High River United Church of High River, Alberta
     

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  Date: Sunday, February 17, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 16 mins 41 secs    
  Description: Christians. Disciples. Believers. Followers of the Way. Saints. These are all terms that were used by the followers of Jesus in the first century, terms that we still use to this day. But what does it mean to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, a follower of the Way or even one of the saints? When you think of your faith, how do you name yourself?... So whether we call ourselves Christians, believers, disciples, followers of the Way or saints, the attributes that people should most notice in us are these two: radical inclusiveness and radical generousity. The sad thing is that Christian has come to be associated with something other than inclusiveness. The term Christian has become linked with judgement, with exclusion of certain groups of people, with moral pronouncements that lack compassion and understanding. I am not sure that non-Christians would look at Christians, in general, today and immediately say, “Those are the people who are radically inclusive and radically generous. They welcome everyone and they are always ready to share what they have with anyone in need.” I’m not sure that that is how others would define those of us who call ourselves Christian today. I tend to hear words such as hypocrites, judgmental, old-fashioned, and irrelevant. Or perhaps worse is that we aren’t seen as any different than anyone else in our society – nothing makes us stand out as Christians. Yes, we are to be humble, and not make a show of being Christian. But how do we, with our words and actions, show radical inclusiveness and radical generousity?
  Date: Sunday, February 03, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 16 mins 2 secs    
  Description: It’s not about the goats. Yes, I entitled the sermon, “Why doesn’t Jesus like goats?” but it’s not about the goats, and it’s not about the sheep, though I will explain the sheep and goats later. But if it is not about the sheep and the goats, then what exactly is this parable about? Let’s consider the actors in this parable. We have the sheep and the goats, yes, and Jesus telling the story, but very quickly the scene morphs from pasture to throne room, and we have a king addressing the people on his right and the people on his left. Finally, we have one more group of people, referred to as “the least of these,” really meaning “a single one” Now typically the way this parable has been interpreted is to consider the people on the right as the followers of Jesus, the good Christians who care for the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners. This makes the people on the left the bad people, who do nothing for others and who don’t recognize Jesus in any form. There is a lesson to be learned from that interpretation. The king, who is understood to be Jesus, the Son of Man, states, “When you helped one of the least of these, even a single one, who are members of my family, you have helped me.” It is both a challenging and an instructive statement. When we look into the eyes of another, we are seeing Jesus. When we help another, those who are in need in some way, then it is the same as helping Jesus. And that is an amazing thing – and a challenging thing! I’m not sure that I look at every person I meet as if they are Jesus. I’m not sure that I help every person I meet as if it was Jesus there before me. It is so easy to judge, make assumptions, and jump to conclusions.
  Date: Sunday, January 20, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 13 mins 40 secs    
  Description: It is all about relationship. That’s what this mornings two scripture readings tell us. It is all about relationship – our faith is rooted and grounded in relationship. In fact, faith is grounded in a multitude of relationships. There is our relationship with God, of course, and our relationship with Jesus, who represented God to us and mediates God for us. But there is also our relationship with the Bible, with the words of scripture. And there are our relationships with each other within the congregation. All of these relationships are essential to our faith. I love the passage from Isaiah which we’ve just heard, though I think I say that about many scriptures – I just love the words of the Bible, I love the relationship I can have with scripture. So, in Isaiah, an amazing book, is this passage in which we hear God speaking to the people. God says, “I’m giving you a new name. No longer will you be called Forsaken or Desolate, now you shall be called My Delight and your land shall be called Married. You shall be my crown of beauty, my royal diadem.” Aren’t those amazing words? Doesn’t that spark something in our spirits? We all have those moments, those times, sometimes too long in duration, where we feel forsaken and desolate, forgotten and alone. At those times, don’t we long for someone to name us My Delight, My Joy, My Friend, My Beloved.
  Date: Sunday, January 06, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 16 mins 18 secs    
  Description: Magi. Wisemen. Mages from the East. Kings, perhaps. I’ve been thinking about these people who chose to make the journey to find a little baby in another country. They are really quite remarkable, these magi – but not because they were rich or wise. They are remarkable because they made the choice to set out on a journey of faith, not knowing exactly where that journey would take them, but committed to the journey none-the-less. To understand their journey of faith, let’s take a step back and review a few details about this story. First of all, remember that the best question to ask of any Biblical story is ‘Why did people choose to tell this story and to record this story for future generations?’ Asking, ‘Did it really happen this way?’ doesn’t serve us. Asking, ‘Why was this story told?” leads us deeper into our own faith journey. So “why was this story told?” Let’s consider that. The Greek word translated “wisemen” is magoi, or magi, or mages – from which we get our word magician. But these wise-ones were the scientists of their day, seeking to understand the world around them and the skies above them, rather than people who did magic tricks.
