Category Archives: Announcements

Ordinary Time

The church calendar has entered into what is called Ordinary Time. This first patch of Ordinary Time is a brief period between the seasons of Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter. A way to think about the first half of the church calendar is that the first half  directs our attention to Jesus Christ: his incarnation, his making himself known, his life as fully man, his ministry in Galilee and Judea, his temptation, sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension. The first half has a lot of preparation, remembrance, and celebration. But between Epiphany and Lent is this little patch of green in the latter part of winter in which there is not much green. Why is that?

This brief patch too, mirrors the life of Jesus Christ. After Jesus is presented at the Temple when Mary and Joseph pay the redemption tax for the first born (February 2), Luke writes in Luke 2:39-40, “And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (ESV).” So you see this season marks an ordinariness in which people — even Jesus — went about their everyday lives doing what people do everyday. In fact we read nothing of Jesus’ life during this time except for his getting separated from his parents in Jerusalem as a young boy. We read next to nothing of the next 33 years of his life until his baptism. Why is that?

It is good for us to remember that just because we don’t think anything of significance is taking place that nothing is in fact, taking place. Growing and dying continues. Though these normal, everyday, days are not marked with great parties or feasts, it doesn’t mean that God is not at work. He is always at work.

Secondly, it is comforting for us to remember that Jesus is not only a savior of the extraordinary. He is savior and present in the every day. He had to learn to tie his shoes, wash dishes, clean up after work. He spoke casually with neighbors and endured the waiting until the time was right. His being able to help those who are being tempted includes not only the big temptations but also the small irritations or long-suffering of waiting. That helps me. I pray it helps you too.

Here are couple of reminders about upcoming events in the life of Grace Kernersville.

  • Lord’s Supper. On the last Sunday of each month, Grace Kernersville receives the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Grace welcomes all Christians who both profess faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation and who are baptized members in good standing of congregations that proclaim the gospel to participate and receive the Lord’s Supper with us.
  • Congregational Meeting. This Sunday following the worship service, Grace will hold its 2019 Year End Congregational Meeting and financial update and review. All are welcome to stay for the meeting. Please stay following the meeting for a sandwich lunch in the Fellowship Hall.
  • Mission 20/20: Grace Kernersville’s annual Missions Conference will be February 7-9.

Stories that Grow

This Sunday at Grace Kernersville, we will be looking at the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Parables are stories that get inside us, and as we reflect upon them and seek to apply them, they grow. On its face, the parable seems to be a story in which Jesus’ questions ensnares a lawyer in the his own examination. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?” In addition, of all of Jesus’ parables, the Parable of the Good Samaritan (aside from the Prodigal Son) is likely the most familiar of all. On the one hand, ones familiarity with the parable makes it harder to listen to. On the other hand, that same familiarity continues to tangle us up in Jesus’ questions, and in our sheepish guilt, we respond to the parable, “desiring to justify” one’s self. All that being said, let’s listen and let the parables work. The end result for those who lean in is such good news.

During the worship service on Sunday, Rooted in Christ will be offered for 3rd through 6th graders. Rooted in Christ is a monthly gathering in which students are learning about how the coming of Jesus Christ was foretold in the Old Testament, and they are making Jesse Tree ornaments which they will keep for themselves and for the church. Here’s what some of those ornaments looked like this past Advent and Christmas.

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Lastly, the Kernersville Christian Minister’s Fellowship is participating in a Martin Luther King Jr Day celebration service hosted by Main Street UMC at 5pm on Sunday, January 19. Grace Kernersville will be taking Sunday Night Fellowship off so that people may attend the service. You may read more HERE

Artwork by Maximilien Luce  (1858–1941), Le bon samaritain, oil on canvas, signed ‘Luce’ (lower right); signed again and dated ‘Luce 1896’ (on the stretcher)

Sowing Words

This Sunday at Grace, we will begin a new series which will take us through Ordinary Time and Lent and up to Easter. As we move through late winter and spring, we return to the gospels as we have over the past several years. This year our focus will be on the parables found in the middle of Luke’s gospel. To get us started we will be looking at Luke 8 and the Parable of the Sower and the Seed.  Though outside of the section we will be focussing on, it provides a good introduction to the parables and serves as a bridge from Epiphany to Ordinary Time.

