white flag

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! To the congregation of the Old Stone Church (First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland), I extend my deepest appreciation! After almost 30 years in the pulpit, I’m eagerly longing for my very first genuine sabbatical.

I’m not ashamed to admit that throughout the last three decades, even though I’ve had countless joys and incredibly rewarding experiences in ministry, I have experienced seasons of frustration, disappointment, and plain old burnout, as well. I should have waved the white flag of surrender and asked for a proper sabbatical years ago.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of the General Assembly says that:

Clergy . . . bear the burdens, the anguish, the pain, and hurt of their parishioners 24-7. That is 24 hours, seven days a week. As a result, many, if not all, experience to one degree or another symptoms of emotional collapse, stress related illnesses, and “burnout” adversely affecting the minister’s personal, family, and parish life, and greatly diminishing his or her effectiveness and well-being. For too long, this situation has been accepted, even tolerated as an inevitable part of the job.[1]

Whew! Don’t I know it. Currently, I am the Senior Pastor of the remarkable urban/metropolitan congregation, the Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland. It is an exceptional experience to pastor such a busy, historic church with a unique and unwavering commitment to the city. The demands, however, of a church such as Old Stone can be oppressively relentless. There are desert times when I can go months without a solid day off, and I find myself trying to rehydrate my body, mind, and most importantly, my spirit with small sips of time in an afternoon here or a morning there.

There’s an old story about a missionary who is driving between two villages in his old jeep. He spots a villager sitting by the road and offers him a ride. The villager graciously declines. When the missionary persists, saying that it would be no trouble to give him a lift to the next town, the villager responds by saying: “My good sir, I’ve traveled a long way today. Now I must rest so that my spirit may catch-up with my body.

After three decades of ministry, it’s time now for my spirit to catch-up to my body. Over the next number of weeks, in preparation for my sabbatical, I’m going to post more about what a sabbatical is, what I’m learning about myself, what I’ll actually be doing (and not doing!) while on sabbatical, and how I’m preparing for my spirit and my body to get reacquainted with one another.

Please feel free to follow along, or offer a kind word or helpful comment along the way. Please do share these sabbatical updates with a friend whose spirit and body may benefit from what you read here – particularly other clergy and/or the congregations they so faithfully serve.

Thanks for reading, and any prayers you wish to lift on my behalf are most dearly appreciated. Thanks!


[1] From the Office of the General Assembly, PC(USA). http://oga.pcusa.org/section/mid-council-ministries/ministers/rationale-sabbatical-leave/ Accessed 2018 01 10.


LORD, PROTECT ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS! Sometimes we Christians do a good job of giving God a bad name. To be a disciple of Jesus means making a commitment to keeping the good news good.

Check out and share this message based on the “rock star” of Christian scripture, John 3:16, preached at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland on the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Keeping the Good News Good.




Click here for more recent sermons from R. Mark Giuliano.

Click here for Power2ools: 2 Minute tools for life videos.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Posted: February 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

It’s hard to carry a grudge, or anything else that diminishes the good spirit of Jesus Christ within us, when we are busy carrying the cross.

THE THOUGHT OF CARRYING THE CROSS MAY SEEM DAUNTING, but once you pick it up, you’ll find that’s it’s not nearly as heavy as you imagined! “My yoke it is easy, my burden is light,” said Jesus. Maybe carrying the cross is as much about what we learn to set down as it is about what we’re called to pick up.

I preached Between a Rock and a Hard Place yesterday at the Old Stone Church for the second Sunday in Lent. Based on Mark 8:27-38, we wrestle with the dilemma Peter faced after making his confession of faith in Jesus at Caesarea Philippi, on the one hand, and his call to deny himself, pick up the cross and follow Jesus, on the other.

As you journey in faith throughout the season of Lent, and beyond, I pray that Between a Rock and a Hard Place, helps you deepen your understanding of both the blessings and the power of carrying the cross of Jesus. God bless you today, and forever.



Valentine’s Day or Ash Wednesday, which one are you thinking about this week? Both should have a place in our, uhm, “hearts.” Both Valentine’s and Ash Wednesday call us to be contemplative about the very big subject of love.

HeartOn St. Valentine’s Day we celebrate our love for one another. Its all about eros, romantic love or, perhaps, philia, brotherly/sisterly love among family or friends. We swap cards, sticky candy, flowers and other playful gifts as expressions of our love.

Ash Wednesday, however, is a time we remember God’s love for us. Ash Wednesday may lack the cuteness-quotient of Valentine’s Day, but if we mark the occasion with thoughtful prayer or worship, it should draw us just a little closer to God and God’s selfless love for us. We celebrate the fact that God, through Jesus, forgives us our sins, failures and shortcomings in spite of ourselves through agape love: love which freely loses itself for another.

