Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Is Our Vision 2020


While it hardly seems possible that another year is in the rearview mirror, it is indeed past. 

I'm sure that this past year held many victories as well as many challenges. If your life is anything like mine, it can seem like you're on an intense roller coaster ride. Which, by the way, I usually am a fan. Cedar Point back in Sandusky Ohio is one of my favorite places. But as life goes, we would prefer that it be less like a roller coaster and more like the paddle boat ride where we can enjoy the cruise while staying far away from the plastic actors on the shore making scary animal sounds or shooting fake guns and arrows. With a roller coaster ride sort of life, we might feel like we didn't even sign up for the trip but we're on it anyway. 

I think back to March and the COVID-19 shutdowns, the move to virtual church, the closing of businesses and the back and forth about whether schools will be open or not or go hybrid. I look back to May and the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and the social justice protests, the political unrest of a presidential election year, and the daily infection and death toll numbers of the novel Coronavirus and the continued separation from our friends and families. 

This past year was 20/20. No, not that 20/20. The year 2020! I know it's not quite the same as physical vision, but the number of the year gives us an excellent opportunity to take our own “spiritual eye exam. How's your vision? Many of us would love to be able to answer that question with a response like, “my vision is 20/20”. And while many of us would like to answer that way, we may need glasses or contacts to get us to that point. 

Ephesians 1:8 says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what the hope of His calling is, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.”

 There is a song we often hear with the title “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” This song builds on the idea from Ephesians that God wants us to see with the eyes of faith! The eyes of faith go far beyond where our physical or sensory eyes will take us.

 Though 2020 the year isn’t exactly the IDEAL as it is when it comes to eye exams, the question is, can we come to appreciate all the things that God blessed us with in the midst of the less than 20/20 of 2020?

 My hope is that in 2021, whatever bumpy or smooth ride you find yourself on, you will notice that you are sitting next to a God that rides it out with you and is there in the ups and the downs. Our hope as Christians is in Christ in each new day and each new year; Christ who serves as the lens through which we look to the now and to the future. 

Peace and blessings, 

Pastor MP

Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Epiphany Star Words


Get your star-WORDS! NO…not Star Wars. Star-WORDS!

Select a number ranging from 1 to 265 and close to Epiphany Sunday, January 3rd, I will send you a 2021 STAR-word. Send me an email, call or or send me a message on Social Media with the number you selected (each person gets their own word).

What is a Star-word, you say with glee, surprise, and unbridled anticipation?!?!?!?

“Have you heard of the practice of passing out “Star Words” on the Sunday closest to Epiphany? On the day that we remember the star that led the magi to Jesus, pieces of paper cut into star shapes with a printed word are passed out to all. These words hopefully will give people a different way to approach their prayer life. Is God, perhaps, speaking to them through the particular word they got when they grabbed their star? [Starting now, you are invited to request a] star word. These star words can either be received with joy or hesitation. Sometimes they are discarded or forgotten. Sometimes the words don’t appear bright like a star and we have to look for them showing up in our daily lives. The hope of this practice is that we are reminded of God’s presence breaking through to shine as light in the darkness.” *

Peace and blessings,

Pastor MP

“Epiphany is the celebration of God’s manifestation or self-revelation to the world in Jesus Christ. In particular, we celebrate the revelation of God’s promise and purpose to the nations of the world, as the magi came from the East to worship to the Christ child, and God’s covenant of grace is extended to all who believe the good news of Christ Jesus. The symbolism of light is important: not only because of the star that guided the magi, but as it relates to the bright dawning of God’s self-revelation in Christ”- An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003, 94-95)


Monday, December 28, 2020

60 Gifts for 60 Children


“60 Gifts for 60 Children” was a huge success thanks to the generosity of St. Mark members. This year, Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services requested gifts for children they service. St. Mark was one of several congregations that received and responded to this request. Each church was given a specific list of gifts requested by the children. Our St. Mark PW Circles and the Mission Committee worked together on this project.

St. Mark members not only fulfilled the 60 specific requests, but donated more gifts, which was extremely beneficial, because the number of children being served by PHCAS increased after the gift lists were distributed. Thank you, St. Mark for the more than 60 gifts that you so generously selected and donated! The gifts in the photograph were collected at St. Mark by Debra & Mark from PCHAS and will be distributed to the deserving children.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Worship Service December 27


December 27, 2020


 10:00 am Virtual Service 



Holy God, all-glorious giver of grace, you are light, shining in darkness; you are life, the life of all people. Fill us with the light and life of Christ, through whom you made all things, so that we may be faithful disciples, bearing witness to your grace and truth; through Christ, your Word made flesh. Amen.