The Parable of the Sower includes some statements which for some may be troubling. In Luke 8:9,10 we read, “And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” The troubling part is that the parables’ purpose seems to be to obscure and hide the plain declaration of the coming of the Kingdom of God and its King. However, the irony is that every person who reads, hears, or is told about Luke 8 is invited into the inner circle of the twelve disciples in order to hear its meaning — if only we will listen.

Over the next two months, let’s lean in and listen to the stories which Jesus tells. Let us listen carefully to his words and let them, like seeds, find a place in our heart so that they may grow and bear fruit.

And speaking of fruit, another endeavor which I hope will bear fruit begins.

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Friday evening kicks off a project led by the Almond Tree Artist Collective. Former GPC worship leader, Michael Kuehn, is leading an endeavor for artists and makers who would like to have a focussed project in which to work towards and/or collaborate over the next year based on Psalm 139. You can hear all about it on Friday night at 6:30pm at the church building where you’re invited to learn more about the project. If you have questions, please reach out to me or Michael Kuehn. More info is provided via the link to the Facebook event page above.

Lastly, lots of gatherings and opportunities begin over the next week too. Don’t forget…

GriefShare begins Monday, Jan 13 at 6:30. You may read more HERE.

Ladies Bible Studies are getting underway next week. See the opportunities below.
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Your Only Comfort

I hope this New Year finds you well!

At Grace Kernersville, we continue to celebrate the season of Christmastide, but we will also be entering into the season of Epiphany (which is January 6). GPC’s Sunday school hour on January 5th will be given to acknowledging Epiphany and learning more about the holiday and season. In addition, this Sunday’s Sunday school is a family-wide event, and we will have activities for young and old.

A way to think about these two seasons and their relationship with one another is to imagine the difference between Christmas as a day and the practice of giving and opening presents on Christmas. Epiphany is the day in which the church remembers opening the gift of Christmas. The magi give gifts upon visiting the Christ-child, and the church gets to open the present of the coming of Jesus Christ. “Epiphany” itself means “manifestation”. In other words, Epiphany is like a revelation. As the church celebrates Epiphany, we recall those events when Jesus first manifest himself as the Christ — whether with the wise-men who sought the “King of the Jews” or in his baptism when the Voice spoke from heaven or when he performed his first miracle in Cana of Galilee.

This Sunday is also the first Sunday or Lord’s Day of 2020 and that means that we start over in our annual running through the Heidelberg Catechism during the worship service. You may learn more about the Heidelberg Catechism HERE.

The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three parts: our estate of sin and misery, the means by whom we are delivered from sin and misery, and how we may live in gratitude for this deliverance. In addition, the Heidelberg explains the content of our Christian faith by helping us understand what the Apostle’s Creed teaches, how we obey God by living obediently according to the moral law, and what we mean when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.

Here are a couple of reasons why I like the Heidelberg Catechism.

  • It is simple: misery, deliverance from misery, and living gratefully for the deliverance from sin and misery. The Heidelberg addresses complex theological questions and answers them plainly.
  • It follows the rhythm of the year as we experience it. When we are heading into Holy Week, we are talking about Jesus and his work as professed in the Apostle’s Creed. As we move into Ordinary Time, we are talking about the life of faith lived out in obedience. As we move into Advent we talk of prayer which is the language of hope.
  • Lastly, it is pastoral and applicable. As the Heidelberg is simple, it is also plain in its speaking. The Heidelberg Catechism is direct and speaks to reality as it is lived.

This Sunday’s first question and answer is one of the most appreciated in the entire Catechism as well as among all Protestant catechisms. It asks and answers:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

That’s not a bad way to start the new year. You may access the version of the Heidelberg Catechism which Grace Kernersville uses HERE.

