Where are we located?
Grace Church is located at 360 Hopkins Road in Kernersville, NC.
Grace Church is located at 360 Hopkins Road in Kernersville, NC.
Check here for the most current updates and resources as Grace Kernersville responds to the current crisis.
Tanner, Tolkien, and the New Age. March 25 is an often unappreciated holiday, but it marks the beginning of the end or the beginning of all things being made new.
Grace Presbyterian Church longs to make the amazing grace of the good news of the gospel known. As we look at the brokenness around us, in our relationships, work, world, and even our own hearts, we oftentimes are left asking, Who will make this right…who can make me right? The good news is that though we are unable to fix, mend, and heal, God is both able and willing. GPC is not a place of people who have it together, but rather a place of those who are seeking God’s amazing grace.
Wherever you find yourself in this journey, we will walk with you as God transforms us together and magnifies his grace in and through us.
Pastor Randy Edwards
March 25 marks the beginning. Whether you consider it the beginning of the end or the beginning of something new depends a bit on perspective.
The church calendar has both moveable feast days such as Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost as well as feast days that are fixed. One of the fixed feast days is March 25. For many the most recognizable fixed, feast day is Christmas. There is a lot of debate as to why December 25 was fixed as the date of Jesus’ birth. The date has more significance than some historian’s ability to discover what day the event took place, Some say that Christendom sought to hijack Saturnalia, others see Christmas as the reappropriating of Sol Invictus celebrations while others believe newly converted pagans desired to continue with Celtic solstice practices.
In actuality, December 25 was a relatively late addition to the dates recognized by the church. What is known and widely recognized is that the church very early on believed it had calculated the date of Jesus’ death. You can read more about “How December 25 Became Christmas,” but basically Christmas was set as December 25 because they believed that Jesus was conceived on March 25, and March 25 is the fixed feast day of The Annunciation which falls nine months before December 25. And so, March 25 is a beginning.
Here is a painting by African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner of the Annunciation.It is one of my all time favorite paintings. Tanner’s use of light to depict Gabriel envelops you in its warmth. The red which crosses the field of view behind Mary foreshadows what is to come, and the traditional blue in which Mary is depicted wearing, lays on the chair to the right and is something she has yet to take up. There is Mary, hands folded, at her morning prayers with that quizzical expression. You can almost hear her saying, “What sort of greeting is this?”
Speaking of the Annunciation and Mary’s question, Michael Kuehn has written and recorded a wonderful song which tells the story of Mary’s encounter. The song begins with Mary’s question, “What sort of greeting is this?” It continues to include the words of the Magnificat. It is a part of Michael’s EP, Where Are You. It would not be bad to have this song’s tune and lyrics rolling around in your heart today. The song is titled, “Mary.” You may listen via the player below.
So is The Annunciation an ending or a beginning? J.R.R. Tolkien saw it’s significance. Though he doesn’t make a big deal of March 25 in the narrative of the Lord of the Rings, he obviously spent some time considering it’s significance.
And so, under King Elessar the Fourth Age and the New Year was reckoned to begin on March 25 which is the day when the Ring of Power was destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom and the stronghold of Barad-dur fell and Sauron, defeated. A coincidence? Not at all. The Annunciation marks the beginning of the New Creation.
You may read the text of The Annunciation here: Luke 1:26-35. I have written sonnet recounting the moment. In it I am influence by Malcolm Guite’s sonnet of the same moment titled, “The Annunciation” in which he writes, “the Word himself was waiting on her word.” I love that. The announcement of new creation in some measure begins with meekness, a moment of pause as the Trinity waits on her response, “Let it be unto me as thou hast spoken.” Here is my take.
In a no-where’s stillness while at thy prayers
By thy lamp’s light came a presence holy
Who drew thy life into cosmic affairs
Mary, the Nazarene maiden lowly.
Gabriel hails, Lo, the Lord is with thee,
Favored one. Blessed, be ye not afraid,
For at thy word new creation is conceived
In thy womb’s waters the world is remade.
Mary, in this moment ‘neath Nazareth’s sky,
We await thy word when all words come true:
When thy meek willingness undoes the lie
By bearing the Son who makes all things new.
Taking in hand what is giv’n to thee,
As thou hast spoken, let it be unto me.
