Where are we located?

Where are we located?

Grace Church is located at 360 Hopkins Road in Kernersville, NC.

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Weekly Updates

Weekly Updates

Check here for the most current updates and resources as Grace Kernersville responds to the current crisis.

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Grace Notes: Pastor's Blog

Grace Notes: Pastor's Blog

Ordinary Prayer Thursday evening at 7:00pm. Here's a paraphrase of Psalm 12 to help you pray.

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Station Six: The Descent

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).”

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Holy Week at Grace Kernersville

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.

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The Fifth Station: The Crucifixion

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.

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The Denial

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?

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Tanner, Tolkien and A New Age

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.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

Henry Ossawa Tanner [Public domain]

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.

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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 Station: The Kiss

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.

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The Second Station: Watch with Me

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.

Keatol Sapp 2020

The First Station: The Anointing

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?

1 The Anointing (c) Keaton Sapp

Lent 2020

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.

Malcolm Guite will be posting daily on his website his own an other’s poetry and thoughts which are found in more detail in his Lent devotional, Word in the Wilderness. You may access his blog 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.

Julie Canlis has a great talk, Lent to the Rescue, which you may view on YouTube HERE. And you may access a more detailed series she did for her church HERE.

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.