Why Do You Stand Looking Up?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Greetings Theophilus

Greetings Theophilus, welcome to the continued Easter story, the continuation of Christ’s appearances after his resurrection. Welcome to the story of Jesus ascending into heaven as he gives his disciples instruction for their commissioning into the world and to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The book of Acts is addressed to Theophilus, which some scholars believe was a convert to Christianity who was seeking instruction from the writer, however, Theophilus, in Greek, is translated as friend or lover of God.  And we as the people of God, the ones who choose to be followers of Jesus Christ, we hope to be and base our lives on being friends and lovers of God.  So even if Theophilus was a real person, we can envision that this book is written to us as we hold the title of friend and lover of God.  So let us take note, of this story as Jesus speaks to his disciples and the writer shares this story as they speak to a lover of God, a friend of the Most High.

Abide In My Love

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston

 I. Defining Love

 Love.  It has been classified as both a noun and a verb.  It is both a thing and an action, it is a thing that we can give and receive, but it also an action that we as human beings can take.  The fact that it is a noun and a verb add to its complexity, part of the reason why we tend to find it hard to define.  The dictionary might define it as a deep feeling of affection, and the act of feeling and giving that affection. Love is the caring and the nurturing of one another, it is the act of giving one’s self for the growth and betterment of someone else.  We are talking about love, love that comes from the heart, love that transforms lives, love that is unconditional, and love that resides in Christ.  We are talking about love.  We as Christians, who have journeyed this Christian walk with the one we call savior, the one we call the messiah, the one we call Christ who is at the center of our faith, we have come to understand that probably the simplest definition of love is Jesus.

About Whom Does the Prophet Speak?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Good News of Easter

I know that for many of us, Easter was several weeks ago, it’s a special time where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And it is probably one of the most special days in the life of the Church. However, that day of resurrection is more of a resurrection season, so we as the larger church are still in this Easter season, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is not the specific date of Easter, but we are still in the season where we celebrate the joy of our risen Lord.  We celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ, and we are so overcome with joy about Jesus granting us new life, that we seek to spread it to all the world.  Our scripture this morning takes place after the death and resurrection of our Lord.  It is situated at a time when the disciples were going around to share the good news of Jesus Christ, in a time after the resurrection, ushering in a new time where God’s grace was extended to both Jew and Gentile.  They were sharing with the world, their genuine experience with the promised messiah, the risen King, that he had transformed their lives through his teachings.  Jesus taught the disciples great new things that taught them love and transformed the societal norms that had shaped the structure of their religious rules and tradition. They were sharing their witness, that they had seen him sit with the social outcast and heal the sick that many had given up on.  They were sharing with the world that they had seen him nailed to a cross and crucified, they had witnessed his death.  But that was not the end of the story. They had to share the continuation of the story, they had to proclaim that even though they had witnessed his death, that they had laid him in a tomb this was not the end, not by far. The good news of the story is what comes next.  They were sharing with the world that they had witnessed his death, but also his resurrection which brought about new life for all who accept it.  This means that the gospel is not only reserved for a set group of people, but offered to all people, near and far.  The good news was extended to all people, all people are included, Jew and Gentile alike.  It is extended to the Jew, the Gentile, the Roman, the Greek, the man, the woman, the non-binary individual, the white person, the black person, the brown person, the indigenous person, the Asian person, those in the LGBTQ community, the rich, the poor, and so many more because the gospel is for all people.  All people in the world.  And many of the disciples were so faithful to God and the spread of this good news birthed through the teachings, life, and death of Jesus Christ that they were willing to endure such persecution, some even giving their very lives, just so that all might have the opportunity to receive God’s grace.

Share The Love Of Jesus Christ

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Our Mission 

This week we conclude our sermon series on our mission statement where we focus on the substantial pieces of this mission statement of ours.  We claim that this mission statement shapes our work as this body of Christ.  To Grow in Faith.  Serve Others.  And Share the love of Jesus Christ.  In these three weeks, we have covered that we are centered on the foundation that is Jesus Christ.  The foundation is the piece that reinforces the structure above it, pushing forces to hold it up, while dispersing the weight that presses down upon it.  If not for the foundation, a building will not be able to support its weight, it will not be able to stand up.  And we in the church are the same way, we cannot function, we cannot hold ourselves up, we cannot sustain ourselves if we do not first center ourselves on our foundation, Jesus Christ.  But as we have said for the past couple of weeks, our mission statement is the framework built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, that shapes the ministry that we do, it is the thing that shapes how we, as living stones, come together to do work that builds the Kingdom of God.  So, we as the people of God, the Church, Cheltenham United Methodist Church, proclaim that the ways we will contribute to building the Kingdom of God are To Grow in Faith. Serve others. And Share the Love of Jesus Christ.  So, this morning, we focus on our task to share the love of Jesus Christ.  God has called us to function in love, and not just any love but the love that was modeled in Jesus Christ.  It is a task that all of us as Christians are called to do.  We are to love one another and be so connected to our God that we are perfected in God’s love, living in a way that God’s love intrinsically flows out of us. 

