High River United Church of High River, Alberta

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  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 10, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 19 mins 16 secs    
Passage: Luke 17:11-19    
  Description: Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy! With those words, the lepers by the side of the road call out to Jesus, expressing the deep yearning of human hearts for healing and wholeness. Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy! Mercy is a deep and complex word. It does not mean “forgive me,” as is often thought. Rather it is about something freely offered, with no expectation of action or a returned favour. Mercy is compassion, kindness, gracious favour, an understanding of what the other person is going through. To offer mercy is to open one’s heart unconditionally to the other. So, when the ten lepers call out for mercy, they are not asking for forgiveness. They are not even asking specifically for healing. They are asking for something so much more than either of those. They are saying: We are shunned and ostracized by society; look at us & love us as we are. Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy! We are worn down by our disease; understand what it is like for us. Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy! We long to be touched and cared for; open your heart to us. Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy! We have done nothing wrong, nothing to deserve this;show us compassion Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy! Mercy – that’s what the lepers ask for. Mercy! “Leprosy,” in the time of Jesus, was not likely the leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, today. Lepers could have had any manner of skin diseases, defined in Leviticus 13 as “a swelling or an eruption or a spot, with white hair in it and/or more than skin deep.” This could have included what we would call today ringworm, psoriasis, eczema, allergic reactions, boils, burns, among other skin irritations and diseases. In fact, houses and clothes could be declared to have leprosy if they had reddish or greenish spots appear – perhaps a type of mould or lichen. Strict rules were followed if it was determined by a priest that leprosy existed. The person wore torn clothes, let the hair on their head be disheveled, covered the upper lip and cried out, “Unclean, unclean,” if anyone came near. They had to live alone, outside the village, until a priest declared them to be clean, at which time they had to go to the temple to make specific offerings before being welcomed back into their village. Kyrie eleison! Lord, have mercy! When the lepers call out for mercy, they are asking for compassion, for understanding, to be treated as human again, to be welcomed back into the community – which would require healing from their skin disease. This is a fascinating story. The writer Luke, in just 12 sentences, touches upon multiple themes. I’ll explore just a few.
  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 27, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 23 mins 37 secs    
  Description: Love. That was the theme of the sermon delivered by the Most Reverend Michael Curry during the wedding of Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. Rev. Murray quoted the late Dr. Martin Luther King, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.” But no sooner had Rev. Murray finished his sermon than the judgements began, proclaimed online & in the media, cynical judgements that missed the core message of the sermon. Love, they said: too sappy, too sweet. Love – no guts to that. Love – he should have preached that Jesus died for our sins and that you must be Christian to be saved. Love – anyone can talk about love – he sure missed his opportunity. Cynical judgements of a powerful sermon. Yet how can we be surprised, for we live in a cynical time, a time where everything and anything is quickly judged and pronouncements made, attacking the person, the message & the action, sometimes violently. The reason cynics don’t get a sermon on love is because cynicism is the antithesis of love – the opposite. And our North American culture is an especially cynical one. There is no room in a cynic’s heart, or a cynical culture, for the kind of love which Rev. Murray spoke about at the royal wedding.
  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.
  Date: Sunday, May 06, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 21 mins 32 secs    
  Description: It has been hard watching the news in this last month. Even as we watched and wondered about the huge piles of snow melting in our yards & streets, we have been hearing day after day of the flooding in Taber area, in Vulcan County, and other parts of Alberta, and now the pictures of the St. John River in New Brunswick overflowing its banks. It is all eerily familiar, and creates that uneasiness for us, here in High River. We are a town who now knows what that means. We watch those pictures & we understand what is happening behind the scenes in homes & basements. When evacuation notice is given, we are acutely aware of what that means. Two years ago, at this time, it was the Fort McMurray fires. Last year, it was extensive fires in BC, fires & mudslides in California, multiple devastating hurricanes hitting the Caribbean and the southern US. And I haven’t even left our continent yet. It is not just because we have such immediate and easy access to news that there is this overwhelming sense of natural disasters. Statistically, there really are more natural disasters more often in our world. The climate is changing. Humans are, at least, part of the cause of that change. But my point today is not to get into a debate about how much of this is a natural cycle on the earth and how much is human caused. Humans have a part to play in addressing climate change and my point today is to talk about what it means for us as people of faith.
  Date: Sunday, April 29, 2018       Teacher: Rev. David L.S. Robertson     Duration: 16 mins 10 secs    
Passage: John 20:19-29    
