Thoughts & Updates

News, perspectives and updates from Grace Episcopal Church

Thoughts and observations by John Gibson, Vicar of Grace Episcopal Church near Clayton, NC.

The Ascension: God With You

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As a child, I thrilled watching the televised liftoffs of the Saturn V moon rockets. A mission controller would count down until the five engines belched flame and black smoke. Shuddering, white smoke streaming, ice chunks falling from its super cooled sides, the 360-foot-long, 1-million-pound rocket slowly rose from the concrete launch pad while the earth-bound gantry arms fell away. The massive white and black rocket quickly gained momentum, thundering through the air, shaking the land, taking humanity to the moon. No other rocket to this day has propelled humans beyond low earth orbit.

Almost two thousand years earlier, Jesus ascended into heaven. No cameras were there. Few witnessed it. We have no idea how. We only know that Jesus is now in heaven. God knows our human fears, hopes, struggles, joys, failures and triumphs, because God has shared them, and they are now with God.

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Sacrifice, Jesus, Memorial Day

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On Tuesday April 30th, Riley went to class like normal. Students were making their final presentations. It was the last day of the semester. That night, an all campus party was planned to celebrate the school year’s end. Riley Howell never left that classroom on the UNC Charlotte campus. He rushed a shooter, who’d opened fire, giving his life for his fellow students. The ROTC student was buried with full military honors.

Seven days later, less than two weeks before his High School graduation, Kendrick Castillo lunged at the gunman who had burst into his British Lit class at STEM School Highlands Ranch just outside of Denver. Several other students followed to subdue the attacker. Kendrick’s best friend picked up the slain Senior’s diploma for him at the school’s graduation this past Monday.

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It's About the Resurrection

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The first 40 days of the 50-day Easter season commemorate Jesus’ resurrection appearances. Notably, the Scriptures record little that the risen Jesus says to His followers. We have some important teaching. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter on the shore of Galilee, “Feed my lambs.” In Matthew’s, he exhorts His followers to make disciples. There is more but not much.

As a commentator pointed out, it seems odd. Wouldn’t you hang on every word a friend said after returning from the dead? Wouldn’t you want to know what it was like on the other side? If the many books from people who’ve been resuscitated after being pronounced clinically dead mean anything, the answer would appear to be a resounding “Yes!”

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Second Service FAQs

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As part of our preparation for resuming a second contemporary service, I'm answering frequently asked questions about this service that resumes on April 14th, when we'll offer our traditional service at 9:15 a.m. and our contemporary service at 11:11 a.m.

John Gibson

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The Lord's Prayer and the New Zealand Mosque Attack

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Sunday, March 10th, we began our Lenten sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. In preparing for this series, I was impressed by biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan’s claim that it is humanity’s greatest prayer. Although considered THE Christian prayer, Christ is never mentioned. The prayer, in fact, is deeply rooted in Judaism. All its elements can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures or ancient Jewish literature.

The opening words “Our Father” reveal that God loves everyone on this earth like a loving and caring father. And each person is our brother or sister, because God is the Father of us all.

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First Sunday in Lent aka PJ Sunday

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"What's worship like in your church?" It's reverent, traditional and playful! The pics from our traditional service on the First Sunday in Lent, a.k.a. Time Change Sunday, March 10, 2019, will show you! Since we set our clocks ahead an hour, kids of all ages were invited to wear their pjs! Yes, you'll see some children and adults in their pajamas!
 
That's just one of the playful aspects of our congregation. We also have a bounce house! After the service, children jump to their hearts content, while adults enjoy coffee hour. We hope the children will have fun and want to come to church. 
 
Preschool and elementary school children have their own video based class/prayer time for part of the service. Parents worship in peace while their children learn, craft, sing and pray at their level.
 
This service is traditional, too.  The people leading worship wear robes. We have a pipe organ, violinist, choir and beautiful hymns that have been sung for centuries by faithful followers of Jesus. Our biblically based service traces its roots to the earliest known. At its heart is communion, which we have every Sunday.
 
