Life A’int Been No Crystal Stair

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
 
                                                                                       
 

I. Beginning

Persecution and hardship.  We meet Paul, one of the most influential people within our doctrine, on his journey of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, as he is facing imprisonment.  We aren’t exactly sure where, because there were quite a few times that Paul was in prison.  However, we encounter a piece of his letter to the Christians in Philippi, a church that he established, and a church that holds a special place in his heart.  These Christians of Philippi cared for Paul, just as much as he cared for them – it was a mutual relationship of respect and compassion.  When the Christians of Philippi heard of Paul’s imprisonment they sent a messenger to him that they might meet his needs – they functioned as a collective communal unit in ways that meet the needs of the collective, bringing comfort to those experiencing pain and turmoil.  They were what the church aspires to be, they are an example for how we should care for one another within the body. And as Paul receives care from the Philippians, he sends back this letter of exhortation and encouragement that pushes them to continue in following the gospel of Jesus Christ.


The Prime Directive

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
                                                                                                             

I. Beginnings

Space – the final frontier – voyages of the starship enterprise to explore new worlds, seek out new life and new civilization, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.  So I have a confession, for some of you that may be sci-fi fans, based on the first few statements I made a moment ago, by now it may be no secret that I am a bit of a Star Trek fan.  I am a bit of a science fiction fan,  which include both Star Wars and Star Trek, which is probably a little known fact about me. However, my previous life of mechanical engineering and science fiction fan parents, sparked an interest in the action of science fiction dramas. And when it comes to the Star Trek Franchise, I must admit I am more familiar with the next generation than the original series, although I have seen both. But as I reveal a hobby of mine, I admit that exploring the new worlds, mechanical structures of spaceships, and even the political exploration of these fictional places are a specific interest of mine. 


A Model For The Church

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
 
                                                                                           

 I. Beginning

Imagine a world where people are at each other’s throats. Where people just cannot get along. Where society is polarized on the right or left sides and there seems to be no middle ground.  Where people demean and hate one another.  Imagine a world where people are so caught up in their own opinions that they ignore the hurt right in front of them, the hurt caused by racism, sexism, classism – the hurt caused by society casting people out – the hurt caused by societal structures that leave the weight of the world on a person’s neck – the hurt that ignores any sense of peace, love, and justice.  Imagine a world where there is civil unrest in the streets.  Imagine a world where we are closed off from each other and that ostracizing from one another has caused significant rifts within our communication and has caused us to disagree about best practices on how to solve the problem.  Imagine a world when the political climate is so polarized where people want nothing to do with those on the other side of the aisle and people believe the worst, evil, mean, and vindictive things about one another.  Imagine this world – this world where peace, love, and justice are stifled.  Do you even need to imagine? Or can you see these things unfold in our own world – can you see the places of rupture within our own world?
If we took a survey of our world, do you think that our Lord Jesus Christ would be pleased?  More accurately, we should ask the question, do you think that Jesus would be happy with the church, or would he see that we have in some ways contributed to these rifts in community within society? Have we helped the situation or have we harmed it by contributing to it?


Who Do You Say That I Am?: Part 2

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
                                                                                                         

 I. Review

Who do you say that I am?  This question still hangs in the air – resounding and reverberating in our ears as we try to internalize who Jesus is, that we might share it with the world.  We take our question and we pick up where we left off last week.  We can envision that we are sitting right next to the disciples, on the outside looking in, waiting for our direction from Jesus.  We are situated right in Casarea Phillippi, this place known for its grotto, its forest, its trees, and pastoral scenes.  We can imagine that we are sitting in a pastoral field with wildflowers, sitting near a brook, where the words of Jesus can be heard just above the sound of the calming spring nearby.  Again, Jesus has isolated the disciples from the rest of the world that they might be able to focus on his teaching uninterrupted.  We have just witnessed that Jesus gives Peter praise for his revelation, a revelation that could have only been revealed to him through the Spirit.  He says that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the LIVING God – and for that Jesus extols Peter, tells him that he has been given the Keys to the Kingdom, his revelation is the foundation of the church. The church is built upon this concept that Jesus is Messiah, the son of the living God.  But yet, this praise seems to be short lived.  Just as quickly as Peter is praised, he is then rebuked for his later outburst. How could someone be so right and then seconds later be so wrong? Jesus begins to say that he must suffer persecution and death, defining what we now know is part of the role of Jesus, the Son of Man, the messiah, the Son of the Living God.  But Peter had no clue, its easy for us to have a more full understanding because we exist on the other side of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but he was still expecting the proclamation of the messiah to be someone who was a warrior, someone who would come with blades of glory wielding the power of God that the people of Israel might be restored from is second-class level of oppression to its former glory of one nation under the direction of God.  But that was again a misperceived notion of who Jesus is, you see he had to understand who in fact Jesus was in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. The messiah is complex, counter-cultural, and beyond the constraints we try to put on him.  


