Category Archives: Pastor’s Blog

Congregational Meeting Update

Here are the slideshows for our congregational meeting on January 24. The first is a show in which we seek to recognize the volunteers in our church over the past year, especially through the pandemic, and the second is the financial update.

You may view the congregational meeting financial presentation below.

Remain Faithful

Sunday, January 24, we will begin a new sermon series on the letter of James. James was the first book of the Bible I undertook as a church pastor, and I am excited to return to it after eighteen years.

James begins his letter with “consider it all joy when you face various trials.” That’s a hard sell, and it sounds a little crazy. James doesn’t mean that we are love trials for the sake of the trials, nor does he say that we have to call bad things good. Rather, he is saying that we need not fear them. For those remain steadfast, trials work to strengthen our faith. Having a strong faith is worth what it costs because faith is not about the strength of the individual but rather it is all about the strength of faith’s object. God Almighty is well-worth our faith. In fact James says, God is so worth our faith and is so deserving of our trust, that we can welcome trials because we know that the trials we face are not stronger than God.

Living by faith is something I don’t think we know how to do well. For many, faith is the add-on to all the things we trust and have collected in order to increase the odds of a blessed life. Faith in God becomes a component of our life, not the foundation of our life.

Take some time the next few days and read James’ letter. As you read James, ask yourself, What is James saying about faith? What is James exposing as a false object of faith? How are those whom James is confronting seeking to live apart from faith? And how is James calling me to live by faith?

O Come, O Come: Root of Jesse and Key of David

Root of Jesse

This week’s installation in the Grace Gallery exhibit, “O Come, O Come…” comprise two antiphons. They are O Root of Jesse (Radix) and O Key of David (Clavis).

As I mentioned before, as these antiphons progress, they become more specific and pointed in their promise. The prophets of the Old Testament speak of a “tender shoot” or a “branch” which will rise from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was King David’s father. Because of Israel’s faithlessness and especially because of the faithlessness of her kings, the promises made to David that his dynasty would be an everlasting dynasty seem to have failed. The line of David as seen by the prophets through the lens of the exiles has been “cut off” or “cut down.” Yet, though Israel and her kings were faithless, the Lord in his promise to David is faithful. Like those trees which have been copsed, a new branch will rise from the root stock.

Below is artist, Jennifer Edwards’ piece “O Root of Jesse.” She has taken her inspiration from the biblical passages as well as the sonnet below which you may hear read via the Soundcloud player by her father, Ed Pilkington. Read, listen, and look. In considering this promise, ask yourself, in what places in your life do need new life to spring?

"O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer."
There is nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump whose root has been lopped of limbs and green,
Cut down, lying lifeless, without its leaves;
Lament hangs on — only sorrow clings.

O Root of Jesse, the promised stump which
Buds righteousness: our mercy, joy, and peace,
Who makes the poor, the meek, those hungry, rich—
The despised, exiled, cut off, counted least.

O how may hope rise from this lifeless wood,
This gallows tree, this cursed cross raised above
Which hangs with despair? Certainly no good
Could spring from death, could sing what wondrous love.

Come Root of Jesse, deliver and bring
The peace for which the nations long and sing.

Key of David

The next antiphon is O Key of David. Growing more specific, this antiphon points to one who will hold and use the Key of David. This key is first alluded to in Isaiah 22 regarding the demotion and promotion of a Steward of the king’s house in Jerusalem. This image is taken up by the apostle John in Revelation 3 in the letter to the Philadelphians. The Son of Man about whom the angel speaks, holds the Key of David. The angel says that what the Holy One opens no one can shut and what he shuts, no one can open. Artist Timothy Bay has drawn this piece in response the Antiphon’s text and the poem below.

It seems to me that John Bunyan draws from this image in Pilgrim’s Progress. In the story, Christian and Hopeful have wandered onto to the lands of Giant Despair and his wife Diffidence. Imprisoned in Doubting Castle, Christian and Hopeful are beaten and abused by this giant. But as is the way of grace, there is a sudden breakthrough. Bunyan writes,

 Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out into this passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That is good news; good brother, pluck it out of thy bosom, and try.

