High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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  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 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 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, 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.
  Date: Sunday, November 24, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 16 secs    
  Description: In the Christian Church Calendar, this is really like New Year’s Eve. It’s the last Sunday in the Church year, which means next Sunday is Advent and we begin the new year anticipating the Birth of Jesus. But that would mean getting ahead of ourselves. For today, let’s stay with the Christian Church’s equivalent of New Year’s Eve, called the Reign of Christ Sunday. I usually find New Year’s Eve a little bewildering. It seems to be a lot of out with the old and in with the new. Or, a listing of all the things we’re going to do differently with our best intentions attached. Or maybe some reflection and introspection on the year that has passed. And of course, there’s noise makers, confetti, food, libations, and most importantly the traditions of bringing in the new year with our loved ones and friends. It’s that last part about being with loved ones and friends that I think really connects with Paul’s reflections from today’s reading according to his letter to the Philippians. He had in mind, the Philippian church as a gathering of loved ones and friends—journeying together to the heart of God. Paul deeply loved his Christian communities. His letters were always encouraging and loving (except the Galatians who were nothing but a source of frustration for him—they were Celts, what can you do). But that being the distraction that it is, and hopefully a spark of humour, Paul always found ways to encourage, support, and love even in the face of other distractions, challenges or disruptions. Always. And yes, even the Galatians. Paul writes, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, and consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, and compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind…. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.2: 1-2, 4-5) It’s a great New Year’s Eve letter. It offers a reset as we move into the New Year and the coming weeks of Advent. What a beautiful intention that we set ourselves about the practices of encouragement, love, compassion, sympathy and joy—that we not hunker down into our own self-interests but look upon the interests of others—that we be of one mind, and have the mind of Christ in us—which really is about journeying together to the heart of God. We are on the cusp of the New Christian Year and Paul reminds us about the kind of headspace and heart-space we need to be in as we contemplate the reign of Christ. This takes practice… of course. But I am convinced that it is more relevant and necessary than ever.
  Date: Sunday, October 27, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 26 mins 3 secs    
  Description: God is Love… these words glowed in the dark from a little wooden plaque that hung on the wall next to my bed when I was about 9 years old. My church gave me this plaque as a gift from our Sunday School. Next to the words were two little blue birds framed by a heart. So simple. Since then, and all these years later, I’ve pondered that little plaque, it’s words and especially how they glowed after I turned out the light. God is Love, even through the night. Following our walk around the 6 roots of attachment as outlined by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, the fifth root of attachment is love. At or around 4 years old, our hearts become awakened to love. Four-year-old’s give their heart away to their caring adults. It’s why four-year-old’s want to marry their mom or dad. They want to marry their sister or brother. They want to marry their teacher. Four-year-old’s draw hearts and colour them and give them away. Four-year-old’s love valentines’ day! At the tender age of around 4 we learn about love for the first time and what it means to give our love to someone else. We take this first experience of love into the rest of our lives. A four-year-old’s love is innocent. It is unconditional. It is child-like of course. On the one hand it emerges on its own as part of our human development. On the other hand, it is evoked because the child is in the care of loving adults. It is a deep root and when the conditions are right, there is room for the child to learn about, feel, and express love. Hearts everywhere! That’s why my bedroom plaque was so comforting. God is love, glowing in the dark reminded me that I could exist in the presence of God and experience unconditional love. I knew that God loved me first. And in return, I gave my heart to God. As we reflect on the words about God’s love in 1 John today, we hear the mystery that, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” (1 Jn 4:16b) These words are written specifically for the Christian Community. John’s understanding of love is grounded in the mystery of God’s love at work in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
  Date: Sunday, September 29, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 18 mins 45 secs    
