Jordan, Tyre and Sidon. 

The crowds are now so large that Jesus fears being crushed, so he asks his followers to get him a boat.  The people pressed around trying to touch him. 

Jesus’ Identity

The unclean spirits continued to recognize him as God’s own son.  Jesus tells them not to tell.  Why?  This pattern of asking for silence is found in several places in Mark.  Did he tell them not to tell, knowing that they would tell anyway, and his message would spread even more quickly?  Did he tell them not to tell because he was not yet ready to fully reveal who he was and what he had come to do?

Jesus is certainly healing people on a physical level, but it is deeper than that.  Jesus’ powers were spiritual.  They were about restoring people’s souls.


  • What is the largest crowd of which you have been part?
  • How do you think Jesus felt about the crowds?
  • Do you think the crowds were earnest seekers? the curious? those who were against Jesus? of perhaps a combination of all 3?
  • Who is Jesus to you?


Visual Liturgy:


You’ve Always Been by Unspoken


Give Me Jesus by Fernando Ortega


Prayer Focus:

In both yesterday’s reading and today, people were seeking to touch, or be touched by Jesus.  Where do you need to experience God’s touch in your life?



Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


Read more

Running With Mark 18

Day Eighteen – January 15, 2020

Read: Mark 3:1-6 New Revised Standard Version

We are only 3 chapters into the gospel of Mark and look at the miracles Jesus has already performed;

  • A man with an unclean spirit (1:21-28),
  • Simon’s mother-in-law and many other people at Simon’s house (1:29-34)
  • Cleansed a leper (1:40-45)
  • Healed a paralytic (2:1-12)
  • Now he will healed a man with a withered hand (3:1-6). Perhaps most notably, when the crowds pressed around him at the side of the sea, unclean spirits “fell down before him, and cried, ‘You are the Son of God!’” (3:11).


Jesus was in the synagogue on the sabbath.  “They” watched him to see if he would cure the man with the withered hand on the sabbath.  “They” were likely a couple of groups of people.  One group was made up of some of the Pharisees.  The second group was the Herodians, who worked and supported Rome.  Pharisees and Herodians rarely worked together.


Jesus “….looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5). Have you ever thought about Jesus being angry?  Mark’s gospel will often point out the humanity of Jesus.  Like us, he got angry sometimes.  Unlike us, he probably handled his anger in a more healthy way.


Did you catch what he is angry about?  He’s not angry with some tax collector, or a woman caught in adultery, or little children who keep pushing through the crowd to be near him.  He is angry with people who have hardened hearts.


Have you ever had a hardened heart?  I must admit that sometimes when I have been hurt by someone, or they violate my trust, my heart becomes hard toward them.  And….I can tell myself stories about their behavior and motives that may not be at all true.  Have you read the book Crucial Conversations?  Al Switzer, one of the writers of Crucial Conversations says


Unfortunately, when it matters most, we do our very worst. When moving toward silence or violence, we choose destructive skills over the more helpful ones. We quickly become very adept at sulking, showing offense, debating, interrupting, stacking the deck and preparing our rebuttal while pretending to listen.

While they may not come as quickly or as naturally, we do have other skills better suited to dialogue. We know how to ask, probe, listen, rephrase, take turns, give the benefit of the doubt and diagnose. As soon as you notice that the conversation has turned crucial, make a conscious choice to activate your best skills.


What can you do to prevent having a hard heart toward someone?  In a sermon I once had a backpack filled with heavy rocks.  I walked around with it for a while as I was preaching.  Then I took off the backpack and dropped it onto the floor.  It made an incredible thud! 

As soon as I took it off, I was literally no longer carrying around a heavy weight.  My shoulders felt lighter and my body stood straighter. 


There’s a verse in the Hebrew scriptures in Ezekiel 36:26.  God says, “ A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”


When we are able to let go of anger, hurt and a hardened heart toward someone, God gives us a new spirit, a lighter heart, one that is made not of stone but of flesh.


Visual Liturgy:

Heart of stone




Lord Let My Heart Be Good Soil


Prayer Focus:

Pray that you can drop that backpack full of heavy emotional “stones” and experience freedom, liberation and a soft heart.



Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


Read more