Jesus Christ Is Lord

 
                                                                                                       
Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
 
 

I. Beginnings

All Hail the Power of Jesus name, let angels prostrate fall, because Jesus Christ is Lord of all.  Because of Christ’s majesty, let us all proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, that Jesus is sovereign over all the earth.  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth, that means you, and you, and you, and me too, let us all worship the Lord.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come into God’s presence with singing.  Let us worship our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself up as a living sacrifice.  The one who endured the lashes, the bruises, as he faced Pontius Pilate – the one who endured being mocked and spat at – the one who bent over struggling and had to carry his cross until he was relieved of it – the one who was stretched out on a cross, stretched so wide that he had to push himself up in agony, just so that he might breathe – the one who endured so much pain that he wailed in anguish – the one who hung his head and died – the one who in death paid a price for our sin that reconciled us back to God and on the third day rose from the dead that we might find new life.  It was Christ who took an earthly symbol that represented death and defeat and used it to proclaim his reign as the salvific King of the whole world.  And just as a phoenix is able to rise from its ashes, Jesus was able to take what the world saw as destruction and turn it into victory and new life. Let us proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord over our lives.  For we know that the Lord is God.  It is God that made us, and we are God’s, we are God’s people, and the sheep of God’s pasture. It is on this this day that we proclaim to all the world that Jesus Christ is Lord! 

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Our Deepest Fear

                                                                                       
Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
 

 I. Recap

This week we are concluding our sermon series that has journeyed through poetry from famous authors. We have seen that God can move anywhere, and we just have to open our eyes to where God is moving and open our ears to what God is saying.  Next week we will celebrate Christ the King Sunday as we celebrate the holiness and authority of our risen savior. But as we look back on what we have learned in this series,  we can remember that the first week showed us that “Life Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair” and that life sometimes brings us hardship, but we must hang on to God, as we engaged with Langston Hughes’s poem, “Mother to Son.”  We then were challenged to admit that Christ has the utmost authority, and that we must open our eyes to where God is moving because the movement of Christ is beyond our control and our preconceived notions as we engaged with Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.”  We then found that our savior was a loving gentleman, who gave himself up as a living sacrifice that we might find new life, as we engaged with Emily Dickinson’s poem, “The Savior Must Have Been a Docile Gentleman.”  We then saw that God is our Good Shepherd who brings comfort in the midst of our darkest hour, as we engaged with Charles Dickens’s poem, “A Child’s Hymn”  We then were encouraged to build Beloved Community as we engaged with Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “You Came, Too.”  We then were challenged to follow the road that is most intertwined with God, as we engaged with Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”  We then saw that we must demand God’s justice as we explored what happens to a dream deferred, as we engaged with Langston Hughes’s poem, “Harlem.”  And then last week we were challenged to be transformed in love as we give love to others, as we engaged with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “How Do I Love Thee?”  For these many weeks we have looked at the allegory, the metaphor, and the word usage and have found out more about our God, as we are growing in discipleship and relationship with our Lord.

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How Do I Love Thee

                                                                                                   
Pastor Rachel Livingston 
 

 I. Beginnings

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…let us love one another because love is from God and God is love…Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his steadfast love endures forever.  As we look at our scriptures this morning and our poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning it is no secret that our theme this morning, on our journey of engaging poetry from well-known poets, is love.  We see that our psalm, could be its own poetry prose, a collective of words and themes, but overall reminding its reader that God’s steadfast love endures forever.  God’s love for us, humanity, those made in the image of God endures forever.  What a great theme to engage with after a week of division, waiting, and anticipation.

The book of 1 John, an epistle of sorts, a book that is believed to have the same author as the 4th gospel, John, was written to a divided community, a community that was torn and at odds with each other, a community who was distrustful of one another, a community that believed they had irreconcilable differences, a community that had split over fundamental belief systems.  It is not completely clear what caused the division within the community, but what is clear is that there was a rift within the community and the writer of this letter was writing to bring encouragement to this community in the midst of storm, in the midst of pain, in the midst of chaos, and in the midst of catastrophic division.

Does this sound familiar? Does it feel eerily similar to something you have heard? Something you have experienced or maybe even recently witnessed???

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Harlem (What Happens To A Dream Deferred?)

                                                                               
Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
 
 

I. Beginnings

We come again to our sermon series on poetry from well-known poets, where we have engaged topics such as God being our Good Shepherd, creating Beloved Community, embracing the true sense of Christ, and traveling the road that is bound with Christ and not the status quo. We have been able to see that the word of the Lord can come alive in unsuspecting places in life, therefore we must keep our eyes open for where God is moving because God can move anywhere and everywhere.  And now we are looking at the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes as we look at the idea of God calling for justice in the midst of a world that perpetuates oppression.  An idea that can be applied to the time of our scripture, the time of our poem this week, and even now in our present reality.  What happens to a dream deferred? The highlighted question of the hour, within the eloquent words of our poet, Langston Hughes, a premier writer from the Harlem Renaissance. An anticipated question that in some ways does not necessarily achieve a specific answer or resolution within the confines of this poem, but yet you can feel the emotion that is present in the question brought about by the author as he seems to deeply understand what happens when a dream is deferred, put on hold, delayed so long that it feels like it’s been denied, or actually has been denied so long the hope of it occurring is actually suffocated.  What happens to a dream deferred?  And what then happens to the hope within the heart? And what then happens to the spirit of the human being as the dream is stifled?

