High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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  Date: Sunday, December 16, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 10 mins 41 secs    
  Description: Susan and I travelled one afternoon this week to offer support and love to a situation rife with violence, injustice and loss. On the way, we found ourselves talking about hope. These difficult and fully human instances of hardship and challenge necessarily call out of all us an urgency to consider hope. No fluffy definition will do. Hope is not a form of faint optimism. Instead, we consider the depths of hope as that which we receive from our spiritual roots and then embody as something lived and shared. I think that is the point made by the writer of 1 Peter. By God’s great mercy we have been given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I appreciate these words: “given a new birth into a living hope”. The letter of 1 Peter was sent to new gentile Christians spread across what today would be most of Turkey known otherwise as Asia Minor. Their life was hard for economic, political and religious reasons. But perhaps what is most significant about those receiving this letter is the fact that they were welcomed openly into the household of faith arising from the grace and unconditional love of the resurrected Christ. In the household of Christians dispersed across Asia Minor, people of all cultures, and especially those of exiled social status like slaves for example, were welcomed and loved into the body of Christ. For slaves, the crucified and resurrected Christ paid for their freedom with unconditional love, and acceptance. Literally, born into a living hope were these castaways—Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10). Our conversation in the van on the way to our visit continued… We began to define hope as that which arrives as a merciful gift from God. This gift takes up residence in us and we become localized expressions of God’s hope for one another and the world around us. And because we sometimes fail at this since we are human after all, we have one another for support. When my hope fails, I know I can lean into my faith community who also embodies the power of this living hope given freely by the resurrected Christ. Each of us here and those who join us along our journey together are born into this living hope—this Christ inspired, loving, powerful hope that transforms our lives, heals our broken hurting souls and provides a welcoming unconditional love to all. To all.
  Date: Sunday, December 02, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 11 mins 57 secs    
Passage: Isaiah 55:1-13    
  Description: On the one hand, I think that Isaiah is compelling us think about how we spend our loonies and toonies. I would hope we make wise choices that nourish our lives—that we eat well and stay away from junk food and other less nourishing distractions. That’s one way of thinking about this. But on the other hand, I think we need to understand that this passage is about working with God’s currency and living in God’s economy. That’s where we take a turn away from the sale on flannel shirts and delve into the actual transactions that serve to nourish our soul and the heart of the community. In other words, there is a strong case here to spend our money on that which fosters God’s love, sustains an intentional community and, provides resources for right relationships and wellness throughout our neighbourhoods. Our money invested in God’s economy ensures that all those who hunger and thirst are satisfied regardless of their status, lack of status or whatever. Ho! proclaims Isaiah—pay attention to this. This is food and drink for the soul. Giving to this congregation is a statement about investing in mission and ministry as defined by God’s economy—it is a decision we make because Isaiah is quite adamant that investing in God’s economy is money well spent. Why? Because it means life to a people. Spending money is a waste if it somehow doesn’t return to God. You end up with just a shirt. God’s economy becomes stuck. And honestly, there’s no real lasting joy in that. Right? What is the ancillary product line of God’s economy? I believe it is joy. Isaiah proclaims you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song…” And pay attention, friends—instead of thorns, the soil will produce the cypress—a glorious tree whose wood is known by musicians for its sonority and its Biblical symbolism associated with death and healing, life and resurrection. And instead of the brier, the soil will produce myrtle—a shrub that symbolizes life, fertility and love especially in the context of marriage. And together that should be enough to convince us all that this is the legacy, a memorial, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. That is, God will never allow our relationship, our covenant with God to be severed. God will always be with us. And that’s the essence of Advent and its message leading to Christmas where the tradition remembers the birth of God in the child called Emmanuel… which means God with us. Deep, deep joy.
  Date: Sunday, November 25, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 17 mins 25 secs    
  Description: requirements for proper form and right belief that have become associated with the Christian church. Whether we want it or not, we are seen as judgemental, and as hypocrites who can’t live up to what we expect of others. It is time for us to reclaim the faith of Jesus even as we live the Way of Jesus. It is time to focus on Spirit rather than form— to value curiosity more than instruction, intentions more than the form in which those intentions are carried out, aspiration more than expectation of right behaviour, expression and imagination more than right belief, compassion more than conventions, generousity more than reward or recognition. The Christian church still has Good News to share with the world, Good News that is needed in our world, but that Good News has been lost, I believe, in messages of punishment and hell, and judgement of people of other faiths or of anyone who doesn’t fit within our comfort levels. The Good News has been lost in demands for right belief, proper form, and hard work to earn God’s love. But that is not good news, and definitely not the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Good News of Jesus Christ is about love, compassion & generousity. It is a message of welcoming & hospitality. It is a message that calls each of us to be part of the healing of the world. We don’t have to earn God’s love. We are already loved. We don’t have to fear eternal punishment. We are already forgiven and accepted. As followers of the Way of Jesus, we just need to offer our hearts to Jesus, open ourselves to the faith of Jesus, and live the Way of Jesus, loving God, neighbours, strangers, enemies, and yes, even loving ourselves. As a Christian church in the 21st century, we must be excited about Living the Way of Jesus and sharing the faith of Jesus. We must show with our faces and express with our lives the wonder, joy and hope we feel as we are embraced by the compassion of Christ and share that compassion with others. We follow The Way–a way like none other. Thanks be to God!
