High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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  Date: Sunday, April 08, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 20 mins 4 secs    
  Description: Come and have breakfast. It’s a beautiful invitation to a bunch of young fishermen who spent the night catching nothing and then, after following a rather quizzical instruction to fish on the other side of the boat, end up catching a net full of fish. It must have taken lots of hard work to pull that catch in not to mention their amazement that the net didn’t break. I wonder how many fish that net could hold—153 apparently. Any fisherman would want to know. A disappointing night, an amazing morning catch and now a simple, satisfying breakfast of fish and bread on the shore of the sea of Tiberius—AKA the sea of Galilee. There is an echo in this story that takes us back to a much larger event involving fish and bread—you might remember the story of feeding the multitudes with loaves and fishes. While no one can really know for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if that meal didn’t happen just a few paces away from this intimate breakfast over a charcoal fire. Again, just like feeding the 5,000, this is a story of holy presence, provision, and promise. Again, it’s on the beach by the waters of the Sea of Tiberius. The narrative is so plain speaking. After these things… says the first verse of John 21, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. I assume the disciples are trying to establish some kind of new normal in their lives. They go back to what they know best… fishing. But it’s not quite normal. Their lives have been changed. They pass the night in the doldrums, but at the day’s new light they find themselves in the presence of the resurrected Jesus surrounded by abundance. They are in orbit around the holy presence of God made known in the risen Christ. They are slow to realize this, but once the penny drops they recognize it and eventually, they trust it.
  Date: Sunday, April 01, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 23 secs    
Passage: John 20:1-18    
  Description: An empty tomb! That’s what the disciples, the men and women who had faithfully followed Jesus for the three years of his ministry, found on that Sunday morning almost 2,000 years ago. An empty tomb! According to the account in the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene arrived first and discovered the stone, used to block the entrance to the tomb, had been rolled away. That was strange enough, since it would have been a stone too large for any one person to move. Then she peeked in, with a bit of trepidation I imagine, and saw that Jesus’ body was gone. Immediately, Mary ran back to tell Simon Peter and the others. An empty tomb! That’s what Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved – that’s what they discovered after their foot race to the tomb – Peter lost that race, but was the first to actually enter the tomb. An empty tomb! But, we are told, the linen wrappings that would have been wound around Jesus’ body were still there, as well as the burial cloth that had covered his head. And, just so we get the fact that this a very intentional and purpose-filled moment, we are told that the linens have been neatly folded up, that the cloth covering the head was placed separately from the other linens. An empty tomb! This is no joke. This is no set-up by the disciples to make it look as if Jesus had risen from the dead. This is no arrangement by the Romans to play games with Jesus’ disciples. Something amazing, miraculous, intentional, and astounding has happened here. That’s the point of the story. An empty tomb! It is quite easy to be caught and held in place by this empty tomb.
  Date: Sunday, March 18, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 23 mins 20 secs    
Passage: 1 Peter 4:1-11    
  Description: I follow the Way of Jesus. I am a Christian. But what does that mean? I don’t know that if I had been born and raised in another part of the world in another culture in another faith whether I would be Christian today, but what I do know is that I am committed to the Way of Jesus. I am committed to following the teachings of Jesus and learning from the Way he lived. I have given my heart to this person who lived 2,000 years ago, who exuded the unconditional love of God, who challenged the authorities of the time just by being himself, and who suffered and ultimately died on a cross for preaching and living the love of God. Our scriptural guide this morning for exploring what it means to be a follower of Jesus is the 1st letter of Peter, chapter 4, found near the end of the New Testament. Peter, good old Peter. One of the first disciples called to follow Jesus, but at that time he was called Simon, the fisherman, who made his livelihood fishing for tilapia on the Sea of Galilee. Simon didn’t hesitate when Jesus walked by and said, “Simon, come and follow me.” Simon & his brother Andrew immediately heeded Jesus’ call, jumped out of the boat, abandoning their father Zebedee, who was left to deal with the day’s haul of fish.