In these troubling days. Mary later goes to stay with her cousin, Elizabeth who herself is pregnant and bears John the Baptist. In their greeting of one another, Mary breaks out in worship. Let us take up with Mary her Magnificat, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
The third piece for the Lenten exhibit, The Stations of the Cross is based on Matthew 26:47-50 which tells of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus and is entitled, “The Kiss.” Artist Keaton Sapp offers an extraordinary image which starkly depicts the moment with its strong contrast of light and dark…intimacy and betrayal. Matthew 26:47-50 reads,
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
The betrayal of Jesus in the Garden brings to full circle the story begun in Genesis 3. In Genesis, a serpent deceives with the promise of blessing: “You will be like God.” Instead what follows is cursing. In Matthew 26 the betrayer comes blessing (a kiss) and sets in motion the second Adam’s curse by the crucifixion.
In no time during Jesus’ last hours, does he seem carried along by circumstances into an unknown future. “Friend,” he says, “do what you came to do.” Jesus is, in some great measure, in command of all that is taking place. The evil he will undergo, is an evil he has volunteered for, is one to which he has submitted himself.
Now, we all have experienced betrayal. The violation of person, being taken advantage of, being presumed upon, or being lied to are things common to us all. My initial reaction to Judas’s betrayal is one of anger. “How dare he!” It seems all to easy. We live in an age of outrage and self-justified anger. And though anger rightly acknowledges an understood trespass, I wonder if we avoid the reality of the the profound sadness of Jesus’ betrayal. Jesus says, “Friend…” How deep that must have cut. After three years of living with and walking beside Jesus — after three years of witnessing miracles and listening to his teaching, Judas is willing to turn Jesus in and for thirty pieces of silver.
The Second Station of the Cross is on display in the Grace Gallery. The scene is based on Matthew 26:36-46 which reads,
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Keaton Sapp is continuing to install artwork which will eventually compose a Stations of the Cross series which will be available to walk on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. If you have opportunity, take time to reflect on the scripture passage and the artwork. As I mentioned previously, Keaton is making use of a motif to abstractly represent Jesus and is intended to respectfully avoid depicting Jesus’ face.
As you reflect on the painting consider the mood of the scene in the picture. Where are the disciples? What are they doing? What is on the horizon? How is the tree depicted? How do these depict the events of the passage and how do they foreshadow what is to come?
If you’re interested, you may read my response to the passage and Keaton’s artwork on my own blog HERE.
Grace Kernersville is very fortunate to have artist, Keaton Sapp contributing artwork to this Lent’s art exhibit, The Stations of the Cross. Grace will make use of the exhibit to offer an opportunity for people to walk the Stations on Good Friday and Holy Saturday in April. In the meantime, I’d like to offer you another opportunity for you to reflect as you mark the season and prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.
With previous exhibits in which we have hung seasonal art in the Grace Gallery, we have made use of ekphrasis which is writing that responds to a specific piece of art be it prose or poetry. Most recently Grace’s Advent exhibit, The Jesse Tree, made use of this sort of writing. Over the next five weeks, I will be posting the art for you to meditate and reflect on in order for you to write a response. I will include a few words about the art and provide a scriptural context for it. The artwork itself is somewhat abstract. In a desire to avoid making an image of Jesus and be a stumbling block to some, the artist is using the motif of a fig tree. The series will tell the story of fig tree, but through those pictures you should be able to discern the story of Jesus’ last day.
This week’s piece is entitled, “The Anointing” and is based on Matthew 26:6-16 which reads,
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
In this passage, Matthew juxtaposes two events prior to the last events of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Those last events begin with the inauguration of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and continues with his watchful prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane followed by his arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death on Good Friday.