Taking the key out of pocket in his coat which happens to be over his heart, Christian tries the lock. It opens and this key unlocks every other lock. Hereby Christian and Hopeful escape Doubting Castle’s dungeons and the oppression of Giant Despair and his wife.

Here’s Timothy’s drawing followed by the text of the poem. As with the others, you may listen to the poem masterfully read by my father-in-law, Ed Pilkington below. As you listen, consider what doors you need the Lord to open for you in your life? Have you opened your heart to him? Has he led you out of the prison house?

”O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
O Key of David, set my bound will free;
Unlock the door that I may walk your way—
Joyful, resolved, with bright alacrity
And step from the shadows out into day.

Rise! Mount your chariot, in your course run,
Rain down truth, pierce with your arrows of light;
Shine bright O Clavis, as the noonday sun!
Deliver me from death, dis-spell the night.

For resentment has rusted my hard heart--
The broken spring will not free the latch;
Use your key to loose, use your locksmith’s art
To turn the bolt, spring the pins, free the catch.

Lo, I see a door hung, see his pierced side,
And ent'ring my heart, the Key turns, abides.

O Come, O Come: O Lord

As the antiphons progress they become more specific. This week’s antiphon speaks of how the Lord revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush by giving his name and later how he revealed his character through the Law on Mount Sinai. The antiphon reads,

“O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

This week is a two for one installation. We have poems written by myself and Sierra Smith as well as visual art produced by Claudia Plybon and Sarah Stone.

Sierra Smith has written a poem in response to the antiphon and has used a specific form to shape her response. Can you tell what poetic form she has used? Here’s Claudia Plybon’s calligraphy of Sierra’s poem to help you. You may listen to Ed Pilkington read Sierra’s poem via the player below it.

Next is my sonnet on the same antiphon.

From Sinai's bush which blazed in holy fire
You answered, “I AM!” Gave Moses your name,
And promised your arm would reach, never tire
’Til you saved your son from slav’ry and shame.

And even while gath’ring the bread sent each day
Sheltered beneath Sinai’s thundering peak,
The people yet complain, reject, and stray
From HIM WHO IS, deliv’er of the weak.

O Lord, redeem! My arms cannot bear
The doing demands of performance lords,
Nor can avoid the tangle of sin’s snare
I'm trapped by desire, cupidity’s cords.

Baring his arm I AM reached to the lost
By taking the wood of manger and cross.

You may listen to Ed Pilkington read the sonnet via the player below.

Below are two pictures by Grace Kernersville artist, Sarah Stone. There are a couple of things to note regarding the image. Firstly, notice how the light in the building’s foyer where the picture was taken and how the camera impact the the color of the image. This is important to note and is interesting. You never see the same painting the same way twice. Secondly notice the cross. Sarah made a mosaic using the pieces of a compact disc. Can you see how the light is refracted by cd’s surface? That was something I only noticed after looking at the picture.

Thanks for reading and have a blessed advent!

O Come, O Come: O Wisdom

One of the things I look forward to each church season are the ways Grace Kernersville creatives collaborate to provide a means for us as a congregation to walk through a church season. The use of the creative engages our imaginations in a way that allows us to experience something from the inside. This bridges from knowing about something to knowing what it means.

The project for this Advent is based on the Great O Antiphons. You may read the introduction to the series HERE.

The first week’s antiphon is O Wisdom (Sapientia). It is the first and vaguest of the antiphons. This is to be expected because as the antiphons progress, they become more specific and clear. This is right because in the same way, the mystery of the Lord’s coming Anointed One grows with respect to clarity. The promise unfolds or is revealed.

