Friday, September 18, 2020

Daily Prayer September 18

My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord. I know them and they follow me; and I give them eternal life.

Daily Readings for Friday, September 18, 2020

God of our forebears, as your chosen servant Abraham was given faith to obey your call and go out into the unknown, so may your church be granted such faith that we may follow you with courage for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. God of love, as you have given your life to us, so may we live according to your holy will revealed in Jesus Christ. Make us bold to share your life, and show your love, in the power of your Holy Spirit. Mighty God, sovereign over the nations, direct those who make, administer, and judge our laws; the President of the United States and others in authority among us; that, guided by your wisdom, they may lead us in the way of righteousness. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020


James Baldwin

Together these two conclusions acknowledge YHWH as creator and redeemer, the one who presides over the order of the cosmos and the one who intervenes in the processes of history. (Brueggemann, Walter. A Glad Obedience: Why and What We Sing, (19).
Creator and Redeemer-- that pretty much summarizes what God does and explains the human predicament.  We live on a planet ideally suited for life, the work of a savvy Creator. We also fail to respect both the planet and its citizens, so we are in need of transformation. That is where the redeemer comes in.  God teaches us how to survive and love our fellow creatures.

Redemption is the part that escapes us.  We imagine we are self-sufficient, resourceful, exceptional enough to redeem ourselves.   Like the poet we declare, "I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul." Or we set some on a pedestal-- Donald Trump, John Lewis, Oprah Winfrey--and imagine they will redeem us with their leadership and example. Or we believe our institutions--democracy, family, schools-- will redeem us.

Then comes the invisible, intractable foe--racism--and we are struggling with something larger and uncontrollable than legislation or intellect can resolve.  Some of us deny that we live in a country dominated by racism. We have the Emancipation Proclamation and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a Black President, so how could we be racist? Or we insist it is only a few individuals-- the "bad apple" theory, a theory advocated by the President.  The rest of us are respectable and law-abiding citizens who don't see color at all.

Then comes someone claiming racism is larger than we suppose--it is "systemic." It is as pervasive as the air we breathe and the water we drink. It is an underlying disposition, something we are born into. It is more than good behavior.  We are asked to admit to something we cannot quantify or legislate.  We can not claim innocence, because no one can claim innocence.

Eddie Glaude makes this claim in his critical biography of James Baldwin Begin Again.  He says we live in a "value gap" where no one is equal to our white race or social group, however we define it. He says our society is poisoned by "the lie," a complex of stereotypes and misinformation about Black people that lowers them unconsciously in our eyes.  We act out "the lie" in a dozen ways every day without noticing our offenses. White people give subtle signals that they are superior, and Black people receive message.

So how do you manage a systemic virus that has resisted the antidotes of nonviolent protest, legislation, schooling and the honoring of human rights heroes?  White people cry, What do you want from us? Black people answer, Respect, Equality, Justice.  And we realize we are at the end of our management skills.

James Baldwin hit the wall many times in his struggle to reconcile Black and White, and he chronicles his recovery over and over again in books and articles he wrote from 1954 to 1987.  Eddie Glaude wanted to show Baldwin's great resilience in an extended relationship with the Civil Rights Movement with a tribute to Baldwin, Begin Again.

At the end of his life Baldwin wrote an essay published by Playboy, January 1987.
Salvation is not flight from the wrath of God, it is accepting and reciprocating the love of God. Salvation is not separation. It is the beginning of union with all that is or has been or ever will be . . . . Salvation connects   . . . . It keeps the channel open between oneself and however one wished to name That which is greater than oneself. It has nothing to do with one's fortunes or one's circumstances in one's passage through this world. It is a mighty fortress, even in ruin or at the gates of death. (Glaude, E. Begin Again, 213).
We have reached the place where we must be redeemed in order to be reconciled.We know God is prepared to redeem us, because that has been God's role from the Exodus to the present day. Yet we must first admit our limitations and appeal to a merciful God.

James Baldwin was not a church-goer or a righteous crusader. He was a gay Black man wrestling with his own prejudice and anger. Yet his understanding of redemption was well-aligned with the prayer of the Psalmist. It is a prayer of humility and desire to change. A prayer we need today.
But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart.
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:12-14)

Bill Tucker
photo by Allan Warren

Monday, September 14, 2020

St. Mark Discover Sunday

 St. Mark Discover Sunday September 13, 2020

In place of our usual in person Discover Sunday event, we have compiled many of the ministries and groups from St. Mark in this virtual Discover Sunday video. There are so many more things to explore so check us out at and find us on FB and Twitter by searching for Discover St Mark.