It may be unsurprising to us in this day and age, but the two prior events in Matthew 26 seemed to be about money. In the first, a woman (presumably Mary of Bethany) anoints Jesus with a ‘very expensive ointment.’ This prodigal expression of honor and devotion irritates the disciples, for they ask indignantly, “Why this waste?” Jesus tells them to leave her alone for “she has done it to prepare me for my burial.” It seems that she, before all the rest, had some understanding of what Jesus was about to undergo. The second event in Matthew 26, is Judas going out to sell Jesus to the chief priests. He does so for thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew seems to leave us with some questions. Firstly “What is the Son of Man worth?” Is he worth all your devotion or is his value only in what he can do to help you to accomplish your will? Secondly, the disciple’s question, “Why all this waste?” invites us to reflect on what and for whom we spend ourselves. For what am I pouring myself out? Reputation? Achievement? What is a life lived by faith in Jesus Christ worth? Lastly, Jesus’ question and statement, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me” invites us to ask, do we, as Mary, see the beauty of the One who brings us the gospel of peace?
February 26 is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning the forty day, season of Lent. If you count the days you’ll reckon that there are actually 46 days until Easter. The reason is that though is a season of repentance, preparation, service, and humility, nevertheless we are living life after the resurrection. The Lord’s Day, Sunday, is appropriately recognized as a day of rejoicing.
As you enter the season, there are several online resources you may want to make use of.
Biola University’s 2020 Lent Project is a daily devotional hosted online and sponsored by the Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts. You may sign up via email or visit the devotional website HERE.
PCA Pastor, Craig Higgins’ resource, “On Keeping Holy Lent” may be found HERE.
LenTree is an online devotional which offers one poem a day by George Herbert. You may find LenTree HERE.
You may access Grace Kernersville’s pamphlet on Lent, “Know My Heart” in the church foyer brochure rack on online here: GPC Lent Brochure.
In addition, Grace Kernersville will be blessed to have the work of artist Keaton Sapp hanging in our foyer as a part of a Lent art project. Keaton will be installing artwork each week as a part of his exhibit, Stations of the Cross. This installation will continue to Easter and will serve as a Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. We’ll be posting his artwork and commenting on the pieces each week on my blog, Backward Mutters of Dissevering Power HERE.
In the life of the church, this weekend marks a culmination and begins a turn. For many congregations, the season of Epiphany concludes this Sunday which is the last Sunday before the season of Lent. The readings of many congregations will include Matthew 17:1-9 which tells of the events of the Transfiguration — a mystical and powerful event in which Jesus’ glory is revealed to his disciples “…and he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 18:2). During Jesus’ transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, and in Luke’s account of the same event, Jesus spoke with them of his own exodus or “departure.”
The Transfiguration marks the turn in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. For, from this moment on, the tension in the gospels increases and Jesus confronts the unbelief and resistance of Israel’s leaders. As he presses on their lack of faithfulness, Jesus presses forward to Jerusalem and ultimately the work he came to finish on the cross and in his resurrection.
Following Epiphany, the church has historically marked the season prior to Easter with a 40 day fast called “Lent.” As if to mirror Jesus’ fast and temptation in the wilderness or his pressing to Jerusalem and the cross following his Transfiguration, many Christians begin the season by confessing (or “shreeving”) their sin on Shrove Tuesday and humbling themselves by being marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday. The GPC Lent Brochure is available for you, if you’d like to learn more or seek out some resources as to how you may want to mark the season.
At Grace Kernersville, we will be marking the season several ways.
Though marked with a somberness, I have come appreciate marking this season with Grace and with the community. I hope you can join us!
As I look at my calendar for the next week, I see that there are a number of opportunities to learn and grow as disciple of Jesus through the ministry of gifted speakers and ministers.
Firstly, Rev. Darin Stone who serves with Mission to North America’s Ministry to State will be preaching at Grace Kernersville this Sunday during the worship time. Darin and his family are a beloved part of Grace’s church life and have been a means through which the Lord has blessed Grace Kernersville. Ministry to State seeks to bring the light of Jesus Christ into government communities. There are many in public service who need encouragement in their walk with Christ, and there are those who are seeking and need to hear of the kindness of our Lord. If you get a chance reach out to Darin, ask him how you may pray for him and support his ministry.
Secondly, this weekend is the annual Forum of Faith and Culture hosted by First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, February 14-15. This years guest speaker is Dr. Bruce Hindmarsh, who is the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dr. Houston’s theme this weekend is, Put Out Your Nets Into Deeper Water: An Invitation to Prayer. You may see the schedule HERE.