The O Wisdom installation is composed of three parts. The first is a poem which I wrote based on the antiphon itself. The second is the artwork created by visual artist, Hannah Lis, based upon the texts of both the poem and the text. And thirdly, the poem is read by my father-in-law, Ed Pilkington who is a professional actor and who taught theater and speech in North Carolina for over 30 years — mostly at Appalachian State. It is not an understatement to say that Ed instructed a generation of Southern artists and as many more North Carolina educators.

The poetic form for the poems I have written are sonnets. Particularly they are Shakespearean sonnets, and these rhymed verses in iambic pentameter serve as a kind of lingua franca for actors and writers. Not that I am in anyway comparing my words with the Bard’s. However, iambic pentameter suits an actor’s love of the spoken word, and Ed’s readings make my words sound so much better.

Here are each of the components of the installation.

The antiphon, O Wisdom reads:

“O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, 
reaching from one end to the other mightily, 
and sweetly ordering all things: 
Come and teach us the way of prudence.”

You may listen to my father-in-law read the antiphon and my sonnet via the player below.

O Wisdom

In the silence, before words, songs, or speech,
The Spirit breathes over the water's night;
The Most High speaks; Wisdom readies to teach,
Drive away darkness, sing: "Let there be light!"

O'er Sinai, I AM in glory thunders;
Wisdom speaks again, makes her precepts known,
Reveals the way, writing worded wonders,
Her purpose and promise on tablets of stone.

David's Branch shall come, rule with right wisdom;
Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God of Might,
O'erturn the proud, exalt in His Kingdom
The meek and low whom he heals, mends, makes right.

Tonight, Wisdom waits, poised in the world's wild--
Inhales to speak through the cries of a child.

And finally, Grace Kernersville artist, Hannah Lis, created this acrylic on canvas painting in response to the poem and the antiphon. How do you read what she has created? What story is she telling?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

This Sunday marks the first Sunday of Advent. As we recognize the season, and prepare to celebrate the birth of the Son of David, Jesus. Grace Gallery will be installing artwork and poetry each week in our foyer’s gallery space. I am very excited about these artists and their endeavors. We will have pen and ink, pencil and graphite, acrylic on canvas, fiber arts, and who knows what else. I am excited to see what they have made.

The show is titled, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It draws is inspiration from the Great O Antiphons from which the Advent carol by the same name also does. The O Antiphons are 8th Century texts written by and English monastic as a means to walk the last seven days before Christmas Eve. In each of the Antiphons you find an Old Testament prophecy referring to the coming of one who would set all things right.

The following artists are participating in crafting something, visual, written, or interpretive. They are: Hannah Lis, Sierra Smith, Sarah Stone, Jennifer Edwards, Timothy Bay, Phoebe Dell’Arena, Sophie-Earle McCraw, and Adah Freeman. Each artists has taken up one of the Antiphon themes and is responding to poems on the Antiphons which I have previously written. This dialogue between word and visual art is called ekphrasis which means to “draw out” or “tell out.” In addition, I have recruited my father-in-law, Ed Pilkington, who taught Theater and Speech at Applachian State for many years, to read the poems for us which you’ll be able to access online.

I can’t wait to see this all together, and I am so grateful to them for their hard work and beautiful art. I know you will be too.

-Pastor Randy

Christ the King

November 22 marks the last Sunday of the church calendar and is the Feast of Christ the King. As it falls with Thanksgiving, the significance Christ the King Sunday is sometimes missed. Christ the King is the culmination of the church year. We have followed the life of Christ Advent to Pentecost, and we live the life of the church the second half of the year as we await in eager expectation for the return of the King of kings. Christ the King Sunday reminds us of that one hope we share.

With Thanksgiving we often sing (and we will this Sunday) “Come! Ye Thankful People, Come”. This hymn dovetails nicely with Christ the King Sunday, because it speaks of Lord’s harvest at the end of all things. Here are the lyrics from Henry Alford’s hymn.

