High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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  Date: Sunday, March 15, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 15 mins 16 secs    
  Description: Conversation! That is the theme that came out for me as I read and re-read Acts chapter 24 this week. Specifically, it was the conversations that were happening between Felix, the governor of Judea, and the apostle Paul. There was one sentence that kept grabbing my attention: “Felix hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for Paul very often and converse with him.” It is one of those sentences that tells us so much in so few words. I love those bits of scripture, ones that draw me in and get me asking, What is going on here? So, journey with me now, as I seek to answer that question.
  Date: Sunday, March 08, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 22 secs    
  Description: I don’t know if I would have chosen to be a Christian in the first century. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to claim Jesus as my Saviour and Lord in a context where, like Paul, I might have been jailed or martyred for my faith. I think about that sometimes. I think about the many times through the last 2,000 years when being a Christian, or a particular kind of Christian, meant putting everything on the line, including one’s life. I think of countries today where people of faith, be they Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, are persecuted and driven from their homes because of how they worship. Would I be ready and willing to claim my faith in a situation where I could lose everything? I hope so. I want to say that Yes, I would. But I wonder. Living in 21st century North America as a Christian doesn’t give me much to judge myself by. It is relatively easy to be a Christian in this context. While some people might give me a strange look if I say that I’m Christian and go to church, and some might discount what I have to say because I am a Christian minister, I still have every ability to head to church without any worries. I’m not sneaking out of my house and watching over my shoulder to see if anyone is following me as I make my way to church on Sunday or any other day of the week. So I wonder, could I hold on to my faith in a situation of persecution? It is what fascinates me about the apostle Paul and the other believers whose stories we are discovering in the book of Acts. Paul went from hunting down Christians to throw them in prison to becoming a Christian and being jailed and later martyred for his faith in Jesus. Other believers were jailed for their faith as well, sometimes stepping up to be arrested while Paul snuck out the back door and moved on to the next town or city.
  Date: Sunday, February 23, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 14 mins 15 secs    
  Description: Each Sunday I begin worship by greeting you with the words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ….be with you.” What does that mean exactly – when I wish you and bless you with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. As I was reading through Acts chapters15 & 16 this week, each time I read through the phrase that popped out for me was “the grace of the Lord Jesus.” Peter declares that they all will be saved, healed and blessed through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Later, when the believers in Antioch are saying farewell to Paul and Silas as they set out, they commend the two to the grace of the Lord. It is a phrase that is core to the Christian tradition: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Words of greeting, blessing and farewell – but what exactly are we wishing each other with these words? The word grace in Hebrew is chen. It’s root meaning is to bend or stoop in kindness to another, especially a superior stooping to help someone inferior. In Greek, the word grace is charis ????? which speaks of a manner of acting or an attitude of the heart rooted in gratitude, compassion and mercy. Out of these root words, grace came to refer to unmerited favour, unconditional love, goodness and mercy that is offered freely and joyfully. Grace can not be earned. It also is not taken away because we have done something wrong. So when I greet you with the words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” and you reply, “and also with you,” we are declaring that we believe that each of us is enfolded in the unconditional, freely given, love and compassion of God which we know through Jesus. What a beautiful thing! And what an amazing thing for the followers of Jesus to wish each other when you consider what was happening between them at the time.
  Date: Sunday, February 16, 2020       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 50 secs    
  Description: 10,000 miles. That’s the estimated distance that Paul travelled during his ministry. 10,000 miles… that’s not quite half-way around the planet. It’s remarkable given Paul’s era, and even more significant given how fast and how far the good news of God’s love in the resurrected Jesus was spreading throughout the world. The Acts of the Apostles and their ministry to the Jewish and Gentile world is dramatic. There is all manner of amazing and wondrous stories of God’s Spirit at work. Pivotal of course, is the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, into the Christian community. The significance of that event has quite the ripple affect across the region. But, so do transactions like the one we read about today, where Paul confronts a magician who has been trying to sway the proconsul into the realm of sorcery. To be fair, it was not uncommon for sophisticated Romans to employ astrologers and sorcerers in order to help them make wise decisions. It was part of the cultural practice and commonly accepted. Paul was not amused by the sorcerer’s intent to draw Sergius Paulus away from God. In this transaction there’s an echo back to the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel to see whose god has the most power. By God’s Spirit at work in Paul, the sorcerer Bar-Jesus is proven to be a fake. It does not go well for him as he is reduced to a stumbling and bumbling fool groping for a hand to lead him. The imagery is quite intentional. The proconsul Sergius Paulus is converted—curiously not so much by the event, but by the teaching about the Lord. (William Willimon, Acts: Interpretation, pp. 122-123) Paul’s journey continues at a breathtaking pace.
