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.
Sanctuary seating and spells are what we are talking about this week. How about you?
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
This Sunday we continue our look at the Free Life which we have in Christ and as Paul describes in Galatians. Specifically we will be looking at the first nine verse of chapter three, Galatians 3:1-9. In addressing the issues faced by the Galatians, Paul has laid forth the events and circumstances which have led to his and their current situation: some have come claiming they have greater authority and are promoting a greater gospel. Their claim, of course, is false, and if they are to be believed, it will lead to undermining the gospel and will bring about the condemnation of any who embrace it because it really is not any sort of gospel.
In Galatians 3, Paul asks a series of six questions. The first of which is “Who has bewitched you?” The word for “bewitch” refers to speaking and speaking in such a way as to slander or speak ill of someone even to the extent of giving them the evil eye. Maybe someone has looked at you angrily, and you’ve through, I can see what you’re saying. Just as you know that words can influence to harm or wound, you also know that a good, kind word has the power to turn our day around, to invigorate and strengthen us, to motivate, relieve, give joy and comfort, bring about thanksgiving. Words do have power.
The English word, “spell,” comes from an early word which means “to tell.” We get this sense when we say that we had to “spell it out” for them. In addition this gets at the more common understanding of a letter by letter telling of events or details in the way in which we might spell a word.
“Spell” is also word that describes an incantation by which a spell is cast in order to influence or bring about a desired end. It is a way to make what you want, happen — to have blessing apart from faith. Rather than praying to ask God for help, it is speaking to get what you want. When Paul asks the Galatians, “Who has bewitched you?” he is asking, Who has cast a spell on you? That spell is not the gospel, it is not good-news or a good tale.
C.S. Lewis, in his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” seeks to draw his listeners into an awareness of the longing for more than what we have experienced or can even hope to experience in this life. As he does so, he asks, “Do you think I am trying to weave a spell?” He answers his question with this,
Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.
Paul’s question for the Galatians is a good question for us. What words have come to influence us? What thoughts, words spoken, conversations imagined or real have set the course for day — even our life? Have they been good words? Do they speak of the love of the Lord? Do they strengthen and fortify or do they tear down and curse? It is also worthy to note that rather than continuing with the word “spell” in his above quote, he uses the word “enchantment” — a word which has at its heart, “chant” or “sing”. What songs are you listening to today? Are they re-enchanting you in the goodness of the good news, the gospel? OR are they disenchanting you and pulling you down into skepticism, cynicism, and unbelief?
One way we’re trying to help the enchantment is to create playlists of the music we will be singing each Sunday. I’d encourage you to make use of these playlists to get the good song deep into your heart. Here’s our new YouTube Playlists Page. Check it out and listen.
Lastly, you are sorely missed. The picture is of Grace’s socially distanced sanctuary set up. It will be great to have us together again. Lord willing, soon. Until then, work on your spelling.
Keaton Sapp’s ninth and final station in his series, The Stations of the Cross is installed in the church foyer. (You may read my thoughts on the eighth station on my blog, BackwardMutters.com). When he and I began discussing this project and making plans in November, we had no idea how this would play out. I had hoped that we actually would be able follow each week the unfolding of Jesus’s last hours, how we might walk the stations on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and how we might celebrate together the unwrapping of art and the glory of Christ’s resurrection. In addition, I hoped that we would’ve had a reception for Keaton and the artwork by this time. But as we’ve grown accustomed to saying, Things change. Neverthless, though this is the last piece, I am still hoping to have something in which we might share and in sharing might be able to experience the whole.
Keaton’s last piece is titled, “The Resurrection.” The tree that was pulled down, has now been raised in new life. In Luke 24:4-12 we read,
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
The promise of the resurrection is mirrored in many ways throughout God’s creation. There is, however, no reason that it should be – that life comes through death. We wonder at that season of Spring. We are so delighted to see the turn, to see what is described in miraculous terms: beauty, life, thriving, rising. We respond to the news of resurrection with suspicion and skepticism. We hear of the empty tomb, and we think them an idle tale. Even so, here is the opened tomb, empty, with the linen cloths by themselves. How from this sealed, dead place, can life emerge? The resurrection is not merely a metaphor or a symbol. Rather it is the reality which is echoed all around us in and through creation. He who was dead has risen just as he said!
Artwork: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Resurrection” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.
The Seventh Station in artist Keaton Sapp’s series, “The Stations of the Cross” is titled, “The Earth Shook” and is based on Matthew 27:51-61. The passage reads,
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.
A number of details are present to convince us of the death of Jesus. The centurion’s confession, the women named by Matthew who were eye witnesses of his death and burial, and the identification of Joseph of Arimathea as the one who secured Jesus’ body and placed it in the tomb — all are intended to convince us of Jesus’ death. That Jesus died and continued under the power of death for a time shows us the extent of his humiliation. Jesus is not merely one who preached the Beatitudes, but he is the one who embodied them. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the mourners. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are the persecuted because of righteousness. Jesus is all of these, and they point to his identity.
