High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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Sermons in this series
  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.
  Date: Sunday, September 30, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 15 mins 34 secs    
  Description: “When is a building, not a building?” I’m not going to make you wait until the end of my sermon for the answer. “When is a building, not a building?” When it is a church – you may have guessed that answer. The writer of Psalm 127 declares, “Unless God builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” Indeed, if we only built this building to have a building, it would be sad indeed. Look around the downtown. Unfortunately, there are many wonderful but empty buildings, built with a purpose in mind, a purpose they are not serving at the moment. We didn’t need to build a building in order to have a building. We built it for something more. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this facility, we are taking time to consider what exactly we are here for, why we gather, what we envision for the present and future of our church gathered in this building. James P. Wind, of the Alban Institute, says this about our church buildings: Our religious spaces are special places that make room for our spiritual selves to emerge, for sacred stories to be told, and life-giving practices to be learned. They make room for us to meet God, rekindle hope, experience self-emptying love, and face the [shadowed] side of our humanness with the light of grace. From these places, justice and mercy are set loose in the world....Our challenge is the same as that faced in every era: to keep clearing imaginative space and keep building new kinds of sacred containers and symbols that will release healing in the world.
  Date: Sunday, September 23, 2018       Teacher: Revs. Susan/David     Duration: 14 mins 3 secs    
  Description: David & Susan have a conversation about why we need our tears and how tears help healing. The church should be a safe place to have tears. Tears help us have soft hearts so that we can live lives of compassion, following the Way of Jesus
  Date: Sunday, September 16, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 9 secs    
  Description: We are the church – together – in this place. We are sitting in a church building which we have built, gathered as a church community which we create each time we gather. 1885 is the official date of the start of this congregation as The Presbyterian Church of High River, though Christian worship happened on this spot in the decades before that. This area by the Highwood River, known as “The Crossing,” was, for the Indigenous Peoples, the sacred wintering ground of the buffalo and the healing place of the Medicine Tree for thousands of years before white settlers began to arrive. It is holy ground on which we gather, to be the church together, in 2018 in High River, Alberta, under the banner of The United Church of Canada. But why? Why do we gather? Why do you choose to be here this morning? This is a question unique to our generation. For the first white settlers, who held worship services in each other’s homes, and the Methodist and Presbyterian itinerant preachers, who rode into town on horseback and preached in the waiting room of Buck Smith’s Stagecoach Stopping House & Saloon located on this very spot, the question would have been quickly answered. If we were able to ask them, “Why do you worship?”, the response would have been clear. “Because we must give glory to God. Because human beings are created to praise God. Because we can not live our lives without worshipping God.” Today, however, we live in a time when fewer and fewer people in North America make worship a part of their lives. “Why bother!” is an acceptable response to the practice of faith in our culture. Yet, for many of us in our growing up, it was assumed that one belonged to a church. For many of us the regular practice of attending worship on a Sunday was a given. For most, it was rare to miss church, except due to illness or an extended holiday or perhaps harvesting the fields. Everyone claimed a faith affiliation, even if they didn’t attend. But those days are gone and aren’t coming back. Sunday shopping. Sunday morning activities and sports practices. These are the new norm. And even those of us who want to make Sunday morning worship a weekly part of our lives are caught when other family members and friends plan events, which we need to attend, at a time that conflicts with Sunday worship. We are more and more the exceptions, we who choose to be church together.
  Date: Sunday, September 09, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 17 mins 20 secs    
  Description: Ever since I was a young boy, I have had the sense of a wider and divine presence moving within and all around me. When I could, I would take up residence in one of my two special trees. There, I could sit and ponder life, the universe and everything as only a 10-year-old could. The trees offered me a safe place, a quiet place and a restful place where I could feel the presence of God with me and at the same time, feel my soul replenished. To this day, I can only refer to those childhood moments as full of grace. They were moments that sparked my capacity to imagine, to dream, to wonder, to simply see the goodness of creation as the sunlight dappled its way through the leaves. These moments remain precious to me and of course, they only hold meaning for me and my spiritual path. But, what I can say is that time sitting in the tree was not only a safe and spiritual place, it was the place where my call to ministry was slowly taking root. It was the very beginning of a journey that led me to a life of service within the Christian community or to use Paul’s words, a call to participate in what God is doing, striving to excel in building