  Date: Sunday, December 23, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 11 mins 14 secs    
  Description: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is the night when we celebrate the coming of Jesus, God’s beloved child. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that incredible? More than 2,000 years after the birth of this child, Jesus, we still pause every year to celebrate the gift of his birth. There are many babies who have been born this year, whose births and lives will be celebrated by family and friends, but 2,000 years later – just imagine that. What kind of person does it take to be remembered so significantly for so long? What kind of person does it take to continue to shape lives and mend hearts, 2,000 years after he lived? Well, it takes Jesus. I am constantly in awe that a tiny baby, whose family was from the peasant class, has had such an impact on the world. Jesus defied all odds. Nothing in his life set him up to be such a well-known person. He wasn’t born in a palace. There was no social media to immediately send the news of his birth around the world. He lived quietly in Nazareth as a carpenter for 30 years, attended no special schools or training camps. His ministry lasted only 3 years before his untimely death at the hands of the Romans. None of this points to a person who would have such a lasting impact. But this was Jesus! There was something more about this person, something that those around him named as divine.
  Date: Sunday, November 25, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 17 mins 25 secs    
  Description: requirements for proper form and right belief that have become associated with the Christian church. Whether we want it or not, we are seen as judgemental, and as hypocrites who can’t live up to what we expect of others. It is time for us to reclaim the faith of Jesus even as we live the Way of Jesus. It is time to focus on Spirit rather than form— to value curiosity more than instruction, intentions more than the form in which those intentions are carried out, aspiration more than expectation of right behaviour, expression and imagination more than right belief, compassion more than conventions, generousity more than reward or recognition. The Christian church still has Good News to share with the world, Good News that is needed in our world, but that Good News has been lost, I believe, in messages of punishment and hell, and judgement of people of other faiths or of anyone who doesn’t fit within our comfort levels. The Good News has been lost in demands for right belief, proper form, and hard work to earn God’s love. But that is not good news, and definitely not the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Good News of Jesus Christ is about love, compassion & generousity. It is a message of welcoming & hospitality. It is a message that calls each of us to be part of the healing of the world. We don’t have to earn God’s love. We are already loved. We don’t have to fear eternal punishment. We are already forgiven and accepted. As followers of the Way of Jesus, we just need to offer our hearts to Jesus, open ourselves to the faith of Jesus, and live the Way of Jesus, loving God, neighbours, strangers, enemies, and yes, even loving ourselves. As a Christian church in the 21st century, we must be excited about Living the Way of Jesus and sharing the faith of Jesus. We must show with our faces and express with our lives the wonder, joy and hope we feel as we are embraced by the compassion of Christ and share that compassion with others. We follow The Way–a way like none other. Thanks be to God!
  Date: Sunday, November 04, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 17 mins 47 secs    
  Description: The Bible is this amazing, wonderful, & fascinatingly diverse collection of sayings, stories, genealogies, poems, proverbs, historical writings, parables, and more. It’s not a book – it’s a library. It contains the most comforting words: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” And the most poetically beautiful words: “They shall rise up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not be faint.” And the wisest words: “Love your enemies; do not repay evil for evil.” And the strangest stories.... When we choose to follow the Way of Jesus, then we choose this book as our guide and our wisdom, and that includes all the strange and weird parts, as well as all the beautiful, wise and wonderful parts. It includes all the imperfect, stumbling, bumbling characters, as well as the compassionate, wise ones. Then, there are the many Christians who declare that the Bible must be seen as inerrant, infallible, and it must be taken literally. They resist asking any questions about why things might be contradictory in scripture or why the Bible says things that science and life experience might tell us are no longer accurate. In a way, they are trying to protect the Bible, to build a fence around it so it doesn’t get trampled down. Perhaps, underneath, they are afraid that the Bible will be dismissed as irrelevant, and so they protect it with words such as literal, inerrant & infallible. But the Bible doesn’t need protecting. In fact, the more it is protected from questions, debates, and wrestling, the less relevant it does become. So, what is the Bible? How would I describe it and my relationship to it? I believe the Bible is a collection of writings from dozens, if not hundreds of people. I believe, as David preached from 2nd Timothy last week, that the Bible is inspired by God. Yet, that inspiration was given to fallible people, people who can misunderstand and make errors, people who were shaped by their own cultural understandings, even as they tried to express their experience of God.