You can view this several ways. Click on this for the YouTube video. Or, you can click here for pdf slide show.

To see photos from Discover St. Mark Sundays in the past, click here.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Worship Sept. 13

September 13, 2020 



O God, who is our strength, you protected us from those who seek to oppress us. You shielded us from those who seek to destroy the good gifts you put in us. Your love and power never fail. Thanks and praise to you, our safety and stronghold. We exalt you, O God, majestic in holiness, for there is none like you. Amen.

PRELUDE      Sonata No. 4      Cirri 





Give praise to God!

Praise the Lord, for it is God who saves...

It is God who forgives.

It is God who delivers.

Give thanks and praise to the Lord!

† HYMN      “Here in This Place      #401




Gracious and loving God, you lived for us – we have not lived for you. You forgave us – we have not forgiven others. You loved us – we have not loved ourselves nor have we loved one another. Take pity on us and forgive us, God. Help us to forgive. Help us to live for you. Help us to love through Christ our Lord. We continue to pray in your awesome and holy name. (Silent Confession)



The peace of Christ be with you. And also with you.

SCRIPTURE Romans 14:1-12 

SERMON      “Wearing Out Our Welcome”      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. 

OFFERING SPECIAL MUSIC        God’s Mercy         Schakley 

       Lisa Marsh, Soloist 



† HYMN      “When We Are Living”      Hymnal #822 

† CHARGE AND BLESSING POSTLUDE      Diapason Movement      Green 


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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Scripture for Sept. 13

Romans 14: 1-12 

The Weak and the Strong

14 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”[b]

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Read full chapter


  1. Romans 14:10 The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) refers here to a believer, whether man or woman, as part of God’s family; also in verses 13, 15 and 21.
  2. Romans 14:11 Isaiah 45:23

Friday, September 11, 2020

Daily Prayer September 11

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a humble spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Daily Readings for Friday, September 11, 2020

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ and make yourself our guest. Amid the cares of our daily lives, make us attentive to your voice and alert to your presence, that we may treasure your word above all else. O God, you are infinite, eternal and unchangeable, glorious in holiness, full of love and compassion, abundant in grace and truth. Your works everywhere praise you, and your glory is revealed in Jesus Christ our Savior. Therefore we praise you, blessed and holy Trinity, one God, forever and ever. Eternal God, send your Holy
Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Trees, Roots, and Job

St. Mark Spark September 2, 2020
Trees, Roots, and Job
Pastor MP

To see the video, click on the above video or click HERE


Tuesday, September 8, 2020



Circling high in the sky, the big black bird caught my attention each time it could be seen in the gaps of my leafy umbrella, the canopy above my hammock, my refuge in the courtyard behind the house. Urabu. This local version of vulture was everywhere, there were always a few hanging around on the roof of a building down the street, and I remembered how hard my Dad and I laughed the first time we walked by it on the way to school and discovered it was a doctors office. I soon refocused on the task at hand- lying there, swinging slightly in the breeze, trying to decide which one of the mangoes above was the most perfectly ripe before climbing up to have a my delicious and very messy snack, when I was again distracted, this time by the amazing aroma that filled the neighborhood whenever the little corner grocery roasted coffee, which, because the folks in this small Brazilian town liked it fresh, was a frequent treat for the senses. Back to the mangos, but now what was that annoying beeping?


The door opened and the Nurse went over to my Father's bed and turned off whatever alarm was sounding, made a few adjustments to the valves and tubing, wrote something down on the clipboard and then turned and saw me in the chair.


"Did you get some sleep? I just made a fresh pot of coffee if you're interested."


I rubbed my eyes. "You might not believe this, but I just had a dream about drinking coffee when I was a kid in Brazil."


"Kids drink coffee in Brazil?"


I smiled, remembering my first Cafe con Leche.  "The coffee there is so good even the babies drink it."


She laughed. "Well I'm sure our coffee isn't THAT good, but you're welcome to help yourself in the family room across the hall.


Dad seemed to have slept through our conversation, but I got a little styrofoam cup for him as well, started to put it on the tray next to the bed, but stood there looking at him for a moment, thinking of how much had changed in just the past few weeks, let alone in those days years ago when his students called him the "Gigante con Bigote," or Bearded Giant, and they would all hang out at the Cafezino bar after class drinking those tiny glasses of half raw sugar half strong espresso and talking fast and loud whether the topic was the latest popular music or applied thermodynamics.  He had survived the colon cancer for 7 years, and done pretty well with the liver carcinoid, but the surgical infection he developed after that last trip to the Mayo Clinic had reduced him physically to a tiny shell of a body, though his mind was still as sharp as ever, at least when the pain allowed.


