High River United Church of High River, Alberta

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  Date: Sunday, October 29, 2017       Teacher: Guest Worship Leaders     Duration: 16 mins 54 secs    
  Description: Guest speaker: David Armour, Director of Philanthropy for the United Church of Canada, was here to share a message and to thank us for continuing our faithful giving through the flood disaster. He noted that we were people that know both the gift of giving and of receiving.
  Date: Sunday, October 22, 2017       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 16 mins 18 secs    
Passage: Acts 16:11-15 & Psalms 92    
  Description: What is our purpose in life? It is a question that I think all of us ask at some point or many points in life – when we are 18 and embracing what adulthood will mean for us, when we are middle-aged (how ever that is now defined) and trying to figure out what our life has meant so far and what it can mean for the next stages, when we are in our senior years and looking back, and when we face serious illness, our own end of life or the death of a loved one. All of these times (and others) can bring us face to face with the question: what is my purpose in life? What meaning does my life have? One of the ways that the Christian faith has answered that question for centuries is to say that our “chief purpose is to glorify God, and to enjoy God for ever.” I don’t suppose that was the first thing that came to your mind when I asked the question. I think many of us would point to our relationships with family and friends, our contributions through our jobs or volunteer work, and the gifts and skills by which we can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Indeed, all of those give meaning and purpose to life – and could be considered the ultimate meaning of life. However, I think that many, if not all, of us have experienced the moment when we are confronted by that question, “What is the purpose of my life, the meaning of my existence?” and we don’t have an answer, or once we list our relationships, jobs, volunteer work, and other contributions, we find ourselves asking, “But is it enough? Have I done enough? Have I made enough of a difference?”
  Date: Sunday, October 15, 2017       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 13 mins 34 secs    
Passage: Matthew 11:28-30 & Acts 2:42-47    
  Description: The energizer bunny thumped across my TV screen the other night. It just keeps going and going says the announcer. On the one hand how awesome for Energizer that they can produce a long-lasting battery—that’s pretty cool. On the other hand, I found myself annoyed by the bunny’s noise and incessant banging that just keeps going and going. And then I thought, gosh… how many times have I heard this annoying bunny become a positive image for resilience and a congratulatory phrase for how someone we know just keeps going and going. Why, she’s just like the energizer bunny. And we all nod with awareness and wonder. Assuming that’s a good thing. As I thought more about the energizer bunny, I literally went down a rabbit hole. We live in a world that doesn’t stop. We work shifts around the clock. We have access to light 24 hours a day. We receive market and business news from around the world at all hours of the day. We have fast food so we can eat and move to our next appointment at the same time. Productivity keeps going and going. This year’s bottom line has to out pace last year’s. We are addicted to work. We can even throw back a shot of espresso, get all the benefits of aroma, taste and caffeine—in, out, gone, next. This is especially useful for morning commuters it’s all about keeping ourselves going and going. This is the normal human pattern of activity in most parts of the industrialized world. We’re all expected to operate like the energizer bunny that just keeps going and going, banging away at our work. And for the most part we are rewarded for it. But a what cost? The pharmaceutical industry loves the energizer bunny because it busies itself by creating anti-depressants, sleep aids, pain suppressors, cold remedies so, we can all get back to work, be our normal productive self and keep going and going. But what about the breakdown of marriages, turn key kids, coronaries, high blood pressure, panic attacks, strokes, burnout, and chronic fatigue… pharmaceuticals merely numb the symptoms, they don’t make them go away. Fact is, humans need rest. There’s no denying it… rest serves our immune systems, restores our body, and provides us with over all well-being. When I read the words from today’s gospel, I feel myself melt. I need that kind of rest. I need to lean into God, into my spiritual practice, into the wisdom of my Judeo-Christian tradition, into the awareness that even Jesus rested and so did God.
  Date: Sunday, October 08, 2017       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 19 mins 51 secs    
Passage: Mark 4:35-41    
  Description: Sleeping like a baby! Isn’t that what we all wish for! How often have we stood there looking in a crib or a car seat and watched a baby sound asleep and wished that we could have that kind of sleep once again. Totally relaxed. Every limb like jelly. Not a worry or thought disturbing the sleep. Just pure sleep. I think that was what Jesus was like asleep like a baby in the stern of the boat, so sound asleep that he didn’t even notice that the winds and waves were tossing the boat about and that water was beginning to fill and swamp the boat. Jesus was asleep, in that pure sleep of a baby. How did he do that? How do you sleep like a baby through the storms and chaos of life? How do you let go and relax into a deep and undisturbed sleep when life is howling and swirling all around you – unless you really are a baby? Why is it that babies can sleep so deeply? (and I would note that I know that there are some that don’t) But generally babies do sleep deeply. Why is that? First of all, it is because their bodies absolutely need sleep to grow. It is a natural thing for most little ones. Secondly, it is because they feel safe, protected and cared for. They don’t have to worry because there are adults around them to do the worrying and protecting. The third thing is that they only have one thought or feeling in their brain at once. Nothing else is there. If they are hungry, they are hungry. It is the only thing they are focussed on. If they are separated from their parents, the separation is the only thing. And if they are tired, they are tired, and they sleep. No lingering thoughts of hunger or separation to disturb them. It is as we get older – somewhere about age 6-8 it starts – that our brains develop the ability to have mixed feelings – to hold two or more thoughts or feelings at the same time. That’s when it becomes harder for us to just sleep, that pure sleep. But here is Jesus, sound asleep like a baby, in the middle of the waves crashing, the wind howling, and the water threatening to swamp the boat. How did he do that? Is it just a Jesus thing? As I read the story, I think that Jesus expected that his disciples would have learned from him how to do it.
