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. 

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.  

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

Rev. Mark Schaefer
December 29, 2019—Christmas I
Isaiah 63:7–9; Matthew 2:13–23


Friends of mine throw an annual New Year’s Eve bash at their house. It doubles as a birthday celebration for my friend’s father-in-law, so the spirit of the occasion is doubly festive. It often goes late into the night and food and drink are abundant. It is a very festive time.

One year, my friends’ son was old enough to stay up for the ball drop. As the midnight hour approached, the anticipation was growing. Finally, we all gathered around the television to watch Dick Clark begin the countdown: 10–9–8–7–6–5–4–3–2–1 Happy New Year! We raised our glasses and wished one another a good new year and then everyone went back to what they had been doing a couple of minutes before.

My friends’ son was perplexed. “That’s it?” he asked. “Yup, kiddo. That’s it.” Disappointed, he went straight to bed. The anticipated event didn’t quite live up to expectations. In the end, it was just a big glass ball moving slowly down a cable in Times Square. When you think about it, it’s really not that exciting.

But sometimes, the thing we’re waiting for is exciting in and of itself. Christmas can certainly be like that. Especially when you’re a kid and the days between the arrival of the JCPenney toy catalog and Christmas Day seem to take forever.And then comes the big day and it’s glorious! All manner of toys and treats and then a big Christmas dinner with all kinds of goodies and sweets. It’s a pretty good payoff. Not like that Times Square ball at all.

But then something happens. December 26 happens. And the regular world starts to creep back in. People have to go back to work so that the day can’t quite be spent lounging around in your pajamas the way the day before had. The Christmas music stops playing on the radio and they return to their regular programming. Oh, the chirons on the football games will still read “Happy Holidays” with a snowfall graphic, but there’s a sense that Christmas is over and that’s a huge letdown. Because the magic of Christmas Day seems like the anomaly, the blip. Regular life reappears. Read more…