High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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  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 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 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.
  Date: Sunday, August 19, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 20 mins 21 secs    
Passage: Luke 10:25-37    
  Series Summer 2018
  Description: Do this and you will live. Go and do likewise. These are Jesus’ words as he responds to the young lawyer. I think we need to pay attention to Jesus’ very flat, plain speak. Referring to the transaction between the young Lawyer and Jesus, one commentator says, “Asking questions for the purpose of gaining an advantage over another is not a kingdom exercise. Neither is asking questions with no intention of implementing the answers. The goal of witnessing or of theological conversation is not to outwit another…” (Craddock, Luke: Interpretation, p. 150) But of course that is what the young lawyers is trying to do. He is posturing. He trying to spar intellectually with Jesus and turn the whole transaction into an academic game. And of course, he is bright. He knows the wisdom of the Law and in fact answers his own questions… correctly. Jesus doesn’t disagree with him. However, having the right answers doesn’t mean that this young lawyer knows God. Jesus stops the banter and gets the young lawyer off his high horse by telling him to go and do likewise. It’s fine to have the right knowledge. It’s not fine to do nothing with it. Jesus chooses not to engage him at the level of academics. Instead he says, do what you say—love your neighbour, be like the one who shows mercy. Do this and you will live.
  Date: Sunday, August 05, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson    
Passage: John 6:1-13    
  Series Summer 2018
  Description: A boy, some fish, some bread - and 5,000 to feed. What do we make of this miracle story? It's not the miracle that's important - it is the meaning and the message of the story. A mountain, a boy and plentiful grass. It’s these three rather understated details that drew my attention as I read through today’s text from the Gospel of John. And partly that’s due to my increasing awareness that little details, which often go unnoticed, are not arbitrary. The writer of the text has placed them there for a reason. Mostly we don’t know why, yet they spark our curiosity around how the little details contribute to a deeper awareness of what the text is trying to convey.
  Date: Sunday, June 17, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 16 mins 47 secs    
Passage: Luke 9:10-17    
  Description: If there was perhaps one take-away from today’s reading from Luke, it might be, “Don’t underestimate the grace and power of interruption.” And as if to drive that point home, the more I tried to keep on task with the work at hand this week, the more interruptions seemed to come my way. And that is exactly what happened to the disciples. Today’s text begins with the disciples upon their return, telling Jesus about all that they had done. They had been out and about the region around Capernaum and the north shore of the Sea of Galilee proclaiming the good news and providing a ministry of compassion and healing to many. When they got back, Jesus took them with him and together they withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. Most archeologists agree that Bethsaida was a hill-top settlement about 1.5 kms away from the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee and east across the Jordan river not far from Capernaum. This is Jesus’ neighbourhood and I couldn’t imagine a more picturesque retreat-like setting for private time with his disciples. And that’s what is really going on. Jesus has taken his disciples on retreat for prayer and reflection to a quiet’ish place in the southern hills of the Golan Heights. It is an intentional time for rest and to catch up on and debrief from all that has happened. The disciples were engaged with the public on many fronts tending and caring to the needs of the whole person—edifying and exhausting work to be sure. As they are settling into their time away with Jesus, the crowds became aware of Jesus’ location and soon, he and the disciples found themselves surrounded with people wanting to see and hear and learn more about the kingdom of God. It became quite apparent I’m sure that “retreat time” was over.
  Date: Sunday, June 03, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 22 mins 18 secs    
  Description: A friend of mine once told the humorous side of today’s gospel reading as he recounted the discussion between Jesus and Peter. Having watched Jesus walking on the water and wanting to prove himself, Peter steps out of the boat onto the wind tossed waves and immediately sank to the bottom. Why, exclaimed an anxious and disappointed, Peter? Why did I sink? Oh, said Jesus. I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you where the stones were! It’s a groaner, I know. And for some perhaps not all that funny. But I like it. Because, as soon as we try to explain the passage and the physics of it, we lose the story’s momentum and its meaning escapes us like air passing out of a balloon. When we read these stories, we need to remember that for the most part, people were in relationship with an enchanted world. Meaning and mystery were inextricably interwoven into God’s creation. Air, Earth, Water, Fire were evidence of powerful natural forces that gave voice to the Divine and sparked the human imagination in its search for meaning. Thunder and lightning were the properties of the gods as were windstorms and earthquakes. Against the backdrop of an enchanted world and human imagination, Jesus walks on water where the natural elements are clearly part of the drama as the wind howls and the waves are tossed. This is a story told in a Jewish context against the backdrop of a pantheon of Greek gods. And the point is the gospel’s attempt to portray Jesus as the source of divine power, truth, wisdom and the one upon whom we gaze as the icon of our faith. The gospel of Matthew calls upon the disciples and especially Peter to keep their eyes on Jesus—not the