  Date: Monday, March 12, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 20 mins 41 secs    
Passage: Colossians 3:12-17    
  Description: Why bother with worship? Psalm 100: 2-3 says, Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the LORD is God. It is God who has made us, and we are his; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. (Ps. 100: 2-3) This is why we worship. We are designed to worship God. It’s in our DNA. It’s rooted in our tradition. Our theology of worship is grounded in ancient wisdom that affirms a special, intimate relationship with the One who has made us; the One who claims us as his beloved—his people, and the sheep of his pasture. I mention Psalm 100 because it lies at the very foundation of everything that follows into the time of Jesus and Paul as we consider prayer and public worship. The collective wisdom of our Judeo-Christian roots proclaims that we pray and worship not because of want but, need. Our greatest purpose as human beings, according to the wisdom of our faith is to offer God our gratitude, praise, and worship. Consider prayer for a moment. In the Muslim Tradition, prayer is offered 5 times a day. In the Jewish Tradition, it’s 3 times a day. In the Christian Tradition, according to the rule of St. Benedict and earlier (4th – 6th centuries), prayer is still offered 8 times a day in monastic settings. These prayers are called the liturgy of the hours. In the Middle East where all the Abrahamic traditions intermingle, the call to prayer is proclaimed from the minaret, by the time on the clock and/or the place of the sun in the sky. In every case the call to prayer is meant to be an interruption in the day. Work stops. Tasks cease. Room is created to pray. What I appreciate is the notion that prayer interrupts. Prayer is designed to get in the way of the many things that serve to keep bread on the table, keep others happy, keep things operating. Worship and Prayer go together. They exist to get in the way of the many things we deem important or that otherwise serve as distractions from tending to our soul’s need to commune with God. The intent of prayer and worship is to get at the very center of our life in order that we may be reminded again and again about who and Who’s we are.
  Date: Sunday, March 04, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 21 mins 57 secs    
Passage: 2 Timothy 3:10-4:7    
  Description: The B-I-B-L-E. Now that’s the book for me! Today we talk about choosing the Bible. Why do we keep reading and turning to this book whose last stories were written about 1,900 years ago? What is this book to us? Before I get to those questions, let’s look at what this book is. First of all, it’s not really a book. It’s a library – that’s what the name Bible really means. It is composed of 66 books – 39 in what we call the Old Testament and 27 in the grouping called the New Testament. ..... As the first Christians got more organized, they started talking about what they might gather together for authoritative scripture. Groups of bishops who gathered talked about this. Individuals, who were considered the top theologians each proposed their list of books to form the Christian Bible. Some books were highly debated for inclusion. The Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation were two that almost didn’t make the cut. The listing of books that closest matches what we have today wasn’t decided until 382 AD. The questions that the bishops and scholars asked when deciding upon which books to include were these: Who said it & how close were they to Jesus? How good is it & is it widely recognized and accepted? How weird is it? Is it consistent with our understanding of Jesus? Those first disciples of Jesus spoke, Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew. The first Christian writings were in Greek – the standard language of communication in the first century. In 383, a Latin translation of the books now considered to be the standard or canon was done – the Latin Vulgate; and for centuries, scripture was always read in Latin in church, even if people didn’t understand Latin. They had to rely upon the priest to tell them what they had just heard. (And they had the beautiful carvings and stained glass windows in the cathedrals – that was the Bible for illiterate and non-Latin speaking people.) Being allowed to translate the Bible into the languages that people read and spoke was one of the driving forces behind the Protestant revolution.
  Date: Sunday, February 25, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 23 mins 55 secs    
Passage: Luke 11:1-9    
  Description: I love to pray. I can’t imagine life without praying. Prayer weaves in and out of my day, part of the fabric of my life. Yet, even though prayer is so much a part of who I am, it is not easy to explain what prayer is. Let me start by saying what prayer is not! Prayer is not like giving a wish list to Santa or a to-do list to a spouse. It is not saying, Okay, here God, these are the things I need done; now get busy. God is not our personal robot, or our servant. Too often, I hear people say that prayer doesn’t work and that God doesn’t answer prayer. That is rooted in this kind of thinking – that if I pray it, God should just do it. However, there are some things I’ve prayed for that I am now very glad that God didn’t just do. So prayer is not a to-do list or wish list for God. Prayer is not magic. It is not saying, “Abracadabra” and having something appear. It is not about saying the right words so that your prayer is answered, and trying different formulations of words until you get the result you hope for. God is not a genie in a bottle ready to grant us three wishes Prayer is not negotiation. There are times when we will find ourselves praying, okay God, I’ll do this, if you’ll do that. Or I promise never again to do that, if just once you do this. It’s natural to pray this way. It comes from the deep emotions we may be feeling, but that is not how prayer works. We don’t negotiate with God or bargain with God. God loves us. God is working with us. Prayer is not manipulation. Prayer isn’t about doing & saying the right things so that we can back God into our corner, into our way of seeing things. We don’t have to be the best defense lawyer in the world, pleading our case before God. It isn’t about trying to trick God into believing what we are saying. God loves us.
