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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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