Lastly, Dr. James K.A. Smith will be speaking on Tuesday, February 18 at 12:30 in the Goodson Chapel at Duke Divinity School. His topic, Augustine and the Art of the Confessions draws from his recently released book on Augustine’s Confessions, On the Road with Saint Augustine, a book I highly recommend.
I hope you are taking time to allow the words of good news and wise counsel to find their place in your heart and to grow.
February 7-9 is Grace Kernersville’s annual mission weekend. This year’s theme is Mission 20/20. The missions committee has been hard at work planning, and there are lots of opportunities to participate and learn about all that God is doing.
Here’s what’s in store…
Friday, February 7, 6:30-8:30pm: Edu-Eating!
Join us as we have three guest speakers in three different rooms. Attendees will split into three groups and rotate through the rooms. Our guests will be Chuck & Jimmie Lynn Linkston (Australia, and Asheville), Daryl & Leah Burnett (Mozambique), and Gary & Ashley Helms (London, England). This is a family event! Following our moveable feast, we will meet in the sanctuary and enjoy dessert and making music.
Saturday, February 8, 1:30-4:00pm: Out of the Garden Project. GPC volunteers will be participating in food truck grocery distribution. Volunteers will meet at Allen Middle School at 1108 Glendale Dr, Greensboro. You must have signed up by Wednesday, February 6 in order to participate in this project.
3-Event Sunday, February 9
9:30am, Grow in Grace (Sunday School hour) — Brunch with guest speakers Glenn & Leah Ruth Blauser from JAARS.
10:30am, Morning Worship — Missionary Daryl Burnett will be preaching. Children’s worship and older primary ages will be with Sandra Hart. Special time of prayer for our speakers.
Noon, Sunday Lunch, please stay after worship and enjoy some table fellowship in the fellowship hall. The Missions Committee is providing sandwiches and chips.
This Sunday is February 2. In the U.S., we will mark the day in several ways. The first way for most of us is that Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. It’s been fifty years since the Kansas City Chiefs have made an appearance. (No pressure, but this is a big day for some.) Concerning food consumption, Super Bowl Sunday is a feast day which ranks second only to Thanksgiving. The Football season which began in August finds its consummation in the Super Bowl.
This Sunday is also Groundhog Day. In years past, AMC, taking a cue from TNT, showed the Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day, over and over throughout the day. Ironic, eh? Word on the street is that Bill Murray is reprising his role as Phil Conners for a Jeep Super Bowl commercial. Talk about a consummation of American institutions. It seems so right. What else would you do when Groundhog Day falls on Super Bowl Sunday? You’ve just got to bring them together.
It all seems a little curious to me. Why does it feel right to bring memory and festival together? To me, it seems that the desire to celebrate is wrapped up in our humanity. We remember anniversaries, and we celebrate the fulfillment of seasons. We are a people who are compelled to mark time.
This Sunday is also a holiday in the life of many churches throughout the world. The holiday is Candlemas. Candlemas is the 40th day after Christmas Day and marks the day when Mary was declared ceremonially clean after having given birth. But more importantly, it was the day that Joseph and Mary paid the redemption tax of the first born. You can read about the events that day in Luke 2:22-40.
Aside from the offerings made by Mary and Joseph, the couple and baby are greeted by Simeon and Anna. Of their interaction with Simeon, Luke writes,
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
The consummation on this day is not the consummation of commerce and performance, but of promise and fulfillment. There are many ironies that come together in this moment. Is this the sudden coming of the Lord to his Temple of which Malachi wrote?
So much comes together in the gospel of grace.
Here is a meditation on the events of Candlemas which I wrote a couple of years ago. In it I try and mark some of these gospel ironies. It is a sonnet entitled, “Suddenly He Comes” and can be found in my collection of poems entitled, Walking with Jesus. Happy Candlemas!
Borne in arms to his house as a pilgrim
The Anointed who’ll bear our salvation;
Redeemer redeemed with two young pigeons
For the desire and wealth of the nations.
Suddenly, he comes to those who waited,
The refiner’s fire, promised fuller’s soap;
Simeon and Anna, made young again
Seeing Israel’s consolation and hope.
Lord, in the light of Candlemas I see
In the heart of my own mid-winter way
You gave your wealth, to become poor for me
That I might be young and long for the Day
When the sudden shaking of your revealing
Dashes the proud, but the poor and pierced, healing.