  Date: Sunday, February 09, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 13 mins 18 secs    
  Description: I hate it! I just absolutely hate it when I catch myself judging someone because of their looks, their way of speaking, or their approach. It happened this week --probably more than once, but the once that stood out was when I was listening to the radio. I was appreciating what the person was saying but I found myself thinking – what he has to say would be better received if he didn’t have that accent. Oh, I hate it when I do that. Judge someone for just being who they are. But we human beings are judgemental by nature. Partly it is a survival skill. We judge others in order to determine if they are the enemy that we need to be aware of. And there are people, abusive, violent, deceptive people, that we should be very wary of. But this judgement thing has got out of hand. Jesus knew that when he told people, “Do not judge so that you are not judged.” Jesus modeled a spiritual practice of accepting each person in front of him for who they were, welcoming them, seeing beyond outer appearances and stereotypes, rejecting societal norms & connecting compassionately & unconditionally with the person. In today’s reading from the book of Acts, Peter is challenged to drop his judgments, even the judgments made on the basis of the Jewish law code by which he had lived his whole life.
  Date: Sunday, February 02, 2020       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 39 secs    
  Description: Abraham, Abraham! Jacob, Jacob! Moses, Moses! This is the way God calls and interrupts. The double name calling is a pretty good indication that God is going to do something, not tomorrow or some time later, but immediately, right now. Saul, Saul! Calls the voice. “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9: 4) There is blinding light. Saul falls to the ground. And life for Saul is turned upside down. Like Abraham, Jacob and Moses… Saul is called into action right here and right now, by God speaking through the Jewish Jesus. And that’s important. All that is being proclaimed is held by the unconditional love of God showing up in blinding light, the voice of Jesus and the acts of the apostles. Saul doesn’t stand a chance. Let’s use a wide-angle lens for a moment to see the story of Saul’s conversion in context. By the time we reach today’s reading from Acts chapter 9, there have already been two significant stories of conversion: Acts 8:14 the conversion of the Samaritans, Acts 8:34, the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Notice that each conversion leading up to Saul’s is an ever-increasing reach into the gentile world—the non-Jewish world. Notice that in the gospel according to Jesus Christ crucified and risen, God’s unconditional love is moving out into the wider world and touching the lives of both Jews and gentiles. It is a remarkable story of transformation and life-giving faith that serves to love and heal the human soul. Already, the book of Acts is speaking to these wonders. And then…
  Date: Sunday, January 26, 2020       Teacher: Revs. Susan/David     Duration: 9 mins 38 secs    
  Description: Rev. Susan & Rev. David have a conversation about sharing the good news. Deacons were appointed to take care of those in need in the new Christian community. In the United Church, we are quite good at taking care of each other and helping out in the community. Apostles were to share the good news and speak the message of God's love as known through Jesus. In the United Church, we are quieter and more reserved. Here are some ideas for being able to speak our faith.