PRELUDE     Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming       arr. Hayes



Praise the Lord!

Praise God from the heavens. Young men and women alike, old and young together!

Let us praise the name of the Lord, whose name alone is exalted above earth and heaven.

Surely, God is with us, Alleluia!

† HYMN      “What Child Is This”      Hymnal #145


Merciful God, we confess we do not live as your faithful children. We keep silent in the midst of prejudice and hatred. We are idle in the face of violence and injustice. We are not a light to the nations, and our lives do not reveal your glory. Forgive us, Merciful God. Repair the ugliness of our sin and restore in us your beautiful grace. We pray this all in Jesus name. (Silent Confession)



The peace of Christ be with you.

And also with you.

SCRIPTURE Luke 2:22-40

SERMON      “Old News”      Rev. Dr. Dave Burgess


I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.


SPECIAL MUSIC      Were You There On That Christmas Night      Sleeth

Christine Polak, soloist



† HYMN      “Go, Tell It on the Mountain”      Hymnal #136


† BENEDICTION RESPONSE “Peace On the Earth” (Sussex Carol) 

POSTLUDE      Verset Temps de Noel      Guittard

†You are invited to stand, as you are able

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Scripture for December 27

Luke 2:22-40 

Simeon's Song of Praise (also showing Anna)
Aert de Gelder, around 1700–1710.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Read full chapter

Friday, December 25, 2020

Prayers and Meditation Christmas Day

 God is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God's good pleasure.

Daily Readings for Friday, December 25, 2020

God our creator, yours is the morning and yours is the evening. Let Christ the sun of righteousness shine forever in our hearts and draw us to that light where you live in radiant glory. O Lord, our creator, by your holy prophet you taught your ancient people to seek the welfare of the cities in which they lived. We commend our neighborhood to your care, that it might be kept free from social strife and decay. Give us strength of purpose and concern for others, that we may create here a community of justice and peace where your will may be done God of glory, you see how all creation groans in labor as it awaits redemption. As we work for and await your new creation, we trust that you will answer our prayers with grace, and fulfill your promise that all things work together for good for those who love you. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Click here for Silent Night on Facebook by MP

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve Worship


December 24, 2020


7:00 pm Virtual Service 


CENTERING PRAYER                      (Church of Scotland, Book of Common Order)

Today, O God, the soles of your feet have touched the earth.

Today, the back street, the forgotten place have been lit up with significance.

Today, the households of earth welcome the King of heaven.

For you have come among us, you are one of us.

So may our songs rise to surround your throne as our knees bend to salute your cradle. Amen.

PRELUDE      Praeludium and Fugue      Fischer



We light the CHRIST candle along with these candles of HOPE, JOY, LOVE, and PEACE as a sign of the coming light of Christ. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

let all creation sing for joy at the coming of the Lord.

The Lord of hosts is coming to restore us; God’s face will shine, and we will be saved.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

When the Lord restores our lives, we will be like those who dream; those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.

We will sing of God’s steadfast love forever; we will proclaim the faithfulness of the lord to all generations.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done marvelous things. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

Light dawns for the righteous, and joy to the upright in heart. 

Rejoice in the Lord! Give thanks to God’s holy name.

† HYMN      “Joy to the World”      Hymnal #134

God of Love Incarnate, we confess that, with the shepherds, we are terrified of your gory; for in glory’s light we see plainly all that is wrong in the world: how oppression still enslaves; how garments of war are still stained with blood; how those seeking refuge still find no place of safety. We also see what is wrong in us: how passionately we pursue the things of this world but forget to ponder the mystery of faith; how we do not practice the peace you intend in our relationships, our community, or even in the church. Forgive us, we pray, and help us not to be afraid. Like the shepherds, we want to follow and find you. We continue to pray in Jesus’ name. (Silent Confession)


The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you. 
† HYMN      “Angels We Have Heard on High”      Hymnal #113

SCRIPTURE      Luke 2:1-20

SERMON      “Treasured Words”      Rev. Dr. Dave Burgess

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Westminster Confession of Faith Shorter Catechism Question One
Q. What is our chief end?
A. Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever 


SPECIAL MUSIC    Cantabile on I Want to Walk      Behnke


Invitation to the Table
Great Prayer of Thanksgiving and the Lord’s Prayer
Words of Institution  
Sharing of the Bread & Cup  

PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION (A New Zealand Prayer Book)
Welcome, welcome, Jesus Christ our infant savior, baby who makes every birth holy. May we, who like the shepherds have witnessed in the stable a new kind of love, return to our work with joy. May we, for whom the heavens have opened to proclaim that God is with us, we who have fed on living bread and drunk the wine of heaven, go out to be instruments of your peace, day by day. Amen 


† HYMN “Silent Night, Holy Night Hymnal #122



POSTLUDE      Fantasia on I Want to Walk      Behnke

†You are invited to stand, as you are able.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Prayers for Advent-Peace


Photos from St. Mark's Live nativity

O God, we wait upon you to lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth.  Lead us from
despair to hope, from fear to trust.  Lead us from hate to love, from unrest to peace.  Let your promise of peace fill our hearts and the world.  May we live into your expectation that our lives will demonstrate your teachings, from the prophets to the present.  


Living God, forgive us, that in music in the stores and the jingles in the air, we do not hear the songs of angels; that in the hustles and bustle of every day and every one, we do not see the child standing alone in tears, the family struggling for existence, the outcasts pushed further away from hope; that in the excess of the season, we do not find peace, hope, or joy. Pour your mercy upon us, O God, and finish what you have started in us.  As we share in your grace, may we also share in the work of the gospel, begun in the birth of Jesus. Amen

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Unwrapping Our Pandemic Ornament

Box after overflowing box of ornaments. Our collection has grown to many more than can gracefully adorn our tree. My son, Cole, and daughter, Ashley, climb high and bend low to find the perfect spot to display each precious ornament while I tell each ornament’s story. There’s a pair of glass booties that family friends gave my parents when I was born, a cross-stitched teddy bear I made in middle school Home Ec that hung from my grandparents’ kitchen doorframe for years, a beaming bride and groom for the year my husband and I married, and hand-painted plaster ornaments Cole and Ashley made in preschool. Each ornament has a story and symbolizes an important part of our lives.

The prime spot on the tree is saved for our annual family ornaments that we have added since my son was born. This year, as I carefully unwrapped the tissue from each ornament, I was shocked to see we already had one for 2020. I thought, “That can’t be right. We aren’t supposed to buy our 2020 ornament until Christmas Eve.”

Like many others, my husband’s family has a tradition of converging on a local mall for portraits with Santa. It’s not coordinated for just any day during the holiday season. It must be Christmas Eve day. This event is intentionally planned to procrastinate until just hours before Santa is set to fly off with his reindeer and deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls.

My in-laws still insist on memorializing their five grown children each year with the big, jolly man. And the group of five has now more than doubled as their oldest children have married and multiplied. The expanded and disorderly crowd squeezes around Santa and his red velvet chair for this annual tradition.

The elves patiently capture a photo of us all smiling, and then our crowd hunts down the mall kiosks as swiftly as Santa pursues a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Circling the kiosk, we inspect the festive selection in our quest for the perfect family ornament. Like any good hunter, my mother-in-law still finds unique personalized ornaments with enough spaces to list each family member in her growing brood.

My family of four examines each ornament option to find the one for our tree – reindeer, snowmen, gingerbread families, mittens of all shapes and colors, stockings hung perfectly on the fireplace, smiling marshmallows piled on top of a cup of hot chocolate. You name it; there’s an ornament with it!

My husband reminded me that last Christmas, we had scored big; not only finding our 2019 ornament, but discovering the perfect ornament for 2020. Four smiling Eskimos bundled up in warm fluffy coats. We had never broken the tradition and pre-bought an ornament. But we were looking forward to our June 2020 Alaskan cruise with my extended family and the ornament encapsulated a special part of the year ahead. We weren’t sure if we’d ever see that ornament again and had to have it.

Needless to say, 2020 took a very different turn and we weren’t able to take that Alaskan cruise like we had hoped. Our 2020 Christmas traditions look starkly different, with Zoom get-togethers and Santa photos with grandpa at home. We won’t be seeing Santa or hunting down kiosks at the mall this Christmas Eve, so perhaps our 2020 ornament does sum up our year and it will forever remind us of the year we made new merry little traditions.

