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 church calendar and the most current updates and resources at Grace Kernersville.
The first in the "O Come, O Come..." Advent art installation is up. Here is "O Wisdom."
Sunday, June 7 at 7:00pm is an online reception for Grace Kernersville’s Lent and Easter art installation titled, The Stations of the Cross. Join Kevin McClain of Gate City Gate House, Randy Edwards of Grace Kernersville, and Keaton Sapp whose art makes up the exhibit for an online reception to discuss the exhibit, art, and the place of beauty in the life of the church. The event will conclude with a virtual walking of the stations.
You may access the handout which includes the scripture passages, artwork, and poetry via this link: HERE
On Sunday we continue our series in Galatians titled, The Free Life. This Sunday’s passage contains one of the most counter-cultural verses in the Scriptures. Paul writes,
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.Galatians 3:27-29
It is such a beautiful reality. Our relationship with God is not contingent upon our race or socio-economic status or sex, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. And because that is our reality with God, it is the reality with God’s people…at least it should be. These past weeks have reminded us of how far we have yet to see it realized. It is in fact the same kind of world to which Paul was writing.
In Galatia, Antioch, and Jerusalem, life was full of much the same. Political unrest, mobs, corruption, injustice, brutality, crime, famine, and disease. How any Christian in any time responds to those realities is one of the most significant things a Christian does each day. How we step forward in faith is the ongoing, burning question of each of our Christian lives. The Galatians found themselves tested and tempted by the law-reliers (the Judaizers) who offered security through a way of life that would in effect bypass the dynamic life of faith for the static status of self-reliance.
Paul tells the Galatians that a Christian steps into and lives out the New Life not by taking something off (i.e. circumcision) but by putting Christ on. And putting Christ on means not merely exchanging my dirty garments for his clean ones, but it means taking up his cross to suffer with him, showing forth his love to our neighbors, living in meekness and humility as he did. It means embodying hope as we take up and put on his resurrection which is a promise fulfilled but one that is still being realized. Yes, it is being realized, but it is in this way: in our clay vessels is deposited a treasure that far outweighs our light and momentary trials. We are being renewed by his Spirit which dwells within us day by day.
Even so, as much as we put on Christ and rejoice in Him who has given us the victory, we continue to thirst for him. Rather than being a deficiency in the gospel or in the salvation Jesus has secured, our thirst is current situation in which we find ourselves. This is the ongoing cry of God’s children, “We are thirsty, Lord. Give us the living water.” Thankfully, the Lord is eager to give us that water.
The danger for Christians are not the wars, famines, pestilence, or even death. The danger is that we quit asking. It’s just too much to cry out for more. It’s too much to wait on him. It’s too much to endure the suffering without knowing the immediate conclusion. We look for anything to give us leverage against the unknown. We double down on rules, mandates, schedules, and lists. These things will save us or at least give us a sense of accomplishment as we endure waiting the trouble out.
Volitionality is important. It is an important marker of having a personal sense of freedom, but it is not freedom itself. In the unrest and uncertainty of this past week and last months, along with all that needs doing (and there is much), we need to pray out our need and disappointment, anger, sadness, and thirst. The prayer of Lament is a helpful place to start. And as you pray, ask the Lord for the Water of Life which restores the land and satisfies the people.
Should you like some direction on praying out the cry of thirstiness, here are a couple of Psalms to consider reading and praying through: Psalm 3, 22, 62, 64, 69, 70, and 77.
This Sunday is Pentecost. Pentecost means “fiftieth”, and it is 50 days following the first Sunday after Passover Sabbath or Easter Sunday. Pentecost is the feast of weeks in the Jewish calendar and was the time in which the first fruits of the harvest were gathered and offered to God. Thousands more had gathered in Jerusalem for this festival, but the disciples, who had witnessed Jesus’ ascension ten days earlier, stayed in Jerusalem to wait, as Jesus commanded, on the coming of the Holy Spirit. Having continued to gather in the Upper Room to pray and worship, on Pentecost, the disciples received the Holy Spirit who entered their room as a Mighty Wind and who descended upon them as tongues of fire. This event marks the beginning of New Creation in the life of the church. Sometimes Pentecost is referred to as the birthday of the church. In this light, it is an appropriate term. New Creation has come.
The Holy Spirit did not merely come to give life, but the Holy Spirit came to empower the disciples to proclaim the gospel and to equip them to minister in Jesus’ name. Empowered by the Spirit, the disciples are gifted to speak so that all those gathered in Jerusalem heard the gospel proclaimed in their native tongue no matter from where they came.
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends to hover over the chaos of the world and brings to fruition the command of the Word. Applying the new creation, the Holy Spirit unites the disciples to Christ and restores our relationship with the Father. But we are not only restored to God, but we are restored to one another. For at Pentecost (and through Christ), the Holy Spirit, undoes the curse of Babel. Humanity is being united, not in an endeavor of striving up to lay hold of heaven, but through the grace which reaches down to gather us in.
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.