High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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  Date: Sunday, January 13, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 25 secs    
  Description: As I thought about the passage from Luke referring to the peoples’ and Jesus’ baptism, my mind went to the threshing machine that was such a part of harvest time during my growing up years. The threshing machine was the precursor to the combine and for a young boy it seemed to have a life of its own as the many serpentine belts moved pulleys and sheave cutters. The coolest thing was the fan that blew the chaff away from the grain. It created quite a whirring sound and sure enough the grain came down the spout clean as a whistle as the straw blew out the stack at the back. It was dirty dusty work. Don’t get me going on the insufferable itch caused by barely dust. The threshing machine is really a mechanized version of the ancient threshing floor. The idea is the same… you need wind to separate the grain from the chaff. That’s what I appreciate about this passage in Luke—it is quintessentially rural. It notices the natural elements of wind, and yes fire, as actions and aspects of threshing. And we all know how grain dust and chaff are highly flammable. The fire is unstoppable. Luke uses powerful and natural images around the practice of baptism. So, let’s back up a little bit and begin with the idea that it’s the grain that matters to Luke. Threshing is about saving the precious grain by letting the wind blow away the chaff—the material that is no longer needed. Luke speaks of baptising with the Holy Spirit and fire. Do you recall that in the Greek, the word for wind and Spirit is the same word along with breath? We could say that Jesus will baptise with wind or breath and fire. The Spirit, Wind or Breath of God blows away the chaff and saves the grain. This is a refining process, I’d say. The unnecessary, the frivolous, the chaff is blown away and burned leaving the grain. If we think of baptism in that way… it’s a clarifying process, a refining moment, an action of alignment where by water, wind and fire the baptism names the people with Jesus among them as ones fully in relationship with and embraced by the loving intentions of God. This is unique to Luke. Unlike the other gospels, Luke does not name who does the baptism. He situates Jesus as one among the people being baptised. There is very little drama. What Luke does say is that after the baptism, Jesus was praying. And while he was praying the heavens were opened, the Spirit descended upon him in bodily form LIKE a dove. And a voice from heaven names him as the Son, the Beloved, and the one who is pleasing to God. Luke recalls the baptism this way—after which during prayer, Jesus has a mystical experience of the divine.
  Date: Monday, December 24, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 12 mins 45 secs    
  Description: Already last week, I began imagining all of us here together, guided to this place by the light and love of the Gospel’s Christmas story about God born in the Christ Child—named Emmanuel which means, God with us. And then once here, I imagined us all leaning into the wisdom of this story and finding rest as we ponder its meaning and mystery. Before you even arrived, you have been in my thoughts and prayers and held by the loving intentions of this congregation. You see, this matters to me a lot. Because at the very heart of the Christmas narrative is the divine invitation to rest in the all-encompassing wisdom that God IS with us. For me that means that we find our rest in God—that we can lean into the compassion and love of God which serves to comfort us and heal us from everything that causes us distress and alarm. The Christmas narrative as recorded in Matthew and Luke’s gospels is beautifully inclusive and spiritually spacious as it comes to rest alongside the very vulnerabilities of human nature. It is such a desperate human story… full of alarm and vulnerability as it walks alongside a humble, young couple pregnant with God’s child. At one point, Joseph wants to divorce and run while in another corner of the story, Mary ponders the Divine promise in her heart. God’s presence comes alongside both of them in a way that comforts, assures, and invites trust. In their own way, Mary and Joseph choose to lean into God, trusting that God will be with them no matter how desperate. And, that God will be rest for them, a guide for them and the ground for their being. God comes to them. God is born to them. God is with them. They are not alone no matter how overwhelming their life circumstances. I know there are times in each of our lives when we just want to run away—when the situation is too much. I know there are times when all we can do is quietly treasure in our hearts the mystery of God. Each of us brings our own life into the Christmas story and it meets us where we are. That is what shapes the mystery of this night.
  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 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, 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.

 

 


SUPER SATURDAY ART-DAY!
Created On Monday, 11 February 2019
The Highwood United Calligraphers next Super Saturday Art-Day! Saturday, March 16, 9:00 – 3:00...
Beginner Calligraphy class
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Highwood United Calligraphers Beginner Calligraphy with Melanie McCracken 4 Mondays, 6:30 – 8:00...
Meditation & Prayer at High River United
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Gentle exploration of your spiritual journey through guided meditation and creative art. No...
Drop-In Yoga
Created On Thursday, 17 January 2019
starting Thurs., Jan. 24th 7:00 – 8:30 pm High River United Church Drop In Fee: $2 Hosted by...

 

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