  Date: Sunday, November 18, 2018     Duration: 8 mins 26 secs    
  Description: David and Susan have a conversation about joy. Joining in the conversation is one of our Grade 9 students, Maya. How do we know joy?
  Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 18 mins 13 secs    
  Description: A reflection on the meaning of the communion meal, and of remembrance.
  Date: Sunday, November 04, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 17 mins 47 secs    
  Description: The Bible is this amazing, wonderful, & fascinatingly diverse collection of sayings, stories, genealogies, poems, proverbs, historical writings, parables, and more. It’s not a book – it’s a library. It contains the most comforting words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And the most poetically beautiful words: “They shall rise up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint.” And the wisest words: “Love your enemies; do not repay evil for evil.” And the strangest stories.... When we choose to follow the Way of Jesus, then we choose this book as our guide and our wisdom, and that includes all the strange and weird parts, as well as all the beautiful, wise and wonderful parts. It includes all the imperfect, stumbling, bumbling characters, as well as the compassionate, wise ones. Then, there are the many Christians who declare that the Bible must be seen as inerrant, infallible, and it must be taken literally. They resist asking any questions about why things might be contradictory in scripture or why the Bible says things that science and life experience might tell us are no longer accurate. In a way, they are trying to protect the Bible, to build a fence around it so it doesn’t get trampled down. Perhaps, underneath, they are afraid that the Bible will be dismissed as irrelevant, and so they protect it with words such as literal, inerrant & infallible. But the Bible doesn’t need protecting. In fact, the more it is protected from questions, debates, and wrestling, the less relevant it does become. So, what is the Bible? How would I describe it and my relationship to it? I believe the Bible is a collection of writings from dozens, if not hundreds of people. I believe, as David preached from 2nd Timothy last week, that the Bible is inspired by God. Yet, that inspiration was given to fallible people, people who can misunderstand and make errors, people who were shaped by their own cultural understandings, even as they tried to express their experience of God.
  Date: Sunday, October 28, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 15 mins 31 secs    
  Description: Let’s hear that passage again as it appears in The Message as a way of sharpening our ears helping us reframe how we might approach the words of the writer of II Timothy. There is so much in today’s reading for us—especially as we consider our relationship with the Bible. Sitting with these words of II Timothy, I was struck by the word inspire (which you heard in the NRS Version read by Sarah). Literally it means to breathe into. I very much like the way The Message says that “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed…” (The Message, II Timothy 3:16, P. 1647). Scripture is inspired with God’s breath which makes the words live and further inspire the reader. And in all of that, says the writer of II Timothy, scripture is deemed useful for teaching, showing us truth, correcting our mistakes so that we may be proficient and equipped for every good work—training us to live in God’s way. No where does it say take the words literally. In fact, to do that diminishes the spirit and the power of God-breathed words. We receive inspiration from the Bible’s scriptures as a way of knowing truth and wisdom and expanding our awareness of the Divine. When we approach the Scriptures, we are approaching God-breathed words that serve to express the compassion and wisdom of God toward us. Beautiful. And then, according to our Methodist heritage we lay alongside scripture the gifts of tradition, reason and experience. Those three additional practices help us temper our relationship with scriptures so as to keep our discernment spacious, wise and grounded. This helps us see through unscrupulous con men who exploit the faith. Consider for example, May 30, 2018 - A US televangelist has asked his followers to help fund his fourth private jet - because Jesus "wouldn't be riding a donkey". Jesse Duplantis said God had told him to buy a Falcoln 7X for $54m ($72m CDN) That way, he could fly non-stop and avoid exorbitant landing fees... You may have other examples in your mind. As the words of II Timothy are so bold to say, [Unscrupulous con men are] as deceived as the people they lead astray. As long as they are out there, things can only get worse. But, says the writer of Timothy, don’t let it faze you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another… (NRSV/The Message).
  Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 5 secs    
