A Deep Dive Into the Gospel Of Mark with Rev. Karen Bruins


Welcome to “Running with Mark,” a 16-week deep dive into the Gospel of Mark.

This series will ask the question that is central to Mark’s Gospel, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27).  Hopefully after spending these next few months discovering Jesus, his life, ministry, teaching and miracles, you will be able to answer that question for yourself.


There are daily readings that begin December 29. Pick up a bookmark at church of the daily readings or download one here.  Each week’s readings include the reading for Sunday, plus some supplemental reading in the Psalms or other books from the Hebrew (Old Testament) Bible. The Psalms are a collection of prayers in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus, as a first century Jew, was deeply steeped in the Psalms and we hear him quoting and interpreting the Psalms throughout the Gospels. 

Each day I will post a reflection on the assigned passage of the day. It may be a written reflection, a video, a piece of art or poetry. There will be places for you to interact with me and with the Bible text in the comments section. Please note that the comments section will be monitored to ensure positive and productive conversation, and to ensure no trolls take over the site.


Here are tools and resources to make your study of Mark more impactful:

1. A good Study Bible. If you are still using the Bible you received in 3rd grade, or you’ve never had a good study Bible, consider making this important investment. Study Bibles typically include maps, a concordance, topical index and commentary. It’s important to remember that the commentary is just one author’s or authors’ perspective on the Bible. Commentators are all along the spectrum from very conservative to very progressive in their theological interpretation of Scripture.

Here are a few options to consider:

Wesley Study Bible

New Revised Standard Version ©2017 Abingdon Press

Joel B. Green, (Editor) and William Willimon, (Editor)


CEB Women’s Study Bible

©2016 Common English Bible, publisher

Jaime Clark-Soles (Editor), Judy Fentress-Williams (Editor), Ginger Gaines-Cirelli (Editor), Christine Chakoian (Editor), Rachel Baughman (Editor)


2. Bible Dictionary is an alphabetical listing of major topics, people, and places found in the Bible. Here are two helpful dictionaries:

Crazy Book: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Biblical Terms

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary


This book has maps and color illustrations.


Nan Merrill has re-written the Psalms into prayers in contemporary language. This is a great tool for personal devotions.


You may wish to purchase a new notebook or journal to record your thoughts and reflections on the daily readings, sermons, group discussions etc. 


I look forward to beginning this journey with you!


Grace and peace,

Pastor Karen Bruins


Running With Mark 5

Day Five – January 2, 2020


Read: Isaiah 44:1-8  God’s Blessing on Israel

Today we will use a practice for reading Scripture that is called “Lectio Divina”, which means “holy reading”.  After each reading of the passage, you will engage in one of four steps: Lectio (read), Meditatio (Reflect), Oratio (Respond), Contemplatio (Rest). 


READ – 1st reading – listen to the text as it is read.  What words, phrases or images do you hear?


Reflect – 2nd reading.  As you hear the Scripture read a second time focus on any particular image or phrase to which you feel drawn.

Why do you feel drawn to this particular image or phrase? What meaning does it hold for you? What could God be saying to you? Jot down your thoughts.  If you are doing Lectio in a group, after 2-3 minutes share with the group the image or phrase and why you feel drawn to it.


Respond – 3rd reading.  This time, as you listen, tell God what the passage evokes in you, then listen and respond to what God has to say.  Allow for 2-3 minutes of silence.  Lift in prayer the thanksgiving, concerns and intercessions that meditation on the text has called forth.


Rest – After the Scripture is read one last time, spend time in silence, resting in God’s loving presence.


Prayer Focus:

Talk with God about what you experienced through the Lectio Divina. 


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running With Mark 4

Day Four – January 1, 2020 – Happy New Year!


Read: Isaiah 40:1-11 Comfort, Comfort


The Peace of Wild Things – Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Do you beat yourself up when you do something wrong?  Can you forgive yourself? The people in Isaiah’s time had messed up big time.  They had turned away from God, but again and again God reached out to them. Isaiah 40 tells them “her penalty is paid”.  This is great news of forgiveness and new beginnings.



This God of forgiveness, will be like a shepherd, gathering sheep into her arms.  In this photo you can see the sheep are marked in red. This is used by the shepherds to mark their sheep so they can recognize them when they are in the field with other sheep.  This is the tender love of our Shepherd God, who recognizes us and calls us by name.


Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about places in your life where you need God’s comfort.  Thank God for God’s tender mercy and grace.


Music based on this Scripture:

“Comfort Ye and Ev’ry Valley” from Handel’s Messiah

“The Messiah” – Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra 2018    This concert is part of the SPCO’s new, free video concerts. 


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running With Mark 3

Day Three – December 31, 2019 


Read: Malachi 3:1-7

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures.  It was written around the fifth century before Christ. The Jewish people of the nation of Judah had returned from their exile in Babylon.  But life in their homeland hasn’t lived up to their expectations. They had rebuilt the temple, which was a big and challenging project. God had promised to return to Zion to and to dwell in the temple, but as far as they can see, God hasn’t shown up yet.

Not only that, the very people who were doing evil things, seemed to be getting ahead.  So where is the God of Justice? Why isn’t God striking down the wicked?