  Date: Sunday, October 21, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 5 secs    
  Description: When you walked into the sanctuary this morning, what was your focus? Were you noticing the decorations or the people who were already present? Were you thinking about what you need to do in worship or later today or who you might need to talk to before you leave the building? I’m wondering if any of us, myself included, were thinking about presenting ourselves to God. I wonder if any of us were seeing ourselves as moving into the presence of God, onto holy ground. As the apostle Paul puts in in the letter to Romans, were we presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice, a holy offering, and a precious people? I’m not asking this to create guilt or point out failure. Rather, I’m inviting us to consider how we approach worship and our faith. In some faith traditions, you would take off your shoes as you enter the sacred space, an action that profoundly marks the transition into being in the holy presence. In some Christian traditions, you would pause, cross yourself, and bend the knee, showing honour and reminding yourself that you are on holy ground. In some churches, the organ or piano is playing as you enter (something we have found hard to do with the choir having a practice just before worship). The music signals the transition and acts as a reminder to settle into the presence of God. Now, we believe that God is with us everywhere, but this is a particular, special, holy place in which we intentionally come into God’s presence. I think that we all have a sense of the sacredness of this space, a sacredness created by the generations of those who have worshipped here. Each of us have our expectations and ideas about how this space should be treated and how we should act in this space. It jars us when someone does something we don’t see as fitting in this place, though we may have different ideas about just what is appropriate or not appropriate. For example, a few years ago, I came into the sanctuary for a wedding rehearsal, and found the bridal party sitting on the communion table. My gasp, I hope, was inaudible. But then I realized that no one in this group understood the meaning the table holds for those of us who gather around it to share in the gift of the Lord’s Supper. So I took a moment to ask them not to sit on the table and to explain that it was sacred and special to the congregation. Then, we went on with rehearsal. Sacred. Holy. Blessing. Sacrifice. Offering. Worship. Salvation. Confession. These are words connected with this space in which we gather. They are words which also hold special meaning for us, words that hold less meaning, different meaning, or perhaps no meaning in the broader secular culture. I read an article this week that talked about the decline in religious language. It wouldn’t surprise most of us that conversations that touch on faith and spiritual matters are becoming more rare. A recent survey, by the Barna Group in the United States, showed that 75% of people do not have or only rarely have what they consider spiritual conversations, and that includes all those who name themselves as committed to faith groups. Only 7% of people indicated that they talk about spiritual matters regularly. I imagine that most of us find ourselves within the 75% group, who rarely have spiritual conversations. I’ll come back to why that may be, but the other interesting piece offered in this article indicated that spiritual and religious words are fading from the vocabulary. Now, we might not be surprised that words like “salvation” or “blessing” are used less and less within our culture. However, the study also found that words connected with virtues, or what we as Christians call “the fruits of the Spirit” are declining. Words such love, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and humility are being used less and less, both in written and oral language. Words such as compassion and kindness and thankfulness have dropped in written and oral usage by 50% in the past century.
  Date: Sunday, September 30, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 15 mins 34 secs    
  Description: “When is a building, not a building?” I’m not going to make you wait until the end of my sermon for the answer. “When is a building, not a building?” When it is a church – you may have guessed that answer. The writer of Psalm 127 declares, “Unless God builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” Indeed, if we only built this building to have a building, it would be sad indeed. Look around the downtown. Unfortunately, there are many wonderful but empty buildings, built with a purpose in mind, a purpose they are not serving at the moment. We didn’t need to build a building in order to have a building. We built it for something more. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of this facility, we are taking time to consider what exactly we are here for, why we gather, what we envision for the present and future of our church gathered in this building. James P. Wind, of the Alban Institute, says this about our church buildings: Our religious spaces are special places that make room for our spiritual selves to emerge, for sacred stories to be told, and life-giving practices to be learned. They make room for us to meet God, rekindle hope, experience self-emptying love, and face the [shadowed] side of our humanness with the light of grace. From these places, justice and mercy are set loose in the world....Our challenge is the same as that faced in every era: to keep clearing imaginative space and keep building new kinds of sacred containers and symbols that will release healing in the world.
  Date: Sunday, September 16, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 9 secs    
  Description: We are the church – together – in this place. We are sitting in a church building which we have built, gathered as a church community which we create each time we gather. 1885 is the official date of the start of this congregation as The Presbyterian Church of High River, though Christian worship happened on this spot in the decades before that. This area by the Highwood River, known as “The Crossing,” was, for the Indigenous Peoples, the sacred wintering ground of the buffalo and the healing place of the Medicine Tree for thousands of years before white settlers began to arrive. It is holy ground on which we gather, to be the church together, in 2018 in High River, Alberta, under the banner of The United Church of Canada. But why? Why do we gather? Why do you choose to be here this morning? This is a question unique to our generation. For the first white settlers, who held worship services in each other’s homes, and the Methodist and Presbyterian itinerant preachers, who rode into town on horseback and preached in the waiting room of Buck Smith’s Stagecoach Stopping House & Saloon located on this very spot, the question would have been quickly answered. If we were able to ask them, “Why do you worship?”, the response would have been clear. “Because we must give glory to God. Because human beings are created to praise God. Because we can not live our lives without worshipping God.” Today, however, we live in a time when fewer and fewer people in North America make worship a part of their lives. “Why bother!” is an acceptable response to the practice of faith in our culture. Yet, for many of us in our growing up, it was assumed that one belonged to a church. For many of us the regular practice of attending worship on a Sunday was a given. For most, it was rare to miss church, except due to illness or an extended holiday or perhaps harvesting the fields. Everyone claimed a faith affiliation, even if they didn’t attend. But those days are gone and aren’t coming back. Sunday shopping. Sunday morning activities and sports practices. These are the new norm. And even those of us who want to make Sunday morning worship a weekly part of our lives are caught when other family members and friends plan events, which we need to attend, at a time that conflicts with Sunday worship. We are more and more the exceptions, we who choose to be church together.

 

 


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
Created On Monday, 11 February 2019
Highwood United Calligraphers Beginner Calligraphy with Melanie McCracken 4 Mondays, 6:30 – 8:00...
Meditation & Prayer at High River United
Created On Monday, 11 February 2019
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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