Serve Others

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Beginnings

This morning, we continue our sermon series that digs into our mission statement, where we explore three key points.  To Grow in Faith. Serve Others. And Share the Love of Jesus Christ. As we covered last week, these three points are the things that should shape the work that we do as a church. As a church, a collective of people who claim to be followers of Christ, we first and foremost must center ourselves on Jesus as the foundation. If we are to hold to the metaphor we used last week, we will remember that the foundation of a building is the solid base that reinforces the structure above it, the foundation is what connects the structure to the ground and upholds the heavy load of the structure above ground. The foundation must not only withhold the weight of the structure pressing down on it, but it must disperse the weight throughout the base solidifying it to the earth and press forces up to keep the building standing.  If not for the foundation, then the building itself will not be able to sustain its weight and it would collapse upon itself.  The Church, the gathered people of God, is just like that building,  we are the living stones of a building that are used by God to build up the Kingdom of God, but our central foundation, that holds us up, that grounds us to the work of God, is and must be Jesus Christ.  If we do not center ourselves on Jesus, we fall apart.

Grow In Faith

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Christ Is Our Foundation

This week we begin our sermon series that digs deep into our mission statement.  We start our three sermon series that explores the three key points in our mission statement, the statement we have claimed should shape the work, we, Cheltenham United Methodist Church do to further the Kingdom of God.  These three points proclaim that we want to growth in faith, serve others, and share the love of Jesus Christ. We stand in the boldness that as people of God, God wants to Grow in Faith, Serve Others, and share the Love of Jesus Christ. 

I Have Seen The Lord

Pastor Rachel Livingston 

 I. A Visit From Mary Magdalene

Let me tell you about the day that my life changed! It changed forever! The day my whole world was transformed! The day my life was never the same again! And I believe that what I have seen can transform your life as well.  Because I have seen the Lord.  And he has shown me his power over life and death! And because I have seen Jesus, he has told me the good news of his resurrection, and he tasked me with sharing it with whomever I meet.  I have seen the Lord! And if you cannot tell, I am brimming over with joy, I am so elated.  I honestly can’t control my emotions right now.  But let me back up and take a breath, let me breathe in and breathe out, (breathe in and breathe out) so that I might calm myself down –  so that you can hear me, and hear me well, so that you can understand everything that I am saying as I tell you about how my life was changed.  Because my story, my witness, if you listen closely can change your life as well.  It shapes the foundation of our faith and shows us what Jesus has done for us.  I’m telling you, I have seen the Lord! And because of it, life will never be the same for either of us.

Who’s The King We Serve?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

I. Hosanna! 

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest! Save us now Lord! Save us now! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven! These are the words that we know so well as we celebrate this Palm Sunday, as we march toward Easter, the resurrection Sunday, and commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus within the city of Jerusalem! We hear these words stated with such boldness and vigor, with such affirmation as the people lift up Jesus as he walks through the street.   They acknowledge that he is the one who comes to save.  Hosanna! Save us now Jesus! Save us now! They are honoring the fact that he is the King they choose because he has acknowledged their worth and affirms them far beyond what the Emperor had ever done.  They may not know how he is going to save, and they may have an incorrect notion of how he might save, based on the ancestral stories they have heard over and over again passed down from generation to generation.  But they know that this man, this King has come to save God’s people, that he comes in the name of the Lord, and has affirmed and loved the people who have suffered oppression and been cast out in the constructs of society.  If no one else would save them, surely he would, because he saw their condition, he saw their pain, but most of all he saw them – he peered deep within their soul and showed them a love like no other.

Can Life Come From Death?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston

 I. The Ugliness Of Death 

Death! The overhanging, looming darkness of the end of life itself.  The big black dark cloud whose inevitability we often ignore until it’s staring us in the face.  We literally spend our whole lives trying to avoid the dreariness of death, because it makes us uncomfortable.  We don’t understand it, and we never like to sit in the midst of it.  It is not a warm companion to us, but an unwanted friend that likely hangs over us and meets us at some point, most likely the lowest moment of our lives,  whether we like it or not.  It terrifies us and makes us weep.  But it is a part of life that is inevitable.  We reject conversations with our family members that surround death – what is in their will, what should we do in certain situations, and where should we look for answers, how will certain things be paid – all these things, while important, haunt us, even if it asks what happens after one’s death and reveals their desires after they pass.  We don’t want to face our own death or the death of our loved one because it makes us reconcile with our own mortality and face our own loss.  So we avoid these conversations because it delays our moment where we have to confront death face to face, with ourselves and our loved ones.  We even try to push away our grief and our sorrow, our weeping and our heartbreak when we are sitting in the moments where we must confront death.  We don’t like it, and evidence would show that we cannot handle it, or at least we have extreme difficulty with confronting the reality of death in our lives.  But no matter how much we hate death, it is a steady part of life.  And it could even be argued that life cannot exist without death. 

Sitting With Jesus

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston

 I. Shaking Of The Foundations

What happens when what you begin to doubt the things that you have built your entire life on?  What happens when you know someone who may have the answers, but that person would be an embarrassment to the life you have established for yourself? Where do you go and what do you do?  What happens when the very foundation of your life seems to be crumbling beneath you and life as we know it makes no sense?  What happens when the one who may have all the answers may have you question the very essence of your life and being?  What happens? What do you do?