up my spiritual gifts for the good of the church (I Cor.14:12). Over the years my understandings of the Divine and the significance of the Christian community have continued to shift, grow and hopefully mature. I remain steadfast in my decision to advance the role and place of the faith community in service to the world around it. Our Biblical tradition and our denominational heritage are both quite clear that congregations are not designed to be a passive audience gathered on a Sunday morning with the soul purpose to be entertained or be pleased. Rather, the congregation is an active agent of Christian faith that exists to offer healing, justice, compassion, light and love to its members and the world around it as informed by the ancient Hebrew writings and the wisdom and teaching of Jesus. Chapter 14 in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is exactly about that. He is admonishing the church in Corinth to pay more attention to what it means to strengthen the spiritual gifts that serve the good of the congregation—that is, the good of the whole so that it can provide for its members and those it serves in the wider community. As we begin the Fall, I am convinced that congregational life matters more and more to our well-being. It matters that we be together in Christian love to: foster community, tend to relationships, pray together, rest in the presence of the Divine, share meals together and offer care to one another. I had a couple of parents from the Priddis area in a little while ago who wanted to see me about their 22-year-old adopted son. At the end of our time together they wanted to pay me. I said, my congregation makes it possible for me to be with you. Please consider a donation to High River United Church. In the last year I expect that Susan and I have provided approximately 400 hours of one on one pastoral care appointments where we provide all manner of support for relationships, those grieving, suffering addiction, and enduring personal challenges. I share this because, the need is great and seems to be increasing. People need to be heard and truly listened to. A faith community most often is the only place where someone can truly be heard and be surrounded by the presence of others when they are most alone.
  Date: Sunday, September 02, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 15 mins 24 secs    
  Description: On August 20, CBC reported about a fleet of 20 combines in formation along with more than 100 volunteers in Milestone, SK. They were harvesting the crop of durum wheat belonging to the family of Brian William, who died after being hospitalized during the onset of the harvest season. The grieving family was reticent to ask for help, but after some consideration they relented. Family friend Jeff Brown organized an event of grace and gratitude that he will never forget. 258 hectares of crop were harvested in a matter of hours. This image has stayed with me because it tells me that humans have such capacity to offer compassion and generosity in ways that heal the human heart and show the world how to make a difference in the lives of those who are vulnerable. In gospel terms, compassionate and generous acts are the embodiment of the Kingdom of God. The gifts of generosity and compassion in Milestone, Saskatchewan are not predicated on the colour of one’s combine, the amount of horsepower and capacity, how long one’s been farming, or any other form of inherit merit. All that fades away in order to create room for the profound gifts of compassion and generosity which, according to today’s gospel story about the vineyard, surpass even fairness. The landowner hires labourers early in the day, then at 9:00 AM and again at 5:00 PM. Here’s a landowner who is trying to make a difference. He see’s people standing idle—because there’s no work to be had. In fact, idleness is a theological and moral issue for the people of Jesus’ time. It is something to be addressed and solved because the Judeo-Christian tradition values meaningful, joyful and purposeful work. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing better for mortals than to eat, drink, and find enjoyment in their toil.” As I read Matthew’s story from the vineyard, I found myself connecting with those standing idle in the marketplace enduring unemployment or underemployment and likely the dulling absence of enjoyment in their toil. During the day, the landowner’s generosity and compassion show up 3 times in the market place and provide work for those standing idle. At they end of the day they are all given the same wage which causes disgruntlement. At first the issue seems to be one of fairness and to be honest it’s understandable. Yet, this is a story not about fairness. It’s about helping us realize that God offers compassion and generosity to everyone who works in the vineyard regardless of the number of hours worked. The gospel’s wisdom goes beyond convention and invites us to fix our gaze on the goodness of God who is generous to all.

 

 


Winter Solstice 2018 Labyrinth Walk
Created On Thursday, 13 December 2018
For those who appreciate walking the labyrinth, as a way to focus your prayers, to calm your...
Experiencing Grief, Depression or Loneliness this Holiday Season
Created On Thursday, 13 December 2018
We know that this season is not Merry for everyone. Join us for our Longest Night Service on...
Thanks to the High River Downtown Businesses!
Created On Thursday, 06 December 2018
We love our downtown High River.....and its businesses! Thanks to these businesses who donated...
Don't Forget to join us for Games Night
Created On Thursday, 15 November 2018
Board games, card games, role-playing games and more. Bring your own or play one we have...

 

SUNDAY MORNINGS @ 10AM

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

(403) 652-3168

office@highriverunitedchurch.org

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