  Description: I was too young to remember, but there’s a story told about me when I was 2-3 years old. One can be pretty convincing at that age and apparently, my mom had to sew patches on the knees of my perfectly good pants so that I could look like my dad. Sameness. It’s the instinctual desire to be like and a primary point of connection that helps us form relationships. If you ever watch two people meet for the first time, you will hear their conversation search for something in common. “Oh, I saw Downton Abbey, too!” “Oh yes, Maggie Smith is my favourite actor, too”. “I can’t believe we both grew up in Inglewood! My goodness isn’t that amazing”. Now… As a pre-schooler I could look like my dad and go to work just like him. Sameness. I watch sameness work its magic after church, as we seek to establish relationship with one another. We talk about hobbies we have in common. We find common connections around where we’re from… “Hey, I grew up in Saskatchewan, too. What’s the name of your hometown?” I hear conversations around favourite kinds of tea, favourite gardening tips, and least favourite books of the Bible. We find sameness with people in our generation—any Carpenters fans here? Theologically, we find sameness as people of God. We are created in the image and likeness of God. Even though we have different abilities and skills, we find sameness in the body of Christ. There is oneness in our sameness. As ones created in the image of God and linked together as members of the body of Christ, we find comfort. We find a welcome. We feel connection. We honour the human need to be together. Sameness is the primary glue that bonds relationships generally, and for Christians in particular it helps form community. We celebrate sameness through our love of eating together, praying together, studying together, and holding a set of values together such as practicing compassion and unconditional love, growing community and extending the table of hospitality, as well as seeking a just, sensitive and inclusive community that chooses to embrace diversity despite differences. Theologically, these are principles and practices that we hold in common that help us settle into relationships where these values are generally the same. We gather around each other knowing that our expression of sameness is grounded in our image and likeness of God and our life together as members of the Body of Christ. Sameness. Sameness helps us begin relationships. And that’s a key understanding where the operative words are: “helps us begin”. Sameness is a rather shallow expression of relationship. Its roots are not very deep. And while it works to help us enter into relationship, by itself it doesn’t lead us very far. There’s an inherent murkiness to sameness if we remain stuck there. It is a point of connection, an entry point that provides opportunity for relationship but, it’s shallow and has a shadow side.
  Date: Sunday, September 15, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 1 sec    
  Description: I think that’s absolutely key to understanding the deeper aspects of John’s words in Revelation 21. This is a passage about relationship. It’s a text about how God seeks relationship and goes to great extents to remove any barriers that serve to separate people from God and each other as God’s people. The watery and chaotic deep that serves to separate us from love and disturb creation is no more; the pang of separation due to pain and death is eased as God so compassionately wipes away our tears—how intimate is the love of God that approaches us in these deep moments of loss and separation. In John’s words, we hear echoes of the apostle Paul who proclaims that, there is nothing that a can separate us from the love of God—neither death, nor life…. nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom.8:38-39)
  Date: Sunday, September 01, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 23 secs    
Passage: Matthew 20:1-16    
  Description: Labour Day in Canada has its roots in a social movement that successfully managed to stop slave-like labour practices and begin the process of providing reasonable, just and safe work environments including the practice of 8-hour workdays. For our reflections here, we have a story from our tradition that infuses employee relations with compassion and generosity. At the end of the day in the vineyard, everyone has a living wage—not based on seniority or merit but based on compassion and generosity. The invitation of today’s gospel is clear: we who follow in the Way of Jesus are to practice God’s generosity, not begrudge it. That’s how life in Christian community functions. It’s not a merit-based system based on how long we serve. Instead it’s a compassion and generosity-based way of living a life of love and service one for the other. The owner of the vineyard acts with love towards those who lack income and purpose. His love is made real through acts of compassion and generosity. While the question of “what’s in it for us, dear Jesus?” is real and very human, the answer is surprising. As one’s who follow in the Way of Jesus, no matter one’s tenure, all are the recipients of God’s compassion, generosity and everlasting love. These gifts are ever eternal and ever present. And they are ours to embody, imitate and proclaim. When we practice and imitate divine compassion and generosity, we root our lives more deeply in God’s abundance and love. And that’s way more profound than living according to whatever merit we think we deserve or might be entitled to receive.
  Date: Sunday, April 21, 2019       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 11 mins 44 secs    
Passage: Luke 24:1-12    
  Description: For the rest of the world, I suspect the first day of the week after the crucifixion of Jesus unfolded normally. The sun came up. The Roman government continued to rule, perhaps relieved that any remaining followers of Jesus were dispersed and the movement fractured. There was after all a certain price for pax romana so that the status quo could remain intact. Life carried on… Except… according to the gospel of Luke, a mystery was unfolding, dismissed at first as an idle tale until, the facts were confirmed by more than one observation that the tomb where they laid Jesus was empty. These reports were confirmed. The body of Jesus was not there and instead two men in dazzling white clothes stood by the tomb and rather flatly asked why Mary, Johanna and Mary Magdalene were looking for Jesus among the dead. He is not here, said the ones in dazzling white. He is risen. “Remember how he told you that, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words. (Lk.24: 6-8)

 

 


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