Jesus is not merely identified in the qualities of his character or the wisdom of his teaching. His death, of which we read and are confirmed in verifying is not merely the untimely end of one who is so virtuous. His death was not marked by a whimper, but a concussion. Now in one sense, the smallness of Jesus’ death is real. His crucifixion was hardly noted: a few women and a bored centurion. But here in Matthew Jesus’ death is marked a bit differently. When the one who is the Word made flesh, who is wisdom personified, who is rest dies, his death has a physical, concrete impact in the world: the curtain is torn, the earth shakes, the dead rise. The impact crater of the death of Jesus, shakes the very foundations of creation. Boom!
We are left asking on Good Friday, What can rise from that? We are left to do the only thing we can do: wait. In that waiting, God asks us, Son of man, can these bones live?
Keaton Sapp’s Sixth Station of his series, The Stations of the Cross is installed. Take a moment and scroll back through the previous posts in which his work posted. It really is remarkable.
This scene which depicts the descent of Jesus is based on Matthew 27:45-50 which reads,
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
Jesus, in the moment of his greatest psychological, physical, and emotional pressure, cracked and what came out were words written by King David a thousand years earlier and recorded in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The first half of the psalm gives voice to Jesus’ lament. It even contains the expression of his enemies the text of which George Frederick Handel makes use of in The Messiah, “He trusteth in the God; let him who would deliver him, let him deliver him, if he delights in him! (v. 8)” Yet, Jesus’ cry is misunderstood by some of the witnesses of his crucifixion. They mistake his cry as a cry to Elijah to rescue him. The irony is that what these observers are in fact witnessing, is the salvation of which Elijah and his second, John the Baptist, proclaimed. Jesus came to save them and us. The Lord has come, and he has come to bear the condemnation of the curse because of sin in his dying on the cross. He does so in order that we may sing with him the second half of Psalm 22, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him (v.22).”
Grace Kernersville will be live streaming Holy Week Services on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. You may view these streams on several streaming services or via the plugin on this website HERE.
Our first service will be a Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday Service at 7:00pm on Thursday evening, April 9. You may watch the livestream on our Grace Kernersville Vimeo page or on our church website.
Our second service will be a Good Friday Tenebrae Service at 7:00pm on Friday evening, April 10.
And lastly, Grace Kernersville’s Easter Sunday Service will be live streamed on Sunday, April 12 at 10:30.
The Fifth Station of the Cross is installed in the Grace Gallery and is titled, “The Crucifixion.’ It takes its inspiration from Matthew 27:27-44 which reads,
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
The brutality of this means of execution was intended to prolong the death of the one crucified and make it as painful as possible. The word “crucifixion” has lent itself to a word in English to describe this sort of pain, “excruciating.”
In his drawing, Keaton Sapp has been using the image of a fig tree, leaf, and fruit to symbolize Christ. Especially in the books of the prophets, the fig tree is a symbol of Israel. Jesus takes up this image when he curses the fig tree only a few days earlier. You’ll recall in Matthew 21:19-21,
And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.
The cursing of the fig tree has layers of meaning, but one of those layers foreshadows the cursing which the true Israel, Jesus, will bear to move the mountain which obstructs our life with God. Jesus, who for us and for our sins was pulled off, thrown down, stepped upon, was wrested and broken, was pulled up and thrown down, was cut down. Each frame of drawing depicts the both the violence of the crucifixion and the contempt of those who crucified him. The words from Thomas Kelly’s hymn, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted, capture the significance of the crucifixion. Here is the second verse,
Tell me, ye who hear him groaning,
was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning,
foes insulting his distress;
many hands were raised to wound him,
none would interpose to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him
was the stroke that Justice gave.
On Holy Thursday and Good Friday, we will remember the last hours of Jesus’ passion and death. Both services will be live streamed at 7:00pm.
The Fourth Station in the Lenten art exhibit, The Stations of the Cross, is entitled, “The Denial.” This piece draws our attention to Peter’s denial of Jesus as foretold in Matthew 26:30-35 and fulfilled in Matthew 26:69-75. They read,
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Later in chapter 26 we read,
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the
rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter’s denial of Jesus is one of the most shocking and yet human of events recorded in history. All of Peter’s bravado and self-confidence come crashing down upon his head. A man’s world is undone by a rooster’s crow.
Both Luke and Mark have additional comments about the circumstance. Luke says that Jesus looked across the courtyard and caught Peter’s eye. What was in Jesus look? What did Peter see? In Mark’s gospel, an angel instructs Mary Magdalene to “tell the disciples and Peter that his is going into Galilee.” What might that specific instruction have meant to Peter? Though the denial is epic, the forgiveness is that much greater.
Artist, Keaton Sapp, continues making use of the symbol of the fig leaf as a way to symbolize the passion narrative. What do you see in his depiction? Is the leaf merely Jesus or could it be something els?
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.