wind, not the waves, not the disruptions and not life’s turmoil’s. Matthew’s gospel is completely aware of the enchanted world along with it’s mysteries and powers. Matthew beautifully conveys this in the reaction of the disciples who try to explain the unexplainable as a dramatic paranormal experience at first. But then learn that the wisdom and compassion of the experience is really about a faith-filled relationship with the Christ. This is a message for believers—essentially for the church. When we step out of the boat and risk the elements from time to time we do so not according to our own merit, but we do so recognizing that we need faith in Jesus, otherwise we sink. The grace of course is that even when we doubt or lose our gaze, Jesus reaches out to us and helps us clamour back to safety. And remarkably through the struggles and torment, the winds cease once everyone is back in the boat. The imagery, the literary devices, the focus on Jesus as the one who is the object of our faith and the one who heals is the intent of the story. Not about how did Jesus do it. If we go down the path of how-did-Jesus-do-it by employing the disciplines of science—physics, quantum mechanics, matter and motion, we subject the gospel to an investigation to which it simply cannot respond. And because it cannot respond accordingly, this becomes the fodder for atheists who generally speaking reject religion as mere primitive science and therefore, irrelevant in a modern or post-modern world. As we unpack this a little more, I have the caring words of my dental hygienist in mind when I say, “Bear with me”.
  Date: Sunday, May 20, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 46 secs    
Passage: Acts 2:1-8    
  Description: …And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Whenever the Bible tells a story about a new beginning, we can be sure that God’s spirit will be blowing through the narrative. The Spirit blows over the waters at creation’s birth; The spirit/breath of God blows into the nostrils of Adam, Jesus’s breathes upon the disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit; a mighty wind blows and tongues as if of fire rest upon the disciples and suddenly, the people of the cosmopolitan city of Jerusalem hear one another, in their own language. It’s truly beyond our imagination to be sure, and yet sparks awareness that something new is beginning. The Holy Spirit blows through the rafters and streets of the city and with that, the tradition marks the beginning of an intentional community of faith led by God’s spirit and shaped by the wisdom and teachings of the risen Christ. This is a story about beginnings. It’s designed to convey drama and foster inspiration and awe in the reader. It’s not intended to be factual or historical. This is a creation story about the early church. It draws on images of wind and flames and the amazing capacity for everyone to hear each other in their own languages. Kind of strange for our 21st century ears, I know. But, wow. I found myself sitting with the whole thing around language and understanding. Somehow, all the different peoples represented in the story are hearing each other despite their different linguistic back grounds. I love languages. I enjoy how learning a language is a doorway into culture, a way of thinking, a mindset with unique and wonderful expressions of humour, and story telling and seeing the world. Now, it’s a human defense to distrust differences and not venture far away from one’s cultural group. And, it’s painstakingly tedious to learn a language and culture and still, not entirely possible to learn it all. Yet this story goes in the opposite direction. It is not distracted by differences and diversity (the many languages and peoples are present). The story is meant for everyone. Its wisdom, compassion and justice transcend that which usually divides or excludes. The message seeks first the human heart, and that deeper expression of humanity that we all share. It is a truth that we can all hear each in our own native language. It is a truth that includes and extends beyond the Jewish world into the cosmopolitan, multi-cultural world of the time. It is a deeper “knowing” that reaches into the soul and sparks a spiritual awareness and consciousness that helps us hear and see each other.
  Date: Sunday, May 13, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 11 mins 34 secs    
Passage: Luke 15:11-0    
  Description: There was a man who had two sons… To be honest I didn’t get much further than that opening line when I had to stop. That describes me, I thought. And truly… over the years I’ve met many men with two sons. The gospel of Luke spins a story of a man parenting two sons. Frankly the sons are like day and night. They each make their decisions. They each embody distinct characteristics, different personalities, and different world views. These two brothers are who they are. And what we know is that they are both loved. It’s hard to believe that these two sons have the same parent and yet be so opposite each other. This shouldn’t surprise us. We’ve all seen it, if not experienced it in our own children. Each child needs to be parented according to who they are and what they need. So, on the one hand I feel for the father in today’s reading from Luke. And on the other hand, I really admire him. He accepts the decisions that each son makes and comes alongside both of them. There is no judgement on either of them regardless of the decisions they take. Ironically, I would suggest that we the readers specifically and history generally, are more likely to be judge and jury. Most often we say the younger son is immature, irresponsible, wasteful, and entitled. We tend to admire the older son’s maturity, his responsibility and accountability to the family farm. And I suspect we also wince a little at the celebration held for the stray son who returns after an eye-opening and desperate time. Was he really that deserving, we wonder? Yet through it all, the father holds the container for both kids. His love for them endures. And there is gratitude and celebration that the younger is home. Safe.

 

 


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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