Who Do You Say That I AM?: PArt 1

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
                                                                                               

 I. Beginnings

Who do you say that I am?  The question of the hour – as it falls from the lips of Jesus and travels through the air in soundwaves to the ears of the disciples.  A question that holds such weight, and yet brings up many questions as well for the disciples.  Who are you Lord, if not the one we have dedicated our lives to, the one we have left our families to follow?  Who do I say that you are, well you must be the messiah? Who else would I have uprooted my life for?  These are likely the unspoken feelings of the disciples as they feel questioned about their faith and their faithfulness to Jesus.


We Are United

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
                                                                                   

 I. Beginning

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity – it creates a warm feeling that creates imagery of anointing and covering, the rhythmic creation of beauty in words that is written out by our psalmist.  Words that might be able to evoke emotion, that might be able to be placed over a melodic rhythm to birth the feelings of the soul. The book of psalms has put words, in a poetic fashion, that can be used as hymns or prayers for the Christian to verbalize the concept of their relationship with God on this journey which each of us calls life.  The Psalms has provided us with the words of lament when we are sad and broken, it has given us the words to verbalize praise towards our God, it gives us the words of thanksgiving to thank God for all the ways that God has been with us along the journey, it has even been able to give us words of wisdom that allow us to further and strengthen our relationship with the God who walks with us and talks with us and resides with us and tells us that we are God’s own.  This psalm that we point to today is of no exception to this criteria in that it verbalizes the words of wisdom that help us to grow further in this relationship with God, and allows us to envision the beauty present in this action.


Where Is God Moving

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
 
 

 I. Beginning

WANTED: Dead or Alive.  The decree had gone out, Elijah was a wanted man.  Jezebel had seen the destruction that Elijah had brought about according to the Lord’s will, because the people had chosen to worship Baal over God, and for it she wanted blood.  She would not rest until Elijah, the servant and prophet of the Lord, was killed.  His life was at stake, and Jezebel wanted his head served on a platter – to her, he was worthless and no longer deserved to live.  He was WANTED: Dead or Alive!  The word had been spread throughout the land, passing from person to person as a decree, with the expectation that those who heard it would turn over this prophet of the Lord, unless they wanted to meet the same fate. Surely in this moment Elijah felt his heart begin to race, a heavy fear and sorrow weighed down on him, he began to jitter, his mind was all scattered, and his whole body began to sweat – for he was a Wanted Man – Wanted Dead or alive.  And if the monarchy was successful in catching him, surely his life was over.  God had called him to be a prophet, but nowhere in this agreement did Elijah conceive that doing this work of God, would cause him to meet his demise.  He was a Wanted Man – Wanted Dead or Alive. The only solution to preserve his life was to flee – to head on a journey that could somehow keep him out of harms way.


Jesus Healed Me

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
 
                                                                                           
 
* This sermon was a first person narrative, going into the eyes of someone who might have attended  Jesus feeding of the 5000 
 
Have you heard the good news of Jesus Christ? Have you heard about this man from Galilee named Jesus? Have you seen him and the things he can do? Come close and sit with me a while, while I tell you the how he changed my life. Many of the people in town had heard mention of a man named Jesus, a man whose name meant messiah or savior – his name passed throughout the streets of town, it was whispered from ear to ear as the gossip melodiously went from person to person, falling off the tongues of those who speak and landing in the ears of many with great jubilation and mystery.  The things he could do, the miracles he performed, the things he was teaching, how he had the nerve to spend time with the rejected and the tax-collector.  The words spoken about him seemed to be some form of fiction, surely this man who could do all this, did not exist; surely he was some sort of myth. I mean, how could someone who did all this be from Nazareth? I had even heard it whispered that he was the messiah, come to establish the reign of the Kingdom of God.  I’m sure that made him a threat to some, because according to the Romans the emperor who ruled and reigned, manifested the will and presence of the gods.  And the Pharisees, well something about them made it clear that they were just not too fond of this Jesus, he ruffled too many feathers, and claimed to be some sort of fulfillment of the scripture.  It all just seemed so odd, something you would find quite mysterious. It was all so intriguing.


Who Can Separate Us

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
July 26, 2020
                                                                                   
 
 

I. Beginning

Who can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ – maybe the hardship of the struggles that life brings us, the difficulty with finances, the unfavorable diagnosis from the doctor – or maybe the distress of life – of the heartache of losing a loved one, the poverty existent that brings us to the place where we don’t know how to pay one bill without sacrificing our money for another bill, the weight of the world closing in on us from anxiety or depression.  Or maybe from the persecution of systems that seek to benefit off of our oppression through classism, sexism, or racism.  Or maybe from famine that leaves not even crumbs on our dinner table or barely any pennies in our pockets.  Can any of these separate us from the love of Christ? No – nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, nothing at all.  How do we know? Scripture tells us so. We turn to the scripture that has been brought together through the Holy Spirit as the primary source that helps to reveal who we know God to be.  But it cannot be denied, that sometimes as we live life, to hear that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ may feel like rhetoric rather than real life substance.