Shelley Lester 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Seeking Light

While I could probably quote “Christmas Vacation” line-for-line if I were ever called upon to do so (and I hope one day I will be), my favorite exchange is Clark’s father-in-law looking at his holiday light display in disgust and commenting, “The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark.” To which Clark tactfully replies, “I know, Art. And thanks for noticing.”
The kids and I haphazardly threw our decorations up around Nov. 1; obscenely early, yes, but as the days quickly grow shorter and the nights grow longer, I’ve always found comfort in having the lights of the Christmas trees to brighten the corners of our home. Over the years, however, the lights on our pre-lit trees have burned out, as well as the puny strings of lights I’ve purchased to replace them. As a result, the holiday cheer inside our home has grown a bit dimmer each year. While I’m too scared to go up on the roof to hang lights, I had always strung up a few on the evergreens that lined our front porch. This year the evergreens died and had to be removed, so no “exterior illumination,” either. In short, to say our holiday lights are a bit underwhelming would be an understatement. Clark Griswold would be disappointed. Frankly, I think even Cousin Eddie would be embarrassed to crash here.
I could go buy replacement lights for the trees. I could hire someone to come decorate my roof. But the truth is, my little lights have felt a bit dimmer each year since Jeff died. Particularly at the holidays.
Though I’m by no means a worldly person—save for a few trips to EPCOT—I do know that there are more similarities than differences in most of the world’s major religions, and one of the greatest common denominators is the celebration of light. At Christmas, we light a candle each week of Advent in anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth, and we remind children that it was a bright star that helped the wisemen find their way. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of candles that continued to burn for eight nights, with only a day’s supply of oil. Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness. And for my friends who observe Festivus (you know who you are), isn’t the airing of grievances really a process of shedding light on the truth?
While there is universal comfort in seeking light, for many of us, the holidays can become a reminder that with obstacles, challenges and loss, the light seems to have grown dim. But this morning, as I sat in the living room braiding my youngest daughter’s hair for school, something on the wall caught my eye: the shadow of a perfectly shaped star, cast by the morning sunrise filtering through our blinds and hitting a cheap, unlit decoration perched on top of my mostly unlit tree. As I glanced up at that perfect silhouette cast by the morning sunrise, I was reminded that though obstacles may obscure those rays of light—those rays of love, joy, peace, hope, faith and compassion—the impact of those rays remains.
For those struggling with anxiety, shadows are a reminder that even when there seems to be more darkness than light, the light is never really gone, and it will fill our lives once again.
For those feeling overwhelmed by the turmoil our nation faces, shadows are a reminder that no one individual can obscure the truth, and ultimately, light always casts out fear, ignorance and hatred.
And for those of us missing a loved one at the holidays, shadows are a reminder that though their light appears to have flickered out, the profound impact they had on our lives continues to burn in the fire of our souls.
So this holiday season and in the coming year, I wish you the warmth and comfort that come from a life filled with light and hope. May the fire in our souls continue to burn bright, may the sunlight continue to shine on what’s good and true, may no obstacle loom so large as to prevent us from leaving our mark and may our little lights always, always be twinkling.

Kathy Deters

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Worship Prayers December 20



Mighty God, your faithfulness is magnified in the coming of your Son, in the long-awaited birth of the promised Messiah. May we, like Mary, proclaim your greatness as we rejoice in our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




We light these candles of HOPE, JOY, LOVE, and PEACE as a sign of the coming light of Christ. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

let all creation sing for joy at the coming of the Lord.

The Lord of hosts is coming to restore us; God’s face will shine, and we will be saved.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.

When the Lord restores our lives, we will be like those who dream; those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.

We will sing of God’s steadfast love forever; we will proclaim the faithfulness of the lord to all generations.

Light dawns for the righteous, and joy to the upright in heart.

Rejoice in the Lord! Give thanks to God’s holy name.




Faithful God, we know you are always there to guide us, yet we often make plans without listening to you and lose our way. We repent of these self-centered faults and turn to you in love. Shine your guiding light again into our lives, forgive our offenses, and pardon our sins. We ask this in your holy name. (Silent Confession)





We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.


We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Gather; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.


We believe in the holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.




Lord, you bind up our wounds, comfort our spirits, and put a song on our lips. We bring these offerings to you with full and thankful hearts. Let us pray...


Holy God, your love is magnified in the gift of your Son, whom you so freely share with us. Bless these gifts we return to you. May they lift up the lowly. fill the hungry and spread your light. Amen. 


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Scripture for Dec. 20

 Luke 1:26-38

Annunciation of Gabriel
Jan van Eyck, 1434.

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.