  Date: Sunday, October 01, 2017       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 14 mins 50 secs    
Passage: 1 Kings 19:15-20    
  Description: Marco, our little cocker spaniel, and I have recently discovered a night path. It’s the walk we take in the evening, after dark, around part of Sunshine lake. There are no lights, except the soft glow from the windows of neighbouring homes. It’s quiet, this walk we take, except for the jingling of Marco’s tags and the calming sound of the lake’s fountain. There is an absence of brightness, an absence of noise, an absence of other humans and their dogs. The night walk is still, peaceful, and sometimes a little eerie. This is the quiet where there’s space and time for me and God and, one of the best places that provides enough emptiness for me to hear God’s question…. just like the one God posed to Elijah: What are you doing here? There are no rock-splitting winds. There is no quaking earth or fiery inferno on my night path—thankfully. But how often do we mistake these mighty cataclysmic events as somehow being the voice, judgement or will of God? Yet, the writer of 1 Kings makes it quite clear that despite hurricane force winds that tear off roofs or split brick walls, or earthquakes that collapse buildings, or forest fire infernos that consume everything in their path or powerful floods that wash parts of our way of life… God is not in any of that kind of power, despite what divine meaning we try to attach to nature’s way. God is not in any of those catastrophic forces. I find that interesting. Instead God is in a sound of sheer silence. And in the sheer silence the penetrating question about our existence comes to be. God asks, “What are we doing here?”
  Date: Sunday, September 24, 2017       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 16 mins 19 secs    
Passage: Psalms 150:1-6 & Luke 14:15-24    
  Description: Since the days when I heard this parable for the first time as young person, I realize that throughout the years, I have been judging those who refuse the dinner invitation due to life’s circumstances: one just completed a huge real estate transaction, another is tending to his newly acquired oxen, and yet another is about to go their honeymoon. I have viewed these busy folks with a healthy dose of disdain because of their unwillingness to accept the invitation, and perhaps reserve even harsher words because of course, this is God’s invitation… who would ever refuse such a divine invite to a beautiful dinner? I mean really. But this time, I found my heart softening for these folks. Maybe because I see myself among them. They are all carrying the responsibilities and duties that are part of ordinary life and doing what it takes to survive in their social and economic context. I don’t think we can blame them for making the decisions they made. Sometimes duty calls, work beckons and I know what life would be like if I cancelled my honeymoon in favour of a random dinner invitation. It became quite apparent to me, that the invitation decliners are a lot like me and perhaps a lot like us. We are busy with our lives, our scheduling, our responsibilities, our priorities. In our culture, we work long and crazy hours, we admire busyness—we are rewarded for it according to our social and economic conventions. On the one hand, I don’t think we get a lot of reward when we say to the boss, “Sorry, I’m leaving work early today because I’m having dinner at a friend’s house”. That’s an invitation leading to potential job loss. On the other hand, a call home saying, “I’m sorry honey, I’m closing a big deal today. Don’t worry about setting a place at the dinner table this evening, I’m going to be late… give my love to the kids”, is usually considered acceptable and often rewarded. But at what cost?