Another important part of our worship is community. Each Sunday, people celebrating a birthday or anniversary come forward for a prayer and blessing. People enthusiastically greet one another with the peace of Christ, too.
 
Our growing congregation currently meets in a rented, metal building. Sometimes this puts off people used to a traditional church structure. Jesus, of course, was born in a stable. As the beauty, power and love of God transformed that humble space, they have transformed this one's interior into a beautiful place to worship God.
 
John Gibson
Pastor
 
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Burying the Alleluias

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As part of our Lenten season of renewal, we take time to reflect on our lives. We observe this in our worship at the beginning of the service with a time of silence and a confession to God of what we have done and left undone. We also refrain from saying "Alleluia" during the service. The children put the alleluias into a box on March 3rd, the last Sunday before Lent. The alleluias will be raised in a joyful shout on Easter day when we praise God for Jesus' resurrection!
 
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Burning Palms for Ash Wednesday

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On the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent, we burned the palms from last year's Palm Sunday to make ashes for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The ashes are sign of our mortality and complete dependence on God. This moving ceremony tied last year's celebration of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem with our preparation for and observance of Lent, a season of spiritual renewal before the celebration of Jesus' resurrection on Easter Day.
 
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2018 Vicar's Award

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Each year, we recognize someone for his or her outstanding service to the congregation. This year, we gave thanks for Becky, one of the church's first members, who has served in almost every way possible, leadig the women's group, prayer shawl ministry, serving on the governing council in worship, singing in the choir and much more! We also thanked Otto, who in his four years at gec, has served on the governing council, led two fall pledge campaigns, written grants for the church, served in worship and much more, too! We are blessed to have such faithful servants of God!
 
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A Gift Without Strings for You

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Years ago, a colleague gave me two tickets to a Friday night performance of the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh. Someone had given the person better seats. After a long week, Cindy and I were too tired to go. The next week my colleague angrily chewed me out, saying that those tickets had cost a lot of money.

That incident started me thinking how gifts often come with strings. I was expected to attend the symphony. It didn’t matter that we were exhausted. Our need for rest was secondary. The giver’s desire was more important.

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Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

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Everything but the kitchen sink?  No way! We included it, too!  New kitchen countertops, stove AND kitchen sink have been installed!!  These renovations are part of our five-year long effort to upgrade the interior of our building!

Many new people tell me that the inside feels inviting.  I’m excited to hear that because that was our hope! We never sought to create anything luxurious. You won’t find marble or quartz!  You will find a bright, clean and warm space.

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Advent's Beautiful Dawn

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Years ago, when my family rented a beach front house on Emerald Isle, I loved watching the sunrise.  As I sat on the weathered, wooden deck with a mug of coffee, the still, early, summer morning felt like a gentle hug. Lulling waves gently crashed against the sand.  Occasionally, a distant dog bark or bird cry punctuated the quiet air. A person or two walked or jogged on the beach below. Above, the sky gradually became streaked and splashed with red, orange, purple, and pink as night gave way to day.

The four-week season of Advent that begins this Sunday reminds us that the birth of Christ is not about what we do but what God does.  Instead of getting sucked into a swirl of incessant activity, Advent encourages us to take a step back, to let go of some of the to-do’s and to experience the quiet expectation of waiting for the birth of Jesus.  If we do, Advent will reveal the hued beauty of God’s love as the world’s darkness gives way to the light of Christ.

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How You Can Help After Hurricane Florence

IMG_0421 Water for People Suffering from Florence

Water ruined almost everything she owned.  People are now assessing whether to gut the New Bern home of my sister-in-law’s mother.  My sister-in-law and brother were luckier.  Florence ripped off part of their Emerald Isle home’s roof, drenching the inside but apparently not totaling it.

