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.
If you’ve driven up Hopkins Road this weekend, you may have noticed a change as you’ve come to the church building. Grace has a new street sign! This has been close to a five year process, and I am very pleased with the outcome
The new church logo design captures the church facade, the peak roof, the copula, and the cross. Many visitors make comments about the building. They note how the building looks welcoming and inviting. People note how the sanctuary is central to the building’s design. No one, be they children or youth, are far from what is central: worship.
The church has been described as looking like and airplane or boat, and it is true that we are a vessel in which we travel from judgment into joy. We are a lighthouse to the community which the copula pictures for those who drive by along Hopkins each evening as light shines through the copula’s oculus. Lastly, the cross is at the center and is exalted to the highest place. Grace is and Grace desires to be all about the cross.
Prominent on our sign is the word, “Grace.” Grace is all about grace! Our mission statement reads: “Grace Presbyterian Church longs to see the grace of God magnified as He transforms us into: a community that worships, witnesses, and walks in love.” Grace is central; the grace of God is magnified.
In addition we also chose “Kernersville.” This is not to the exclusion of those who don’t live in Kernersville, but sets us apart from all the other “Grace” churches in our area. In addition, our church website and social media accounts identify us as Grace Kernersville. When I identify which Grace church we are, I usually find myself saying: Grace in Kernersville. We are about Grace, and we are in Kernersville. We are here to stay with Kernersville. Incarnational ministry is in our DNA. That Jesus Christ came to dwell among us is a truth reflected in how and why we do the ministry which we do.
Through the month of September Grace Kernersville will be transition its Church Data Management software to Planning Center. Planning Center will allow us to more efficiently track and maintain membership information, plan worship services, process online giving, sign up for events, and manage ministry teams and groups within our congregation.
In addition, an online Directory is available. Over the next week, the leadership will be contacting the congregation about how to login and download the smartphone app, Church Center. You may view Grace Kernersville’s Church Center Site HERE.
There are couple of exciting things happening which I’d like to let you know about.
Firstly, Michael Kuehn is releasing a new EP on Friday, August 21st, and Grace Kernersville will be hosting a release concert at 7:30pm followed by a discussion with Michael about his music and the EP. I know you’ll enjoy seeing Michael and will love hearing his music. Here is the link to the livestream: Good and Glory EP Release.
Also, Jennifer Edwards has installed a tapestry weaving exhibit for Ordinary Time titled, Woven Together. You may read about the weavings and the process in making them on her blog HERE and HERE. As you may recall Jennifer used articles of donated clothing to make these weavings. In so doing she has visual captured the way lives are woven together. She has third and final post explaining the tapestries to come out soon. Have a look at images below.
This Sunday, Grace Kernersville begins a new series on the Psalms. In this series we will be looking at the prayers of the Psalter and how these Bible prayers can become the language of the heart. In them we discern an ongoing dialogue between the psalmist and God, between us and the psalmist, between the psalmist and their own circumstances, and even between the psalms themselves. In this ongoing dialogue, we are given the tools to chart a course through our circumstances, feelings, and experience into a walk with God through life. A walk that is entered into by faith.
In the Psalms, we keep company with the righteous whether that is David, Moses, Asaph, Solomon, the sons of Korah or countless unattributed authors. It is good company. and though the circumstances, language, and metaphors are a bit different than our own, we hear in their voices the same fear, confusion, need, gratitude, and thanksgiving.
Grace Kernersville resumed gathered worship in a modified way this past Sunday. This was the first time since March 22 we had physically gathered for worship, and it was the first time since February that we had received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It was a morning of expectation, and I sensed deep appreciation among those gathered for the opportunity, and our worship was full of gratitude.
Yet, there was a tinge of sadness. Our numbers were limited to under thirty people. We were socially distanced and masked. We were outside in the morning heat in our picnic shelter and not in the climate controlled building worshipping in the comfort of our sanctuary. The elements of the Lord’s Supper were one of those single, prepackaged, shipped-in-box-of 250 MRE’s. It all, we all, didn’t look like much. Yet, on the other hand, it seemed to be just about perfect.