And finally, the artwork which accompanies the post is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), the brother of poet, Christina Rossetti. The painting is titled, St. John Comforting the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross. In Rossetti’s depiction of the event, I imagine that Jesus has just spoken his last words to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” This beholding is not merely directing Mary to the Apostle John who would take her into his home, but it mirrors his words to her at the beginning of John’s gospel. In John 2 Jesus is asked to come to the aid of those throwing the wedding feast because the wine has run out. Jesus speaks to her saying, “Woman, was has this to do with me? My time has not yet come.” Several years ago I attempted to capture this interaction and its connection with John 19:25-26 via a sonnet.

Finding us outside as we waited on
Our master who brought us to the wedding,
His mother, not asking, telling her son
The shameful news the bridegroom was dreading.
“The wine has runout,” in question she eyed
Looking for what he might say and do.
“Woman, what’s that to me? My time’s not arrived.”
To the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

It’s been three years since he turned water to wine;
We stand at the foot of his crushing shame
Twisted round a stake like vintner’s vine
Is her son who saved a bridegroom’s good name.
“Why?” pours from her eyes in sobs overcome,
The wine saved for last, “Woman, behold your son.”
© Randall Edwards 2017

We will be looking at John 2:1-11 as a part of our recognition of Epiphany. I hope to see you Sunday. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Scripture Reading in 2020

Have you considered attempting to read through the Bible in a year? In years past Grace Kernersville has used Scottish pastor and missionary, Robert Murray McCheyne’s reading plan. You can read more about it’s beginning HERE.

Also, the ESV Bible app is another good place to find a reading plan which you may access via their smartphone/tablet app or via their website HERE.

Or maybe you’d like to sit and listen to someone read the Scriptures and possibly gather others to listen with you. A program and app entitled, The Public Reading of Scripture is available HERE.

These are just a few ideas. If you have others, let us know! Happy New Year!

We Beheld His Glory

Before I get to this weekend’s service, I’d like to remind all that GPC’s Sunday school hour is off until January 5, 2020 when we will have a Family Sunday school hour on the topic of Epiphany. January 5 is the 12th day of Christmas, and January 6 is Epiphany. I hope to see you at 10:30am for worship and the Lord’s Supper on December 29th.

On the subject of the 12 Days of Christmas, you may enjoy listing to how the twelve days of Christmas were celebrated in this region in previous years by listing to Paul Brown’s episode on Across the Blue Ridge, entitled, “Breaking Up Christmas.”

This Sunday, we begin a three week series for the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany entitled, We Beheld His Glory. On Sunday the 29th, we will be looking at Matthew 2:13-23. Traditionally on December 28 the church remembers Herod’s killing of the children in the region of Bethlehem which leads to the flight of Mary and Joseph to Egypt. We will be looking more closely at Joseph and how his life mirrors another Joseph whose actions led to deliverance.

My favorite depiction of the flight to Egypt is painted by Henry Osawa Tanner. You may enjoy reading this article about Tanner and his painting HERE.

It’s still Christmas!

Christmas Services and Holiday Schedule

There are several changes to our normal routine this week at Grace Kernersville.

Firstly, please come and join Grace in a Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve at 7:00pm. The service is a service of nine lessons and carols and a brief message and is a great way to mark the day and celebrate together as we remember that darkness has not overcome the light and that the light of Jesus Christ still shines.

The church office will be closed December 24-26 and January 1. Please plan accordingly.

We expect the re-shingling of the roof to be compete on December 24, but please be aware that there may be equipment on site and use caution as needed.

There will be no Adult Sunday school on December 29. We resume our regular Sunday school schedule on January 5, 2020 which will also serve as a family Sunday school morning to gather to learn about Epiphany.

Have a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year!

GriefShare Meeting

From the GriefShare website: “GriefShare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone.”