Come, ye thankful people, come, 
raise the song of harvest home; 
all is safely gathered in, 
ere the winter storms begin. 
God our Maker doth provide 
for our wants to be supplied; 
come to God's own temple, come, 
raise the song of harvest home. 

All the world is God's own field, 
fruit as praise to God we yield; 
wheat and tares together sown 
are to joy or sorrow grown; 
first the blade and then the ear, 
then the full corn shall appear; 
Lord of harvest, grant that we 
wholesome grain and pure may be. 

For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home; 
from the field shall in that day 
all offenses purge away, 
giving angels charge at last 
in the fire the tares to cast; 
but the fruitful ears to store 
in the garner evermore. 

Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home; 
gather thou thy people in, 
free from sorrow, free from sin, 
there, forever purified, 
in thy presence to abide; 
come, with all thine angels, come, 
raise the glorious harvest home.

The Good Shepherd

This morning the Men prayed as we do each Friday morning. We have been reading through and praying through John’s gospel. Today we read John 10 about the Good Shepherd, the great theme of the Scriptures taken up by David, expounded on by the prophets, and fulfilled in Jesus. In a week of so much that is flying around, it is a great comfort to me. I hope it is to you as well.

Below is a sonnet written as a meditation on the Good Shepherd. It helped me to write it, I hope it will be a help to you.

By mid-morning, my circumstance it seems
Has closed the door to friendship, joy, and rest
And locked out of love, my loneliness leaves
Me as a sheep lost, alone, dispossessed.

Without a shepherd or a sheepfold I
Am left the afternoon to wander this waste,
Make due only with life under the sky
Live for myself, give no mercy, dis-graced.

Though evening comes, you leave all and seek
The one sheep who wandered that morn away;
Would you for me leave ninety-nine to keep
And carry me home before the end of the day?

Leading through the door, lying down in the breach,
Giving your life, I rest, breathe heavy, and sleep.

© Randall Edwards 2018
Artwork: James Tissot [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Election Eve Prayer

Pastor Darin Stone is Mission to North America‘s chaplain serving North Carolina’s Ministry to State. On Monday, November 2, Pastor Stone will be leading a prayer meeting at Grace Kernersville for our nation, our state, our elected officials, and the church in our time from 6:30-7:30pm. The service is open to the public but space is limited to 50 persons. Please register via Church Center HERE.

Pastor Stone preach at Grace in June. His sermon blessed our congregation, and I know it will still bless you. Click on the “chapter” marker in the video below to view his sermon.

Click the chapter marker to view Rev Stone’s sermon, My Kingdom Is Not of This World.

Rooted in Christ

Over the past two years, the older primary aged children have been working on an Advent Christmas project. They have been making Jesse Tree ornaments for their own Jesse Trees.

The Jesse Tree is a medieval motif which potrays the prophetic promise that from the stump of Jesse and new shoot would grow. The Jesse Tree depicts the descendants and sometimes even ancestors of Jesse to recognize their fulfillment in the true Son of David, Jesus.

Here is an example of a Jesse Tree taken from a 12th Century codex held in the library of the Lambeth Palace.

The Jesse Tree Ornament Project is coupled with Rooted in Christ so that students hear and see the single story of the gospel. The ornaments themselves are hung each day in Advent in much the way an Advent Calendar works. Each ornament signifies a specific Old Testament event, theme, or person which points to the coming of Messiah, the Christ.

Because we were unable to continue our project through the pandemic, children will be meeting each week instead of monthly as before. This will allow the children to catch up and finish their ornaments by Christmas.

For those unable to attend on Sunday morning, both the teaching time and the instruction on how to make the ornament will be videoed and posted online each week. You may pick up a packet from the church office the week prior to that week’s lesson, just let Pinkney Greene or Jennifer Edwards know that you are wanting one.

Here is this week’s lesson and the instructions for making the Moses and Ten Commandments Jesse Tree Ornament.

A link for this week’s lesson and questions may be found HERE.

A link for instructions on how to make a Jesse Tree ornament may be found HERE.