  Date: Sunday, January 19, 2020       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 20 mins 9 secs    
  Description: Today I am introducing the Apostle Peter to you. You might know him as Simon, Simon Peter and also Cephas and Petros both which mean Rock, depending on Aramaic, Hebrew or Greek. Jesus may have called him Rocky. Peter was a regular guy. He could not read or write, was not likely conversant with the Law of Moses and couldn’t speak Greek. He was a husband. He fished. He lived in Capernaum on the northwest shore of the sea of Galilee—an idyllic spot. To this day you can still visit the foundation of Peter’s house which is across the street from the synagogue where Jesus preached and a stone’s throw from the lakeshore. As one writer says, “He could also be resolute (Acts of the Apostles 4:10; 5:1–10). Occasionally he is depicted as rash and hasty (Luke 22:33, etc.) or irritable and capable of great anger (John 18:10). Often he is pictured as gentle but firm and, as in his professions of love to Jesus, capable of great loyalty and love (John 21:15–17).” Tradition points to Peter as the first Apostle leading a movement of followers who believed that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead, healing for the sick, and salvation for all—many believed, and they numbered about 5000. He was quite an impassioned speaker and “when filled with the Holy Spirit” move the hearts of many. The message? Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Acts tells of Peter and John arrested because the Jesus movement was threatening the stability of religious life in Palestine. Despite being a regular guy with all manner of capacities both and abundant and lacking, Peter was able to speak boldly before those who arrested him, and refused to be silenced. The authorities could not pin him down. They had to let him go. And so… Peter’s work in Jerusalem continued, a movement following the crucifixion, resurrection and teachings of Jesus was begun and set to spread around the Mediterranean basin.
  Date: Sunday, January 12, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 19 secs    
  Description: We are familiar with the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – and we understand that there are many letters, mostly from the apostle Paul, in the New Testament, but tucked between the gospels and letters is a book that we only occasionally refer to and which often, I believe, is forgotten – The Book of Acts. At the Worship Team meeting this fall, it was suggested that we learn more of about the early church – what really was going on and what can we learn from it. And that leads us to the Book of Acts. So today we begin an adventure together, an adventure in faith, following the early church as described in the book of Acts. Between now and Easter we are going to journey through the whole book. In your announcements and in the booklet I’ve put together, you’ll see that I’ve outlined chapters to read each week, and I invite you to do just that. Read the two to three chapters indicated for each week. In the service, we’ll highlight some portions of those two to three chapters. And then, every other week, on Tuesday mornings, we’ll have a Bible Study (a Scripture in the Sandbox session) that will give you a chance to ask questions about what you are reading and discuss what you are noticing in the passages. This journey through the Book of Acts is an opportunity for all of us to grow in our faith life and to deepen our relationship with Living, Loving God. I think there is so much that the Book of Acts has to offer us right now in the year 2020. You may ask: How could a book written in the 1st century have something to say to those of us living 2,000 years later in a very different context? What can we, who live in a technological world, learn from those who lived in the Classical Greek era? What do those living under the rule of the Roman Empire, who relied on runners and travellers to deliver messages have to teach us who live in a democracy and have instant access to messages from around the world? Well, I think there is more that we have in common that we might imagine.
  Date: Sunday, December 22, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 10 mins 16 secs    
Passage: Luke 1:47-55    
  Description: Maybe I’m nostalgic. Maybe I’m a little bit melancholy. Maybe that’s part and parcel of this season of Advent and Christmas when we find ourselves perhaps a little more attentive to the wider mysteries and promises of the Biblical texts. In fact, I think the nostalgia and melancholy are rooted in the reflective questions that surface during this season. For me this week, I have been thinking about what are God’s intentions for God’s people? And by extension, what does it mean for me and us to be a people of God? I believe that Advent and Christmas are remarkable times in the Christian year that like the winter sun are intentionally in our eyes, seeking our attention, yearning to stir us deeply and place us in touch with the incarnate love of God in Jesus Christ so that we arrive at a deeper understanding of who we are as a people of faith. I think that in the midst of our grief, the stresses we face, the disturbing and disrupting nature of our political world, and the prevailing weakening of a social matrix where care of neighbour is disappearing, it can all feel disconcerting and even overwhelming. Sometimes I feel God is dismissed outrightly as something quaint or even irrelevant. The net result is a fundamental slippage in accountability to something greater than ourselves. This is a problem. And yet, the winter sun gets in our eyes. The Biblical texts spark us to yearn for lasting wisdom and once again our faces are turned into the mystery of our faith at Christmas. We have a renewed awareness of God’s power at work that can do more than we can ask or ever imagine.

 

 


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Psalm Reflections for Psalms 76 to 100
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