As I am wont to do, the clause, “it doesn’t look like much” got me thinking and I turned it into a poem which I posted earlier this week on my personal blog. I think it important for us to look closely at the gap between what we want and long for and the disappointing reality which we are oftentimes offered. This space as one other pastor has said is the gap where the grace of God stands in stark contrast. It is the gap wherein the gospel fits, bridges, and shines. The grace of God on one level may, at first glance, not look like much, but for those who look closely it is far greater than we dare hope or even can imagine.
I share the poem here together with a recording of me reading the poem.
You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
It doesn’t look like much, no high altar, No stained glass; it’s just a picnic shelter: With a concrete floor and wooden tables.
It may not have looked like much, But God first spoke, first reached with hands to touch Us in a village stable.
We don’t look like much, not more than thirty In our number gathered on a Sunday, Scattered here to hear of Him who freed us.
They may not have looked like much: Uncouth, unschooled yet bold in the clutch— All knew they’d been with Jesus.
This doesn’t look like much, this plastic cup Of juice, this tasteless bread, on which we sup, Sealed in cellophane for distribution.
It may not look like much, But the wicked and proud ne’er fed on such A feast of absolution.
Yes, it isn’t much, only bread and wine Bur it’s more than food on which we dine It speaks pledge through sign, by words unspoken.
It may not look like much, But here is promise more than enough: He still loves and is for you, broken.
Psalm 6 is an Ordinary Prayer. It is not one of the happy ones. It speaks of an incredibly common and poignant moment of human experience, a moment of vulnerable sadness. Basically, the psalmist is saying, “I’m falling apart.” That about sums it for me sometimes. It may be that the only thing you feel like you are able to do is just keep it together. In these moments, crying out is what one does. The question is do you have an assurance that there is anyone to cry out to?
Commentator Dale Ralph Davis has this to say about the Hebrew name for the Lord, YHWH (The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life). He writes that when the Lord gives his name to Moses, he isn’t saying something about his being, “I will be what I will be.” Rather as Davis says, “he is talking about — ‘But I will be with you’. So Exodus 3:14 means ‘I will be present is what I will be.’ In light of verse 12, God does not here stress his being or existence so much as his presence. And ‘Yahweh’ captures and summaries that thought — he is the God who will be present to all that his people need him to be. ‘Yahweh’ means the God who is present to help.”
So, in keeping with Dr Davis’ input, rather than using the title Lord, I am choosing to use the personal name of God — whose name that means “the God who is present to help.” Below is my paraphrase of Psalm 6. I hope you can make use of it as a prayer. But more so, when it feels like your life is turned all upside down, you will know that Yahweh is present to help.
“Then Pertelote began to recognize one of the sounds—and she was filled with wonder. Slowly, slowly she lifted up her head. She looked toward the forest. Then she sat up, astonished. There, on the topmost limb of the tallest tree, stood Chauntecleer, his wings wide like an eagle’s. He was crowing lauds as lauds had never been crowed before. The tree dipped and swayed from the impact, but Chauntecleer rode the motion and crowed: Lauds was his challenge to the hidden fury of the river, to Cockatrice.”
Wangerin Jr., Walter. The Book of the Dun Cow (p. 203). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.
This passage from Walter Wangerin’s fable,The Book of the Dun Cow, comes at the crisis moment. The story itself is a fable about a chicken coop comprised of a variety of companions and vilians. The coop is ruled by its rooster, Chaunticleer, among whose duties is to crow the canonical hours of the day. Each morning at dawn, Chaunticleer rises and crows lauds which is the prayer that is prayed at dawn. This is the context of the quote.
The striking thing about it in this passage is that this morning is the morning of the battle of which the entire story has been moving. Cockatrice, the demon-dragon has come to attack the chicken coop and destroy its community. Even though this is the battle morning, Chaunticleer does what he has done every morning time out of mind. He crows lauds. This small thing in the face of a really big thing makes all the difference for me. (I think it was Tish Harrison Warren’s book, Liturgy of the Ordinary which first brought this story and event to my attention, but I cannot trace it out. All that’s to say, I’m not the first to put these two together.) In seasons of “hidden fury,” the daily, unchanging, ordinary, small, unacknowledged, discipline becomes an an anchor for us. The simple act of rising at dawn and saying your prayers may not seem to be the biggest thing you will do any day, but over days, weeks, months, and years, you may likely look back and conclude that the simple activity of daily prayer was the biggest thing you did over the course of your life.