  Description: When you walked into the sanctuary this morning, what was your focus? Were you noticing the decorations or the people who were already present? Were you thinking about what you need to do in worship or later today or who you might need to talk to before you leave the building? I’m wondering if any of us, myself included, were thinking about presenting ourselves to God. I wonder if any of us were seeing ourselves as moving into the presence of God, onto holy ground. As the apostle Paul puts in in the letter to Romans, were we presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice, a holy offering, and a precious people? I’m not asking this to create guilt or point out failure. Rather, I’m inviting us to consider how we approach worship and our faith. In some faith traditions, you would take off your shoes as you enter the sacred space, an action that profoundly marks the transition into being in the holy presence. In some Christian traditions, you would pause, cross yourself, and bend the knee, showing honour and reminding yourself that you are on holy ground. In some churches, the organ or piano is playing as you enter (something we have found hard to do with the choir having a practice just before worship). The music signals the transition and acts as a reminder to settle into the presence of God. Now, we believe that God is with us everywhere, but this is a particular, special, holy place in which we intentionally come into God’s presence. I think that we all have a sense of the sacredness of this space, a sacredness created by the generations of those who have worshipped here. Each of us have our expectations and ideas about how this space should be treated and how we should act in this space. It jars us when someone does something we don’t see as fitting in this place, though we may have different ideas about just what is appropriate or not appropriate. For example, a few years ago, I came into the sanctuary for a wedding rehearsal, and found the bridal party sitting on the communion table. My gasp, I hope, was inaudible. But then I realized that no one in this group understood the meaning the table holds for those of us who gather around it to share in the gift of the Lord’s Supper. So I took a moment to ask them not to sit on the table and to explain that it was sacred and special to the congregation. Then, we went on with rehearsal. Sacred. Holy. Blessing. Sacrifice. Offering. Worship. Salvation. Confession. These are words connected with this space in which we gather. They are words which also hold special meaning for us, words that hold less meaning, different meaning, or perhaps no meaning in the broader secular culture. I read an article this week that talked about the decline in religious language. It wouldn’t surprise most of us that conversations that touch on faith and spiritual matters are becoming more rare. A recent survey, by the Barna Group in the United States, showed that 75% of people do not have or only rarely have what they consider spiritual conversations, and that includes all those who name themselves as committed to faith groups. Only 7% of people indicated that they talk about spiritual matters regularly. I imagine that most of us find ourselves within the 75% group, who rarely have spiritual conversations. I’ll come back to why that may be, but the other interesting piece offered in this article indicated that spiritual and religious words are fading from the vocabulary. Now, we might not be surprised that words like “salvation” or “blessing” are used less and less within our culture. However, the study also found that words connected with virtues, or what we as Christians call “the fruits of the Spirit” are declining. Words such love, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and humility are being used less and less, both in written and oral language. Words such as compassion and kindness and thankfulness have dropped in written and oral usage by 50% in the past century.
  Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018       Teacher: Revs. Susan/David     Duration: 4 mins 23 secs    
  Description: David and Susan have a conversation about why the two of them have chosen to follow Jesus - and how Jesus has chosen each of us to be here.
  Date: Sunday, October 07, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 8 mins 55 secs    
  Description: Beverly Roberts Gaventa, teacher of New Testament Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary writes lovingly as she describes the nature of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “Perhaps the most important issue that makes this letter timely is its disarming awareness of God. First Thessalonians is about faith, love and hope, not as human attributes but as gifts that spring from God alone. It is God who calls into faith, God who enables human love, and God toward whom hope is directed. Reading the letter, then, may serve to enable Christians today to use the word “God” without blushing, to think theologically about our lives and our endeavours.” (Gaventa, First and Second Thessalonians, Interpretation, p.9) As our north American society suffers more and more from entitlement and narcissism, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold the needs of others alongside or even before our own needs—especially in public discourse. To think only of ourselves is not the Christian way. As Gaventa mentions, Christian faith exists as a gift from God where the soul purpose of our being is to direct hope toward God while grounding our life in prayer, hope and gratitude. “…Rejoice always”, says Paul, “pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thess. 5:16-18). Oh, and by the way, don’t quench the Spirit! This is the list of spiritual practices that Paul sets before the gathered people of faith in Thessalonica. These best spiritual practices form the essence of the Christian congregation. They are what I wish for all of us. Why? Because rejoicing, praying and giving thanks divert us from our own little bailiwicks and into the expansive experience of living in response to God’s spirit working in our lives. We mustn’t quench the diverting powers of God’s spirit, says Paul. Even when life overwhelms us, I believe the way through is by practicing gratitude and prayer. This is the domain of the human heart. The human heart is designed to be thankful. It is designed to pray and express love and gratitude. The wisdom of our Judeo-Christian heritage reminds us that we do not live unto ourselves, we live into the wider context of God’s love and hope. Whether it’s the provision of hospitality to the stranger, the widow, the orphan or the offer of compassion and unconditional love to one who is suffering, our ethical imperative is to be always mindful of the needs of others; to seek ways of being the light of Christ to one another and to those in the world around us while rejoicing always, praying unceasingly and giving thanks in all circumstances. This is no small thing in a world that is increasingly divisive as those entitled with power and privilege circle their wagons even more.

 

 


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SUNDAY MORNINGS @ 10AM

123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

(403) 652-3168

office@highriverunitedchurch.org

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