There was another soft  knock at the door, I turned as it opened a crack, and recognized a retired Pastor from his church, who recognized me as well, though he hadn't seen me there in 30 years.


"Hello John, is your Father receiving visitors?"


As I started to whisper that he was asleep, a faint voice came from behind me.




I helped my Dad raise the head of the bed up so that he could see who was there, and he seemed delighted to see his old friend. I let them have the two cups of coffee I had just brought to the room and took my time getting myself another.


When I returned to the room I could tell that my Father was getting a bit tired, but looked happy to have had the company. His old friend sensed it was time to go, and motioned for me to come over to the bed and join hands in prayer. It was a fine prayer, it returned me to prayers I had heard in church as a child, and I have to admit that as it went on my mind drifted back to one of the many conversations my Father and I had on that last long road trip to Minnesota. As both a highly respected professor of Physics and Astronomy and a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, he had taught me early in life that there was no conflict between the two, that the gifts of Grace and Knowledge come from the same God. But of course there were skeptics, of one, or the other.



"So why," I had asked, "Have you stayed with a fundamentalist church all these years?"


He took a while to answer. "When I was in College I thought that what I really wanted to do was be a missionary, but always came back to the fact that God was calling me to be a teacher. By staying with my church, I'm doing both."


I realized that the prayer had ended, that his friend had let go of my hand, but that my Farher still held both of ours. He was smiling, gave us each a long look, and said "Now I want to pray."


It was a prayer of thanksgiving, of genuine gratitude for the life he had led, for the love of family and friends that he had enjoyed, for the journey of learning, and the satisfaction of teaching. I don't remember exactly what he said, it is in memory more of a bright light of emotion than a scene to be replayed. But I do remember how he ended it. 


"Father, I will soon be with you, and I am full of nothing but joy that I will soon be home. It is for those I leave behind that I pray, that in the coming  days they will find in you that joy, that comfort, and that strength that you have given me my whole life long."


I walked his friend a ways down the hall, and he remarked that my Father was right about us all needing divine assistance in filling the hole he was leaving, and though unexpected, how like him it was to think of those of us who would soon be grieving. When I got back to the room he was still awake, and I stumbled through an attempt to express my own gratitude for the life he had given me, knowing I could never find words of thanks that would come close to the magnitude of the gift.


He smiled, and I knew he appreciated my effort.  "If you really want to help me now, help me go home- from home."


He had been in the hospital, this time, for several weeks, and though there had been some improvement of his condition initially, the infection had been persistent, and as even the most optimistic prognosis recognized that recovery was unlikely, and though thankful for all the years that medical care had given him and forgiving that the last surgery had produced what was going to get him in the end, he didn't want to spend his final days in the tangle of tubes, pumps, and monitors. He wanted to go home.


I looked at him, and I'm sure he could see the conflict in my eyes. "You know how Mom feels."


"I know that she fears she won't be able to live in a house that I died in. When we talk tonight, I need to know that you will be there for both of us through the hospice, and make sure that after I'm gone you help her remember that it is where we lived, not just where I died. I don't want you to try to talk her into anything"


I didn't bring it up when she came to the room that evening, it was her turn to spend the night with him, and I don't know what was said between them. When I came back to the room in the morning they were both asleep, and through the crack in the door they looked as peaceful as I could remember ever having seen them. I walked across the hall, and as I reached for the handle the door opened from inside, and I was hit once more by the smell of fresh coffee, and greeted by the angel of mercy that had just made it.


'They're both asleep," I said.


"I imagine they are exhausted, they were up most of the night. You know, we try to give everyone as much privacy as we can, but all of us on the night shift knew what was going on in that room. There were tears, but laughter too. You are very lucky to have them as parents, and if you'll stop by the nurse's station I have some information that your Mom asked me to put together about home hospice."


I mumbled my thanks, got my coffee, went back out to the parking lot, and sat in my truck and cried.


It took a couple of days for everyone to sign off on the plan and get things ready at the house, and I can still hear my Father cry out in a joyful whisper  as they brought him out of the hospital "I'm free!"  We had moved the big round dining room table and replaced it with a hospital bed, and in the room where so many meals were shared, so many birthdays celebrated, he was able to share his final days surrounded by family and friends, visiting with them when he could, or listening to the voices of those he loved, and who loved him. I had rigged up a television so that he could watch the live feed from the Shuttle on the NASA channel, hours and hours just looking down on us all from orbit, and it was this view, and the sounds of love and laughter, that he took with him into the light, going home.

John Northrip

hoto by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash