Be Imitators of God

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Beginnings

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, as the ones called out and adopted by God into the family of God, the body of Christ, therefore ye beloved children of the Most High God, be imitators of God, and live in love, as Christ loved us. Be imitators of God, and live in love as Christ loved us. Instruction which stands at the crux of our scripture lesson this morning. Be imitators of God, and live in love, as Christ loved us.  As the people of God, we have been tasked with and have called to being imitators of God.  To live in a kind of love, where the love that Christ has shown us, that sacrificial, no holds barred, kind of love, that agape, unconditional kind of love, is shared with other.  Now this statement to imitate God, this statement, is not a clarion call to become godlike, or to suffer in the heart of perfectionism, where we seek to be perfect in ways that we will never be nor has God called us to be, or even expect to lord over others in a form of believed superiority or oppressive dictatorship of instruction – this is not of God and we do not have the authority to stand in the place of God, the ruler of the world.  Instead, it is an exhortation to put on the mind of Christ, to love others like God would, to mimic they ways of God within the world that people might see God at work within us. We are to be imitators of God, and we have been given a bit of an instruction is on how to do this, how to conduct ourselves in our scripture this morning, that we might be successful in this.  Be imitators of God, and live in love, as Christ loved us.

Jesus: Bread of Life

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Feeling Of Hunger

Jesus: Bread of life. Food for the soul. The Head of our lives that not only sustains, us but fills the hunger of the soul of the world.  All of us have in some point of our lives been hungry, where our bodies have had to tell us that it is lacking sustenance.  That moment when our stomachs growl and we might begin to feel a little faint.  But even though we all have felt the pains of hunger, very few of us have had to deal with extreme hunger or hunger being a constant unwanted companion.  The type of hunger that makes you feel a sharp pain within your stomach as if its being tightly squeezed and the front of your stomach is touching your back. The type of hunger that causes irritability, dizziness, difficulty to focus, shaking, inability to sleep. This type of hunger changes life and makes it quite difficult to function in what some might deem “normal” life.  Quite often the people who feel this type of hunger are overlooked, ignored, and unseen.  And others who feel this type of hunger don’t want to share their experiences because they know that they will be pitied or looked down upon, or even ignored like others, where the rest of the world looks right through them without seeing them for who they really are.  They want to be known as the sweet, fun-loving, funny, diligent, hardworking people that you know them to be and not a statistic or a stereotype.  Quite often those who suffer from real hunger are seen as their current circumstance rather than people that they really are. We often label them as the hungry, “those people,” them, and not us – they are the people we pity and don’t always see as human beings, shaped and created by God, loved by God, and created in the image of God – people that are going through and unfortunate circumstance, but by no means defined by it.

The Name Of Jesus

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. What Is In A Name?

What is in a name? What story does it tell? What can be determined from a name? If our names were spread throughout the neighborhood, the community, and the world what be the story that accompanies it?  Can a name tell a story about who we are and what we do? Can it tell our legacy? Well surely as Jesus had done great things in the community, healing people and performing miracles, his name, his name had preceded him.  Word was running through the town about this man, and while they may not have understood the fullest extent of who Jesus was, they knew he was different.  And they knew that lives were being transformed by the things he was doing.  At the mere mention of the name of Jesus people were beginning to hear and become curious about the good news of Christ, the good news that transforms lives and the world.

Is Not This The Carpenter?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. They Did Not Know Who He Was

Is not this the carpenter? Is not this the one who works as an artisan with his hands to craft tables, chairs, and beautiful furniture? Is not that Mary’s oldest baby? Is not that the one we used to play in the yard with, you know the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Is that not just that guy Jesus? He is no one special.  He is no different than us.  He is just the son of Mary and Joseph.  He isn’t anything special.  He too is a product of Nazareth, the place where no good can come from.  Is not he a guy who is just like him, a guy who society would look down on, a guy who people would assume came from the wrong side of the tracks, a guy who many people would assume was poor, a guy who many would assume was unintelligent, a guy who many would take one look at and assume the worst of.  Jesus was just like them; he was nothing special. Is not, this Jesus, the carpenter? Is he not, just a carpenter?  These people had no idea how wrong they might be.  They did not value him for who he was they never really knew fully who he was.