Jesus said that there is no greater love than when we willing lay our lives down for one another. And that’s precisely what he did. As odd as it may seem to us, the Apostle Paul said that God demonstrated true love most clearly to us this way: “yet while we were still sinning, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

You might say that Jesus was the greatest Valentine’s gift ever. God’s beautiful expression of love for the world and everyone in it.

With Love and Affection,

Ash Wednesday Thoughts: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


DEATH AND LIFE ARE IN THE POWER OF YOUR TONGUE, says the old Proverb (18:21). Are you using your words to build up or tear down? Tongue

I’m preaching on Colossians 3:1-17 at two different services this week. Clearly, one of Paul’s concerns is how people are using their words. He issues an imperative to the good folks of Colossi about their misuse of their words: “You must get rid of  . . . abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another” (Col 3:8). It makes you sort of wonder what was going on in his church doesn’t it?

Jesus said something similar but even more direct: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles” (Matthew 15:11). What comes out of our mouths, after all, originates in our hearts.

Paul shows the church at Colossi and us a way to get our hearts right. It’s a kind of first century version of behavior modification – change the behavior and the heart will follow. First, he reminds us of who we truly are, not children of this world but God’s “holy and beloved” (Col 3:12). Then Paul issues this beautiful new directive:

“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful” (Col 3:12-15).

Use your words thoughtfully, use your words lovingly, and you’ll have the power to use your words for good. And may the peace of Christ rule in your heart today and forever!

With love, Mark.

BONUS: For Small Group, Sunday School and Youth Group Leaders, Self Study or Family dinner table reflections, check out this helpful 2 minute video: the Power of Words (part 1 and 2).


You don’t have to go to seminary be a minister of encouragement! Practice these 5 skills today!

encourage 2-3

“Encourage one another and build up each other.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Build-up without tearing down.
Those who are discouraged need thoughtful words of assurance not judgement. Instead of a critique, why not offer them a reminder that they are loved, they get second chances, and that God has not abandoned them may be enough. Read: Romans 8:38-39.

Listen without answering.
Often the best encouragement comes when people know that they’ve been heard. Ministers of encouragement don’t have to have all the answers, just the special ability to be still and listen. Read: Psalm 18:6.

Console without fixing.
This especially hard for us Type A personalities who want to move from problem to solution without first offering a little balm to those who are hurting. Read: Matthew 5:4

Identify without owning. It’s helpful if you can search your own experiences to remember times you may have felt similar to the one needing encouragement. It’s not helpful if the conversation or the issue becomes all about you, what you did, or how you resolved it. Read Galatians 6:2

Encourage without praising. 
Sometimes a trophy just for showing-up isn’t nearly as important a pat on the back, time spent together, and offering some pointers to help out for next time. Other times, we simply may need to hold-up others so they can complete the very thing to which God has called them. Read Exodus 17:12

To do this week: 
This week, remember those who have encouraged you throughout your lifetime, or those who have encouraged you lately. Who are your ministers of encouragement? How have you been encouraged by them? Tell us who has impacted your life with encouragement, and how!

God bless you all as you encourage one another!
– R. Mark Giuliano

For more check-out Need Love, Hope? Let’s Build a House! or my sermon, A Ministry of Encouragementpreached at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.



Have ever seen the old Kevin Kline/Hayden Christensen movie, Life as a House? Beth and


When Paul told the church in Thessaloniki to encourage one another and build-up each other, he used a word that literally translates, “build a home.”

I watched it the other night on Netflix. In the story, Kevin Kline plays the father of a dysfunctional family. He’s divorced from his wife. She’s unhappily remarried. Their son (Christensen) is angry, lonely and abusing drugs. The teen has even considered selling himself into prostitution to feed his drug habit.


After losing his job, and almost simultaneously being diagnosed with a terminal cancer, Kline, an architect in the movie, decides that he’s going to spend his few remaining months fulfilling his life-long dream: building a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He forces his estranged son to come and live with him and together they build a house.

The miracle of the story (spoiler alert!) is that as they build the house together, the boy discovers hope and healing for his sadness and rage, and love is restored to the family as a whole.

It’s fascinating to me that when the Apostle Paul told the church at Thessalonica to “encourage one another and build-up each other” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), he used the word, “oikodomeo” which literally translates, “to build a home.” In other words, as a church, we are called to build a home for God, for faith, and for love within our church. As we do, there is the promise for healing within ourselves and our church family as a whole.

Instead of grumbles, gossip or complaints about one another, or even turning a cold-shoulder of indifference toward each other, we should encourage each other by laying a foundation of truth, building-up walls of faith, and nailing down a roof of safety and protection. And don’t forget to open some doors and windows and let love in!

Who needs encouragement in your family, among your friends or in your church? I pray that you might join me in a ministry of encouragement. Let’s make a home for love in every heart by our words and actions of encouragement.

God Bless You Today and Forever,


On November 26th, I preached a sermon called A Ministry of Encouragement. Watch it here!

In the next post, I’ll give you some tools for being a minister of encouragement!