Malachi, whose name means “messenger”, has a word for them.  “You have wearied the Lord with your words”. The people had been complaining and frankly, God is tired of hearing them whine!  But get ready, because the message they are going to get from Malachi is not the one they expect! Instead of raining down judgement on those they thought should be judged, Malachi points the finger right at them!

Have you heard of Fuller’s Soap?  Before Tide or Stainsticks there was Fuller’s soap.  To “full” meant to whiten. So a fuller was a launderer, someone who restored the whiteness to cloth.  

A “refiner’s fire” was used to purify metals.  When refining metal, the metal is melted over a super hot fire.  As it melts, the pure metals, like gold or silver, remain at the bottom.  But the impurities, the waste, which is called “dross” floats to the top where it is scooped out and thrown away.  

So how does the refiner know when the refining is done?  How do they know when all that bad stuff has been removed?  It is said that the refiner knows when all the bad stuff has been removed, when he or she can see their reflection in the pure metal.  

That’s a great image for what God can do in us – remove the junk, the garbage, the mess, the sin, until it is God’s image that is reflected in us.  As we approach the new year, many of us will make resolutions. What if we resolved to every day turn our lives over to God, that God would refine us, purify us and mold us.  

Charles Wesley wrote the hymn “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”.  Here are the words to verse four:

Finish, then, thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be:
let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory, ’til in heav’n we take our place,
’til we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Chandler D. Moore is a singer, songwriter and worship leader from Charleston, North Carolina. He wrote “Refiner.”  The worship style in this song is different from the way we tend to worship. It is freer, more open to emotion and feeling.  I wonder what progressive Christians could learn from worship like this?

Take my life as a sacrifice, I wanna burn for You, only for You
Clean my hand.  Purify my heart
I wanna burn for You


Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about the junk, the mess, the sin (or whatever language works for you) in your life.  


Music based on this Scripture:

Love Divine All Loves Excelling Hymn by Charles Wesley

Refiner by Chandler D. Moore and Steffany Gretzinger.  


Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running With Mark 2

Day Two – December 30, 2019


Read: Psalm 91:9-12

Interspersed with the readings from Mark will be readings from the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament).  These readings ground us in the Jewish faith and remind us that Jesus, a Jewish person, was steeped in the Scripture and prayer.  Throughout the Gospels Jesus often quotes Hebrew Scripture; to expand on it, and, sometimes to faithfully re-interpret because the religious leaders of the time had become legalistic in how they read and interpreted Scripture.  Jesus will also quote Scripture when he is alone, troubled or afraid.  

I recommend a great book called, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness by Nan Merrill.  Try reading her interpretation of the Psalms aloud as a prayer.

Those who dwell in the shelter of

Infinite Light,

who abide in the wings of

Infinite Love,

Will raise their voices in praise:

“My refuge and my strength;

in You alone will I trust.”

For You deliver me from the webs of fear and illusion,

from all that separates and divides;

You protect me as an eagle shields, its young,

Your faithfulness is sure, like

an arrow set upon the mark.

I will not fear the shadows of the night,

nor the confusion that comes by day,

Nor the dreams that awaken me from sleep,

nor the daily changes that life brings.

Though a thousand may deride this radical trust,

ten thousand laugh as I seek to do your Will,

Yet will I surrender myself to You,

abandoning myself into your Hands, without reserve.

For you have sent your angels to watch over me,

to guide me in all my ways.

On their hands, they will bear me up,

lest I dash my foot against a stone.

Though I walk among those who roar like a lion,

or are as stealthy as the adder,

in your strength will I endure.

Because you cleave to Me in love,

I will deliver you;

I will protect you, who call upon my Name.

When you call to Me, I will answer you;

I will be with you in times of trouble,

I will rescue you so that

you will know my Peace,

All through the years, will I dwell

in your heart,

as Loving Companion Presence,


Psalm 91


Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about your fears and confusion.  


Music based on this Scripture:

Your Wings by Lauren Daigle             

On Eagle’s Wings by Michael Joncas  (The United Methodist hymnal uses inclusive language on the chorus: “And God will raise you up…”)


Grace and peace,

Pastor Karen Bruins


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Running With Mark 1

Day One – December 29, 2019


Read:. Mark 1:1-20 New Revised Standard Version


Merry Christmas and welcome to Running with Mark! Did you notice something different about how Mark’s Gospel begins? There are no shepherds, or angels or a manger. Mark just jumps right in with the incredibly bold statement:

“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 1:1


He’s already giving us some big hints about what’s ahead.

1) Good News – the word Gospel means good news.

2) Jesus Christ – Christ comes from the Greek word Christos which means “anointed one” or “the chosen one.” Christ is really more of a title than a name.

3) Son of God – this is not just any person. He is the Son of God.


Mark will spend the rest of his Gospel showing us how Jesus is all of those things.


Most days of this series I will share some background on the Bible passage. For today, let’s begin with an introduction to The Gospel According to Mark by the Bible Project.

Click on the link to view this 5 minute video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVRixfameGY


Prayer Focus:

As you begin this practice of daily reading and reflection of Scripture, ask God to open your mind and your heart.


Grace and peace,


Pastor Karen Bruins

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