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The Road Not Taken

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
 
                                                                                                 
 

 I. Beginning

We gather together this morning, continuing in our series that will lead us into Advent, the season in the Christian church that marks the beginning of the Christian year – the point where we will be actively waiting for our coming savior. But in this moment, we are looking at the ways that God is revealed in unlikely places such as within the words and stanzas of poetry from well-known authors.  We have seen that God can move within secular writings in ways that when read alongside scripture, can make what God is saying within the lines of scripture come alive.  Isn’t it awesome, that we serve a God who is so sovereign, that God can use anything to reveal Godself within the world, including artistic expression, metaphors, similes, and pensive thinking.

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You Came, Too

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
 

                                           

I. Beginning

We approach our message this morning as we continue on this journey within our series that connects our scripture to poems from famous poets of the past and present.  On our journey, we have found that we can find God in many different places and spaces of life, that God can use anything that we encounter to experience and further understand our God, including the words, metaphors, similes, imagery, and stanzas of poetry.  We just have to open up our eyes to see God’s movement. Our poem this morning is our sermon title, “You came, Too,” which was written by Nikki Giovanni, which I have to admit is one of my favorite poets.  Both our scripture and our poem lift up a genuine sense of community and love that should be present within the Body of Christ, the church – not just the walls of a building but the institution of the people called by God, not bound by the walls of an edifice, but those bonded together that no matter where they gather are bonded in the name of Jesus Christ, bonded in Christ that we might, in connection with Christ, create and proclaim God’s love, peace, and justice.

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A Child’s Hymn

 
Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 
                                                                                     

 I. Beginnings

The title of our sermon this morning comes from the Charles Dickens poem entitled “A Child’s Hymn” based on the similarities and common themes that are found within both the poem and our scripture this morning.  Our scripture the 23rd Psalm, a Psalm attributed to David, and yet probably one of the most well-known Psalms of the biblical text is an iconic piece within the Christian’s personal scriptural lexicon. Many of us hold it as our favorite scripture, and some if they know no other scripture at all, they know this specific text.  It is likely that as we read the scripture this morning, most of you did not even have to reference your Bibles as we read it. Based on what version you have memorized on your hearts, some may even feel that I read the words wrong. This passage is so familiar because many of us were taught it as a child, back when we were bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  It was taught to us, that it might lay the foundation for our faith, that we might know who we are and whose we are – we are people of God, who choose to follow God because God is a Good shepherd, a comforter who is ever present, even in our darkest moment of need. God extended us divine grace and we chose to accept it, with a pure sense of faith. Our parents and church family wanted us to learn this because they were only trying to instill in us that The Lord is our shepherd, and we shall not want because God is the one that leads us in the paths of righteousness, God is the one that comforts us with God’s rod and staff, God is the one that anoints our head with oil because we can always trust God to be present with us.  A concept that is probably easier to understand with an eager child-like faith.  And whether we encountered this scripture as a child or with the newness of our own faith as an adult, there is something about the pureness of our faith in that moment, it is fresh, it is pure, it doesn’t question that God will be there because as children or even new people in the faith, we know it to be true because that is all we know.  God is going to be there because God had said it, and scripture has affirmed it to be true.  It is a kind of untainted mentality in which we follow God blindly because we are so assured that we are affirmed children of God. Our poem on the other hand, this morning, is a poem that lifts up the same pure, genuine child-like faith, assured in God’s presence and untainted by the world.  It requests God’s presence to watch over and protect, to cover in the midst of peril, and to give rest and comfort.  It holds to the understanding that God is present, a comforter and sustainer, even in the midst of the chaos that life tries to throw at us.

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 The Savior Must Have Been A Docile Gentleman

                                                                                               
Pastor Rachel B. Livingston
 

I. Beginnings

The Savior must have been a docile gentleman, to come so far on a cold day – for little fellow man – words expressed from by the famed poet Emily Dickinson in her poem, “The Savior Must have Been a Docile Gentleman.”  What could she have meant? What was her commentary on the character of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?  Is she praising him for his docility or is she critiquing him?  Or is she critiquing us and our perception of Christ? Our savior, Jesus Christ, a docile gentleman.


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Still I Rise

                                                                             
Pastor Rachel Livingston 

 I. The Authority of Christ

Who would ever deny our Lord and savior? Who would challenge that Jesus Christ is Lord?  It is so pivotal to the context of our faith.  For we know that Jesus Christ is Lord over our lives.  We live, think, and breathe it.  We know it to be true, because as Christians we hang our faith on the Christological understanding that Jesus is the head over us, that he is the central point of our salvation, and he provides our redemption.  We have dedicated our lives to love Christ, a person of our triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet one God, with all our heart, soul, and might – making Christ’s ways our ways.  But as we are so assured in who Jesus is, because our faith is built upon it, everyone is not so convinced and historically, during his time here on earth, people quite often challenged his authority.  The push and pull between Jesus and the Pharisees and chief priests is quite a common occurrence in the book of Matthew.  There was legitimate tension on the air, so thick it could be cut with a knife, as the chief priests continued to challenge Jesus on who he was and through what authority his ministry functioned.  Who are you? And with what authority do you do what you do? They must not know what we know, because if they knew who our Lord was, if they knew the glory that rest in the hands of this messiah, if they knew the grace and redemption that flowed from this man, they would not have challenged his authority, but bowed down because of his authority.

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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.

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