While, thankfully, we in Johnston and Wake Counties were spared the brunt of Florence, our sisters and brothers to the east felt its punishing power for days.  The worst is yet to come for many, too, as the flood waters continue to rise.

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Faith in Film Sermon Series

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Hope you're having a great summer! Back by popular demand is our summer film sermon series! Over the next six weeks from Sunday July 22 - Sunday August 26, we'll look at different movies from 2018.
 
Okay, it might not be back by popular demand, but we're doing it again, anyway! It gives me a chance to watch some flicks that I wouldn't see otherwise, and, hopefully, relates Jesus' message in a way relevant for all of us.
 
What have been your favorite films this year? Reply to me with your favs. They don't have to be "religious" or "Christian." Many non-religious films have faith themes or important messages. I want to include movies that have struck a chord with you, or you've simply enjoyed. It's summer, after all!
Hope to see you this Sunday July 22nd for the kickoff of our Faith in Film Sermon Series, when we talk about Incredibles 2!
 
Blessings,
 
John Gibson
Pastor
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Dealing with Difficult People, Part 2

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They’re often the most difficult people in our lives. Others who know them think they’re nice. Frequently, they are, but they can also be our greatest challenge. They’re the ones closest – our family and co-workers.
 
They aren’t necessarily difficult in and of themselves. They simply get under your skin. They don’t listen to you. They question you and tell you what to do. They leave their stuff strewn everywhere. They don’t do their share at home or at work. The people closest are the ones most likely to drive you nuts.
 
While we all need to talk through issues and, at times, take advantage of counseling, prayer does wonders. Jesus teaches, “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When I pray for the person giving me fits, the situation generally improves somehow. I don’t know whether God changes the other person’s heart or mine, but something changes.
 
Praying for God to bless a challenging co-worker or loved one doesn’t mean being a doormat or suffering abuse. If you’re in an abusive relationship, get help. God wants you to be free from that abuse.
 
If you are struggling with a difficult person, pray for God to fill him or her with the light, love, joy and peace of Christ. You might struggle to pray for someone you’d rather strangle at that moment. While it is easier to lash out in anger, the way of the cross is the way of life. When you pick up your cross, when you pray in the way of Jesus, you unleash the life changing power of God’s love in your life and your relationships.
 
Blessings,
 
 
 

 

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Dealing with Difficult People, Part 1

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Last week Cindy and I had two dead trees removed.  While the men were working, one of our neighbors left a long voicemail complaining that they weren’t using a crane.  If anything fell on her fence, we would have to pay.

Later that same morning she came over to tell me that debris from other trees on our property were falling on her deck.  She wanted them removed, too.

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Recent comment in this post
Guest — JulieB.
John, you are Magic!
Thursday, 13 September 2018 11:51
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Membership Matters

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“Membership doesn’t matter in Episcopal churches,” said someone to me Tuesday.  Sadly, that is true in many Episcopal congregations.  It’s symptomatic of an anti-institutionalism that has swept American society since the end of the 1960’s.

 

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The Heart of God

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There is a longline of books with titles like Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers.  Their theme is the importance of change.  They make a good point.  Times change and organizations need to change, too.  We’ve made a lot of changes at our church, upgrading the interior of our facility, strengthening our worship, and expanding our ministries.  And we need to continue to change to serve God, our members and our community.

 

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One HUGE 10:00 a.m. Pentecost Service May 20th

IMG_2510 The Choir from El Buen Pastor, Durham NC

Sunday is a big day!  It’s Pentecost, one of the three main holy days of the year, when we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church and to each person who walks in the way of Jesus.  We’ve got a great service lined up for this day!

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Abundant Life

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Breaking News!!!  We’ve all heard these words thousands of times.  They’re so overused that I once heard WRAL’s David Crabtree say on air something “really” was breaking news.

Although Jesus’ resurrection might not be breaking news, I think the power it unleashes is.  People often relegate the resurrection to the next life.  Resurrection power though is available for you here and now.

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