  Date: Sunday, September 17, 2017       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 22 mins 26 secs    
Passage: Genesis 1:1-2:3    
  Description: What do you think about rules? Are you a “by the rules” person who is dedicated to doing things according to the standards and practices set out by society? Or do you resist the rules, find ways to creatively or quietly work around them, or at least protest loudly (even if it is just in your mind)? What is your relationship with rules? And how are you at making rules for others? As a teacher, parent or grandparent, do you set rules and boundaries and stick to them? Or do you make the rules but then bend them a little here or a lot there when protests or tears come from the children? Then there are the rules & policies set by our elected government. In Alberta, we have an interesting relationship with government. It is often said in Alberta that we want less government and more freedom for individual choice. At the same time, we all realize that well-functioning government rules mean that we have safe drinking water, stable communities and quickly accessible health-care. Now, I’m not here today to tell you whether you should be a rule follower or a rule breaker, whether you should love government rules or resist them. What I do want to do today, based on faith tradition and scripture, is to talk about the paradox of rules and freedom. Here is what scripture says: Rules set you free! Rules set you free! As a young child in the 60’s, that is not what I remember being said in society about rules. The 60’s were a time of protests, challenges to rules and traditions, and experimentation with drugs, lifestyle, and music. Institutions were no longer valued for what they had meant in society. Individual needs and wants now took precedence over the good of the community. Rules, rituals, traditions, boundaries – all those were seen as bad. Creativity, individualism, uniqueness were named good! Each and every one of us – whether we love rules or resist rules – have been affected by the 60’s. We have embraced individual choice in everything from cell phones to dairy products. Some of you will remember the day when you walked into a store and had 2 or 3 choices at the most, not 50 kinds of yogurt and 40 kinds of cell phones. Now, most of us would feel quite disturbed if we suddenly were reduced to 2 kinds of yogurt or only 1 kind of bread on the shelf. We have fully incorporated and welcomed having a multitude of choices so that we can meet individual needs. And some of that is very good – for example, it means that people with particular food needs or allergies can buy nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and more – to stay healthy and be well. But the shadow side of all those choices is how much time they take in our lives.
  Date: Sunday, September 10, 2017       Teacher: Revs. Susan/David     Duration: 14 mins 1 sec    
Passage: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & Acts 17:28    
  Description: A conversation between Susan & David about how we understand time from a faith perspective.
  Date: Sunday, September 03, 2017       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 23 mins 53 secs    
Passage: Galatians 5:16-26 & Ephesians 3:14-21    
  Series Summer 2017
  Description: I was scrolling through my Linked In news feed earlier in the week and noticed a post by an acquaintance of mine, Tim Neubauer, who worked with Samaritan’s Purse as part of the recovery efforts here in High River. His post, asked the simple question, “How then, shall we live?” Which is a very significant question for us who choose to follow in the Way of Jesus. In fact, it’s the same question that rests at the very root of today’s passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. A close read of Paul’s letters to the early churches always starts with words of introduction like: I Paul an apostle… to the church at Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, Galatia. Then words of greetings, blessing, thanksgiving. Paul uses the same formula every time. His opening words are always gracious and polite—every time in every letter… except to the Galatians where he skips the customary words of blessing and thanksgiving and instead expresses astonishment and amazement at their foolishness. Paul is highly frustrated with them. His letter to the Galatians is one of the clearest expressions of his theology and answers the question, “how then, shall we live”, perhaps better than any of his other letters. Why? Paul’s frustration is caused by some zealous agitators in the Galatian community who are arguing very convincingly that to be a good Christian, the Galatian men need to be circumcised. They need to make the same form of physical and outward commitment to the faith following the Jewish custom. This infuriates Paul, because on the one hand, the Galatians are not Jewish and don’t need to be, and on the other hand the agitators are saying essentially, “it’s up to us to prove we are worthy of God’s love as something to be earned by our doing.” Paul disagrees in the strongest possible language and argues that the agitators are operating from the wrong end of the relationship. It’s not about joining an ethnic group, or custom based on one’s capacity to produce merit. Instead, it’s all about God’s relationship with us as the provider of love that is unconditional and not something to be earned. In God’s love, as Paul argues, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). Therefore, no need for circumcision. Period. Paul seems to calm down as the letter continues, but his passion does not abate. The answer to the question, how then shall we live? is to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. It’s another way Paul goes after the bad theology surrounding circumcision. To understand the essence of Paul’s argument, we need to think like a 1st century Greek Christian mystic. Because, that is who Paul was.
  Date: Sunday, August 27, 2017       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 11 mins 6 secs    
Passage: John 15:1-5 & John 15:12-17    
  Series Summer 2017
  Description: This is what happens when you don’t water a plant for several weeks. (Place dried plant on pulpit). This one still looks green in most places. But it is crisp, easily disintegrates when you touch a leaf, and it is done – not coming back, even if I water it now. As I read this week’s scripture from the gospel of John, I thought of this plant that I found upon return from my holidays (sitting in a place that no one would have thought of watering it – oops!). The image Jesus gives is just as clear as this dead plant. He says, “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it is connected to the vine – neither can you bear fruit unless you are connected to me.” Think of the grape vine – the vine carries nourishment and moisture from the roots and spreads it out to the branches that in turn deliver it to the grapes growing on the vine. Or imagine tomatoes growing on their stems and branches. I have huge tomatoes growing along my garage this summer – they have loved the heat. Sometimes, when I go to pick a tomato, I accidentally break off the branch that may have several green tomatoes along with the lovely ripe one I intended to pick. Once I have broken off that branch, there is nothing I can do. The green tomatoes are cut off from the roots, the vine, the stem. They may ripen if they are far enough along in their growth cycle, but if not, I have cut them off from their nourishment and moisture and that is it – they can not grow.



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