  Date: Sunday, February 11, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 21 mins 50 secs    
Passage: Mark 9:2-8 & John 17:6-13    
  Description: I was baptized and grew up in the United Church. My mom was from a Lutheran family and my dad from a Ukrainian Orthodox family, but neither of those denominations existed in or near to Acme, our home town, so they chose the United Church of Canada as the church to which they would commit themselves and in which they would raise their daughters. As a young adult at university, I tried out other denominations, Baptist, Alliance, Catholic, and attended Bible studies of various groups. But I had too many questions and they had too many answers, and I found that their answers didn’t resonate with the spirit within me. So I found my way back to the United Church, and to ministry within the United Church. This is my home. What does it mean to be a participant in The United Church of Canada? Today, commitment to a particular denomination is not what it used to be.
  Date: Sunday, February 04, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 17 mins 50 secs    
  Description: Why bother going to church? Rabbi Schmuel Kaplan tells the story of an employee who approaches the boss in order to ask for a raise. Well, you can imagine the boss pummelling the employee’s request with any number of questions that have to do with justifying why a raise is so deserving. While going to the boss individually is a worthy endeavour, imagine the difference if all the employees showed up at the same time or, the union reps are part of the meeting? The weight of the request would shift in a very different way. No doubt, the rational for the increase in wage would be more convincing. No matter, the boss would have to hear the request very differently. Well says, Rabbi Schmuel, imagine one person praying to God compared to a whole community praying to God. Not that individual prayer is any less significant, but there’s more capacity when a whole community prays. We must not underestimate the power of corporate prayer. And of course, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament writings are filled with expressions of corporate prayer. In fact, the synagogue was developed to create a context for local corporate prayer so everyone in their town could come together and pray. The roots of the Judeo-Christian faith are community-based and grounded in congregational life. And the soul reason for that is founded on praying together. Why bother going to church? We go because it matters that we pray together in community one with the other. We bring our whole self to church. We bring all that matters to us. We bring our worries, our anxieties, our intentions, our concerns, our gratitude, our joy, our compassion, our vision, our hope, our skills, abilities, talents, possessions, our desires for everyone’s well-being into a corporate community expression of prayer. Amazing really.
  Date: Sunday, January 21, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 24 mins 17 secs    
  Description: Rev. David explores what it means to believe in God, in non-traditional terms and rooted deeply in the Judeo-Christian path.
  Date: Sunday, January 14, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 24 mins 42 secs    
  Description: We are in the year 2018. We are surrounded with technological advances and scientific understandings more than any other time. We have landed on the moon, have a space station orbiting the earth, and are talking about living on Mars. Information speeds around our planet instantaneously. We can talk and facetime with a friend on the other side of our planet with only micro-seconds of delay. The list could go on – we are a people who have so much, know so much, have discovered so much - so why do we bother with faith? The truth is that 100 years ago or 1,000 years ago or 10,000 years ago people probably were saying the same thing wherever they lived – we know so much more than our ancestors, we have discovered so much more. People living 100 or 1,000 years from now may look back at us and wonder at what primitive lives we lived. It all reminds us that we are part of something so much more, that there is something much greater and much more mysterious going on than all our scientific advances or medical knowledge or technological break throughs can totally capture. That is when we turn to faith – faith in God, in a More that is Mystery, and Love, and Wonder, and Possibility. We choose faith in our generation. In past centuries, faith was assumed. People included faith practice in their lives in the way they would include food and labour and sleep. They could not have imagined life without religious practice and a sense of faith as a foundation to all they did. But we are in a time when, because of all the science and technology, because of rapid change and human migration, and because of some horrendous actions by religious people which overshadow the good that faith can do, having a faith or religious practice at the core of your life is no longer assumed. We now live in a culture formed much more around materialism and science, though even science, too, has a hard time being taken seriously and is sometimes dismissed. For the first time in history, to follow a faith and a religious practice is a choice, not a given.

 

 


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Wednesdays - 7 - 8:30 p.m. - May 1 - 29 Come explore Prayer through your whole being-ness, with...
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Foothills Philharmonic Chorus
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123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

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