GRIEFSHARE is a 13 week group seminar focused on helping people learn how to understand their grief from the loss of a loved one or friend. A group will be begin meeting on Monday, January 13, 2020 at the church building. Weekly sessions will continue on Monday evenings from 6:30-8:30 PM. The last meeting will be Monday, April 6, 2020. If you think you may be interested in participating in this opportunity, or have questions about GriefShare, please contact Carolyn or Dick Clatfelter.

See more HERE.

The Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is a Medieval image or motif created to tell the story of the Old Testament’s fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. It is often found in illuminated Bible manuscripts  as well as in many cathedral stained glass windows.

What does the Jesse Tree signify?

As the people of God awaited their messiah, Israel knew that God’s special king would arise from the house and lineage of King David. God promised King David in 2 Samuel 7:7-13 that, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” In spite of the division of the Kingdom of Israel under King David’s grandson, Rehoboam, the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria, the exile of Judah at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, their return from exile under Cyrus, and the four hundred years of silence between the Old and New Testaments, the people of God continued to hope in God’s promises to David through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah:

 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1-2). In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15).

“And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD” (Zechariah 6:12).

Jesse Tree Advent Art Project

Over the past year and continuing through 2020, GPC students participating in Rooted in Christ are making use of the Jesse Tree to learn how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. They have been making and will continue to make Jesse Tree ornaments to serve as an Advent calendar of sorts. GPC-er, Asher McClain, has designed and has added his own pyrography to a tree which will display these ornaments. Please take a moment to look at their work and see if you are able to connect the ornament’s design with the Bible story it signifies.

IMG_3838We hope this project will make your preparation and celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ who is the Son of David, God With Us!

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Christ the King

This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday and marks the last Sunday of the church calendar year. Christ the King Sunday is the culmination of the Christian year and celebrates the church’s hope that Jesus Christ shall return again to establish his Kingdom forever. The hope of Christ’s second coming is a consummation of sorts. The courtship begins with the promises of the Old Testament which are veiled in poetic prophecies. The sincerity of those promises are pledged by the gift wrapped in Christmas’ swaddling cloths; that gift is Jesus. The promise of rescue which God accomplishes through Jesus Christ is realized during Holy Week and Easter Sunday. The resurrection inaugurates the betrothal of our salvation which Jesus has secured, and the promises of that salvation are applied by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Since then, the church continues to await her wedding day when the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, returns to take his bride, the church, to be with himself. And so, Christ the King Sunday speaks not only to a promised event and to an orthodox view (as the Creed says, “[I believe]…he ascended in heaven, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and dead“), but it speaks to the fulfillment of our deepest desire: to enjoy the full-peace, beauty, and goodness of the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This Sunday at GPC we will also begin a new sermon series entitled, The Jesse Tree, which will also serve as our Advent series. I will share more about the Jesse Tree next week. This Sunday we will be doing double-duty as we look at kingship and particularly at King David. The events recorded in 1 Samuel 16 and 17 show us that the kind of king we want is oftentimes not the kind of king we need. It is so important for us to recognize the differences. We want a mighty man, but we get a shepherd. We want our choice, but we need a man whom God choses. We want someone who will lead us in victory, but we get a man who is a go-between for us. We want a king who will straighten others out, but we get one who takes away our shame and disgrace.

What will help us grow in our faith is to see the kind of king Jesus Christ is. Over and over again God shows us that his ways are not our ways. We will always be quick to co-opt the Kingdom of God in order to enrich or advance our own kingdom. It never works. Those who do so are constantly disappointed and mystified. Eventually, they lose interest and move to more profitable deities. We however, must be ready to receive him when he comes to us. We must be ready to humble ourselves. In fact, Jesus tells us in the parable, that he does and has come to us and often in many little ways, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me'” (Matthew 25:35-36). As we await his final coming, let us not miss the many ways he comes to us daily.

Happy Christ the King Sunday! It is a festival day for us to feast on God’s grace. Enjoy feasting on his promises and our hope.

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artwork: The Jesse Tree in the Lambeth Psalter, unknown English miniaturist, c.1140s