Sunday Candy

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Set The Scene

Sunday Candy.  To set the scene of our scripture, Saul was the King of Israel, and during battle, he and his son, Jonathan, suffered death at the Mt. of Gilboa.  David, who had no relation to Saul, was chosen by God to take the throne because of God’s displeasure with Saul.  But we know that Saul was not too happy with this transition.  He was not happy that his lineage of royalty would not continue, like other kingdoms, like dynasties from other countries; he was not happy that his sons would be passed over for succession, that his legacy of the kingdom would end with him.  So, it was well known throughout the kingdom that Saul did not like David, he was jealous, he envied him, he hated him.  And yet that relationship was further complicated because David, had such a deep connection to Jonathan.  The scripture says, that for David Jonathan was greatly beloved, loved so deeply that their relationship transcended even the love that he had for any woman that he loved.  Their relationship ran deep, his love wasn’t just an ordinary love, but a deep-felt unconditional love that touched his soul and connected to the very depths of his being.  So, as David returned from a different battle, a battle in which he was victorious against the Amalekites, he learns about the death of Saul and Jonathan in the line of battle.  And his love shook him to the core, because he has such great love for Jonathan, and Saul, who deeply disliked David, he was greatly grieved by the loss of both of them.  His love was so deep that he loved someone who didn’t deserve his love, he was broken at the loss of him.  He loved so much both Jonathan and Saul, that he had to acknowledge that this was not just his loss, but the loss of the Nation.  He had a love that was almost matchless, a kind of love that is unconditional, inconsequential, without change, big and wide, with passion, something that is only surpassed by God’s love, but at the same time shows us a piece of God’s love.  Because God’s love is unconditional, it is given even when we do not deserve it because of the many times we have sinned against God, and yet it is continuously given.  It is felt so deeply that God sent God’s only begotten son to suffer death upon a cross that we might find new life.  That is how deeply our God loves.  So, what does candy have to do with our scripture this morning? And what is Sunday Candy?

Jesus, Do You Not care?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Alarming Title

The title of the sermon is quite alarming, quite jarring.  Its troublesome because we want to always believe that Jesus cares, we want to always think that Jesus loves us and is concerned with us.  We don’t want to ever stand in front of Jesus and proclaim we are displeased with him, dissatisfied, or worried that he doesn’t hear us, because our faith tells that Jesus is always loving and caring.  How dare we ask Jesus if he cares, because the resounding answer to that is of course, yes, of course he does.  But when we are in the midst of the storm, when we are in the eye of the storm, when the waves are beating upon us, even if we don’t admit it, even if we don’t vocalize it, don’t state those words, in the midst of the storm beating upon us, we may think and wonder, Jesus are you there? And do you care? Great teacher, great messiah, do you not care? Do you not care that the storm is beating upon us and we are perishing, we are suffering? Jesus, do you not care?
I mean if we really consider the storm, we can see the dark clouds slowly roll in, they surround us in darkness and the brightness of the sunshine is blocked out by the heavy clouds.  The rumblings of thunder can be heard from far off as they gradually come closer, the loud sound disorients us and frightens some of us as we never know exactly when we might hear it, and aren’t aware it’s coming.  The loud boom of the thunder disrupts the peace that we have created for ourselves.  As the storm rolls in, lightening lights up the sky letting us know the storm’s power, so we run for cover because we know that lightening brings more than just light, but the possibility of destruction and certain death if it gets close. And then as the storm arrives in the midst of the darkness, the boom of the thunder and the lightening, the rain begins to fall, it beats upon us with power and might, the wind blows and causes distress.  In the midst of the fullness of the storm we re scared, we are worried, we are disoriented, and things don’t make any sense. We are hurting, struggling and suffering as the storm continues to beat upon us with reckless abandon. And the storm is hanging above us.  We know that in theory the storm will end, but as we sit in it we pray for the time it will end, the struggle seems so long and we look for some sense of relief, some break in the wind, some rolling back of the clouds, some glimpse of sunshine or at least the calm of twilight.

The Nature of The Kingdom of God

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Jesus Spoke In Parables

As Jesus went throughout the countryside, teaching the good news, the word of the Lord he spoke in parables.  Stories for a people who lived in an oral tradition, who would have been drawn in by stories that related to their lives and time.  Stories they could have heard to make allegorical conclusions about their faith and relationship God as they heard the metaphors that related to their agricultural lives.  Surely, they understood what they experienced daily, so Jesus met them where they were giving them the gospel in ways they might understand.  He spoke to the crowd in parables in ways they were able to hear it.  Thank God Jesus knows us well enough to meet us where we are, that we might digest our theology, in this instance on the Nature of the Kingdom of God in ways we may understand.  However, as a generation far removed from this time we better understand the parables through the eyes of the disciples as the received further instruction on the parables.  Because of their instruction, they were able to spread these concept to the world, to those who were far removed from an agricultural reality, to those in a metropolitan surrounding, to those who were in a future generation.  They were able to take the seeds of the good news that Jesus Christ taught them and spread them to the world.  Because when the good news of Jesus Christ is shared, and the seeds are planted in the hearts of human beings, then the world becomes a little more like God intended it, a little more like the Kingdom of God, a little more like the Beloved Community that we hope to see.  Because when people receive the good news of Jesus Christ then their ways reflect that of Christ and the world becomes more loving like Christ, more peaceful like Christ, more righteous like Christ, more caring like Christ, more willing to oppose oppressive structures like Christ, more willing to love so much that we might sacrifice ourselves for the well being of others like Christ, and more willing to walk in all the ways of Christ that bring new life, new hope, and everlasting love.

Stay Centered on the Foundation

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 


 I. Beginning

Our Scripture this morning comes out of the many letters from Paul, one of the father’s of the early church, a self-proclaimed apostle who had a transformational moment, a come to Jesus moment, if you will, that set him on a new path, a path that led him from a murderer of Christians to a follower of Jesus Christ.  Paul is the one responsible for helping us to develop some of our foundational points in our theology.  Some of our understanding of the significance of who Christ is and how it theologically affects our lives, how we live out our lives, and our after-life have been crafted for us in the theology that Paul shares within his letters with the churches he connected with throughout his ministry. Our scripture this morning comes from his second letter to the church in Corinth, a continuation, a point of further instruction for a congregation that he had continual contact with during his ministry.  His connection to them was rooted in the church’s origins and his role played out as a teacher and leader that gave instruction in order to direct them toward and focus them on the foundation of theirs and our theology in Jesus Christ.  His letters and leadership within this church was his way of making sure that this early church would not stray too far away from this relatively new iteration of faith focused on the foundation that is Jesus Christ, a faith that profess reconciliation and new life in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This specific letter was furthering Paul’s instruction of the Corinthian congregation by addressing some of their congregation tensions, including the tension that seemed to develop between him this congregation.  The rifts that the congregation at Corinth had in the first letter Paul sent, seemed to widen and even become redirected, as now their animosity was geared toward Paul. Paul the one who had been their teacher, the one who had dedicated his life to making sure they were formed and functioned in the foundation of the faith that is centered in Jesus Christ, the faith that shows us God’s grace and its transformational power.  Paul’s credibility had plummeted in the church of Corinth. The people were not so enamored with Paul, which means that they were susceptible to hear the words of a “false prophet” to pollute the gospel.  He had to reply to their disinterest in him, because it threatened the church’s ability to stay rooted in the foundations of theology, because if they discarded what he was saying, they could easily be swindled into faith that is not rooted in Christ.  He had to act now because they must understand that the foundations of what we know of Christ are important to hold on to because they define us and they shape our connection to God and our expectations of eternity.

Here Am I, Send ME!

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Year King Uzziah Died

It was the year that King Uzziah died, also known as King Azariah, one of the kings of Judah, the southern Kingdom of Israel.  The place where the Holy City of Jerusalem is located, the place where the temple of God resides. We know that before the exile of the people of Israel and after the reign of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two separate kingdoms the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, which contained Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies found in the temple.  This was the year that King Uzziah died. The King of the Kingdom that some might call the more faithful of the two kingdoms.  Our scripture opens up with the descriptor that all that we see takes place the year King Uzziah died, roughly 742 BCE.  And all that we see occurs to the prophet Isaiah, the prophet of Jerusalem, who specifically had a word from the Lord for the Kingdom of Judah.  In the year that King Uzziah died we are welcomed into this fantastical vision of Isaiah standing in the presence of God, standing in the company of God Almighty.
So it was in the year that King Uzziah died, this year of 742 BCE, that the prophet Isaiah is brought into the company of the Most High God, God who is almighty, God who is sovereign, God who is omnipotent and omnipresent, God who is our creator, God who is Alpha and Omega, God who is the beginning and the end, God who is also infinite and has no beginning and no end, God whom we give our lives to.  Isaiah is in the company of the Most High God, the God who is triune, the God who is three in one, our Trinitarian God, who embodies the Heavenly Parent, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And what carries out in front of him is the most captivating vision not only he, but any one of us might hope to see.  Isaiah stands in the Holy of Holies and the Lord sits high on the throne, and the Lord’s robe was so large and royal that is flows down from the throne and fills the entire temple. And around him are seraphs, these winged beings, and heavenly hosts, all standing in the almighty, holy, royal company of God.  And the place is filled with smoke. And Isaiah stands right there watching all of this unfold. This is quite an unbelievable sight to see.  If it weren’t written in the scripture, we might never have believed it happened.

Let Your Heart Be Strangely Warmed

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. Wesley’s Story

Let Your Heart Be Strangely Warmed.  To have one’s heart strangely warmed, is a unique statement significant to those within the Methodist movement, as it is reminiscent of the moment of Awakening for our founder John Wesley, when he felt the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon him, and his heart was strangely warmed. As we gather together on this Sunday, this Sunday of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit poured out upon the people and the gospel of Jesus Christ was spread to the entire world, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit has the power to transform us, to enrapture us, and yes make our hearts strangely warm.