  Description: This is a powerfully charged spiritual season—these days post-Easter. Words fail, somehow. But the resurrection stories, filled with images and metaphors, transformation and mystery fly straight to the human heart. They do. And when we sit with the depth of conviction that rests at the foot of an empty cross, at the entrance of an empty tomb, and numerous encounters with the risen Christ, especially at meal-times we cannot help but be touched by this story of hope where in the words of Diana Butler-Bass, “Gratefulness banishes fear and thanksgiving replaces grief.” (RNS, religioinnnews.com/2018/04/11 Doubting-Thomas…) That’s what this story is about. It is generally assumed that on the day of resurrection, the first day of the week, the disciples are back in the dining room of the house “where they had met” the Thursday before. It’s their safe house. What we know is that in times of fear and trauma, human beings want to be together—the relationship matters more than anything else. It’s really tense. There is comfort in huddling together around the table. Then, Jesus appears. Ok, this is weird. What are we to make of this? Our modern minds more than likely go straight to science and reason. We try to explain. We try to wrap our heads around a transaction that seems more paranormal than anything. My invitation is to let that thinking go. Let it go. Because this narrative is trying to rouse a deeper knowing, a wider awareness, a sense of gratefulness and thanksgiving. The gospel of John is drawing our attention to something more compelling than the physicality of nail wounds or the mental state of fear. The gospel is signalling the real presence of the risen Christ. It is proclaiming peace. It is portraying the dawn of a new age emerging around the upper room table.
  Date: Sunday, April 22, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 21 mins 54 secs    
Passage: Luke 24:36-49    
  Description: “Have you anything to eat?” Such an ordinary question, in a situation that was far from ordinary. “Have you anything to eat?” The disciples are hiding out in the upper room, where they shared their last supper with Jesus. They are confused, frightened, lost, and alone. Jesus, their teacher and friend, has been killed by the Romans. Three years before each had made the decision to give up their livelihoods, to leave behind family and friends, and to make their life as disciples of Rabbi Jesus. They had imagined that they would spend many years at his side, learning, debating, gradually being given more roles in teaching their own students. That is how it worked. But then, suddenly, three short years into this endeavor, it was all over. Their Rabbi had been crucified. Nothing made sense. Into the void, came the fears. The authorities had seen Jesus as a challenge to their authority, a challenge to Roman rule, a challenge to the Roman enforced stability, and so they crucified what they considered to be a dissident and a rabble-rouser. It didn’t take long for the disciples to wonder if they too might be arrested and crucified. After all, they were known to be disciples of Jesus. But they hadn’t been arrested yet, not that night in the garden when Jesus was arrested, and not in the hours as they watched at a distance as Jesus died on the cross. There had been no pounding on the door, announcing the arrival of Roman soldiers to take them away. So maybe, if they laid low and stayed out of sight, they might be fine. So, they waited, startled by every little noise, wondering if this was the moment when the soldiers would come. I think of the same situation that has happened in many places throughout the centuries: Protestants worshipping in secret in the early 1500’s fearing arrest and burning at the stake or Jewish people hidden in fear or the Dutch resistance hiding from the Nazi soldiers. For the disciples, a noise did come, but it came right from the middle of the room, not from outside. The voice of Jesus said, “Peace, my friends. Don’t be afraid. It’s me, touch & see. Oh & by the way, do you have something to eat?”
  Date: Sunday, April 15, 2018       Teacher: Guest Worship Leaders     Duration: 15 mins 35 secs    
  Description: A photographer visited Jasper Park. He was up early and stopped at a roadside parking lot near an open field where wild buffalo graze. The parking lot was lined with explicit warning signs. Buffalo are dangerous. Visitors should not leave their cars. Never enter the field on foot. As he was taking snapshots with a telephoto lens, a car from Quebec pulled in and a man got out, walking toward the buffalo. The photographer called his attention to the warning signs but he said that nothing that big could catch him, and he walked to within a few meters of the huge beasts, and began taking pictures. The bull charged. Buffalo can run 50 km/p/h for short distances, but the man from Quebec realized he was in trouble and got back to his car, got in and closed the door just in time ahead of the angry animal. However, his car wasn’t so fortunate in escaping the buffalo's attention and was rammed repeatedly, sustaining significant damage. Park Rangers arrived expecting a bloody mess, but the man and his wife survived with little more than glass cuts and some suspected staining in their underwear. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I want to talk to you about courage; not the stupid kind of courage like our Buffalo friend but of the right kind of courage.



Help Those Devastated by the Wildfires in Northern Alberta
Created On Wednesday, 24 May 2023
There are many options to offer monetary support (whichever one works for you, please be sure...
We Pray for Those Devastated and Evacuated due to Wildfires
Created On Tuesday, 16 May 2023
For those in the Midst of Wildfires: The Burnt Prayer, A Prayer of Lament, A Prayer in Burning...
We're Delighted to Welcome the LGBTQ+ Community
Created On Tuesday, 04 April 2023
It is with joy that High River United Church announces that we are open, public, intentional and...
Bearing Witness to the Findings at the Alberni Residential School
Created On Wednesday, 22 February 2023
Dear Community of High River, Please join the people of High River United Church today in a time...



123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

(403) 652-3168


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