At Grace, we want to do significant, special, important works, but we also want to be the kinds of people who are shaped by small disciplines. We may not have opportunity to stand out and be praised or thanked for a great achievement, but we can and want to be the kinds of people who are tending to the daily habits which God has called us to and to which he has promised promote blessing.
One of the ways we are trying to do this is something called Ordinary Prayer. Through the season of Ordinary Time, Pastor Randy is leading a thirty minute prayer time in which we pray the ordinary prayers of God’s people, the Psalms. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we gather via Zoom, read that day’s psalm and pray for one another and the church. We hope you can join us. See Pastor Randy for the Zoom link.
I am meeting with some local pastors to talk about racism in the church and in our community. I have been humbled by the willingness of my black and African American brothers and sisters in Christ who are sharing, speaking, helping me learn, and calling me to a fuller understanding of where the gospel of Jesus needs current application to set people free.
Today we discussed systemic racism. You may have heard it expressed as white privilege. The discussion often shuts down when people say, “White Privilege? We came from poor Scotch-Irish descent. We were kicked out of every place we ever went! We were share-croppers and mill workers. We didn’t have any privilege!” It’s sad that the conversation shuts down at this point because there is so much opportunity to listen and learn and love. If you’re asking, What does that mean? What is white privilege? What is systemic racism? Here’s a little video that we watched today that explains it.
Please note. My offering of this video does not endorse a political party or larger agenda by any organization. My sole concern is for the Kingdom of God and for its advancement. In general, as we engage in public discourse about very serious matters and as we debate with those with whom we disagree, it is important that we understand the place from which they are coming. To be able hear and to articulate the views of others is an act of charity.
I am growing in my appreciation of the Psalms — a reality that probably exposes my shallow and slow-wittedness. Since the beginning of Ordinary Time, we have continued to meet via Zoom to pray for the thirty minutes each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening at 7:00pm. I’ve called this time Ordinary Prayer.
The psalms are ordinary prayers. They were composed by kings and prophets and sung by shepherds and fisherman. They were good for singing in the Temple, and they were good for the Galilean countryside. These are the words and word pictures of God’s people who themselves, like us, fought the fight of faith in the midst of extraordinary events and ordinary days.
Along with praying the the Psalms, I’ve undertaken, it seems, a project to paraphrase them. I have a bit of a poetic sensibility, and recognize the value of translating through metaphor and different words in order to get at the meaning. Some of the psalms can be difficult for us to translate so that they mean something to us. Once however, we get to their meaning, we find that they express the life of faith, the desires of the heart, and the needs of those who find themselves in a place where there is nothing left but to pray.
Here’s a stab at Psalm 12, which we will be looking at tonight during Ordinary Prayer. The psalmist speaks of the toxicity of the rumors and lies of the world. I found, as I read it, that it speaks very much of today’s social media climate and so I paraphrased the psalm in an attempt to make use of social media’s toxicity and our ability to trust and see the worth of all the Lord’s words or maybe, his “posts.”
Help! I’ve no friends left.
All the good and godly have disappeared from among Adam’s kids.
Not a good one remains.
On social media, they’re all cool and chill
But their secret heart speaks hate and lies.
May the Lord unplug all your devices
And silence your streaming feeds of lies,
You who say, “With our algorithms and bots,
Who can silence our posts?”
Because they steal from the poor,
Because those who need are targets,
Because they have no words but groans,
I will help them myself, says the Lord.
I will lift their eyes from their screens
And show them the place for which they’ve longed.
The Lord speaks with a single heart,
And his posts are worth it: true and bright.
You couldn’t compose them better if you had a week.
The Lord means what he says;
He’ll defend you from the mob.
The trolls are out there around every corner,
And the filth they post is praised by Adam’s kids.