High River United Church of High River, Alberta

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  Date: Sunday, February 23, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 14 mins 15 secs    
  Description: Each Sunday I begin worship by greeting you with the words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ….be with you.” What does that mean exactly – when I wish you and bless you with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. As I was reading through Acts chapters15 & 16 this week, each time I read through the phrase that popped out for me was “the grace of the Lord Jesus.” Peter declares that they all will be saved, healed and blessed through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Later, when the believers in Antioch are saying farewell to Paul and Silas as they set out, they commend the two to the grace of the Lord. It is a phrase that is core to the Christian tradition: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Words of greeting, blessing and farewell – but what exactly are we wishing each other with these words? The word grace in Hebrew is chen. It’s root meaning is to bend or stoop in kindness to another, especially a superior stooping to help someone inferior. In Greek, the word grace is charis ????? which speaks of a manner of acting or an attitude of the heart rooted in gratitude, compassion and mercy. Out of these root words, grace came to refer to unmerited favour, unconditional love, goodness and mercy that is offered freely and joyfully. Grace can not be earned. It also is not taken away because we have done something wrong. So when I greet you with the words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” and you reply, “and also with you,” we are declaring that we believe that each of us is enfolded in the unconditional, freely given, love and compassion of God which we know through Jesus. What a beautiful thing! And what an amazing thing for the followers of Jesus to wish each other when you consider what was happening between them at the time.
  Date: Sunday, February 09, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 13 mins 18 secs    
  Description: I hate it! I just absolutely hate it when I catch myself judging someone because of their looks, their way of speaking, or their approach. It happened this week --probably more than once, but the once that stood out was when I was listening to the radio. I was appreciating what the person was saying but I found myself thinking – what he has to say would be better received if he didn’t have that accent. Oh, I hate it when I do that. Judge someone for just being who they are. But we human beings are judgemental by nature. Partly it is a survival skill. We judge others in order to determine if they are the enemy that we need to be aware of. And there are people, abusive, violent, deceptive people, that we should be very wary of. But this judgement thing has got out of hand. Jesus knew that when he told people, “Do not judge so that you are not judged.” Jesus modeled a spiritual practice of accepting each person in front of him for who they were, welcoming them, seeing beyond outer appearances and stereotypes, rejecting societal norms & connecting compassionately & unconditionally with the person. In today’s reading from the book of Acts, Peter is challenged to drop his judgments, even the judgments made on the basis of the Jewish law code by which he had lived his whole life.
  Date: Sunday, January 12, 2020       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 19 secs    
  Description: We are familiar with the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – and we understand that there are many letters, mostly from the apostle Paul, in the New Testament, but tucked between the gospels and letters is a book that we only occasionally refer to and which often, I believe, is forgotten – The Book of Acts. At the Worship Team meeting this fall, it was suggested that we learn more of about the early church – what really was going on and what can we learn from it. And that leads us to the Book of Acts. So today we begin an adventure together, an adventure in faith, following the early church as described in the book of Acts. Between now and Easter we are going to journey through the whole book. In your announcements and in the booklet I’ve put together, you’ll see that I’ve outlined chapters to read each week, and I invite you to do just that. Read the two to three chapters indicated for each week. In the service, we’ll highlight some portions of those two to three chapters. And then, every other week, on Tuesday mornings, we’ll have a Bible Study (a Scripture in the Sandbox session) that will give you a chance to ask questions about what you are reading and discuss what you are noticing in the passages. This journey through the Book of Acts is an opportunity for all of us to grow in our faith life and to deepen our relationship with Living, Loving God. I think there is so much that the Book of Acts has to offer us right now in the year 2020. You may ask: How could a book written in the 1st century have something to say to those of us living 2,000 years later in a very different context? What can we, who live in a technological world, learn from those who lived in the Classical Greek era? What do those living under the rule of the Roman Empire, who relied on runners and travellers to deliver messages have to teach us who live in a democracy and have instant access to messages from around the world? Well, I think there is more that we have in common that we might imagine.
  Date: Sunday, December 15, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 16 mins 14 secs    
Passage: 2 Peter 1:12-19    
  Description: Who is Jesus for you? Who is Jesus in our faith? These may seem like obvious questions, but the answers, when we pause to reflect, take us deeper into our Christian faith and into the practice of that faith. In this Advent season of waiting once again to celebrate the arrival of God’s beloved son, we prepare our hearts by asking the question of ourselves and of each other – Who is Jesus? The image we are offered this week in scripture and through the Advent candle lighting ceremony is that of Jesus as the Morning Star. But what exactly does that mean? The image of Jesus as the morning star comes from the 2nd Letter of Peter. It is also used in the book of Revelation. Jesus is our morning star. In 2nd Peter, we are invited to anticipate the dawning of a new day when the morning star rises in our hearts. We know that moment, don’t we? As prairie people, with the wonderfully broad eastern sky, we have watched and waited for the sunrise, ready to welcome a new day. It is those moments just before the sunrise which are so magical and mystical. The sky has that special colour – more blue than black – as the light of the sun begins to warm the sky long before it breaks the horizon. The stars shimmer – and there is that one star, the morning star, that is especially bright. Actually, the morning star is the planet Venus – a mere 330 million kilometres from us, much closer than any of the nearest stars. It is Venus that announces the dawn and welcomes the sun, sparkling brightly as we watch and wait for the sun to return to us in its orbit, warming the earth and brightening our homes. It is such a powerful image - the morning star. We all have those times in our lives when we wait for the dawn, times when life is shadowed, depressing and filled with gloom. Grief, depression, tragedy, loss of a job, divorce, the economy, loss of good health or mobility – there are many circumstances that leave us unable to see what is good in life, what is joyful. It can feel as if a shadow has descended over us, and it is hard to believe that there will be hope and love and joy ever again in our lives.
  Date: Sunday, December 01, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 12 mins 33 secs    
  Description: Who do you say Jesus is? What names and words to describe Jesus come immediately to mind? Once, Jesus confronted his disciples with that question, “Who do you say that I am?” If he were to stand before you today, and ask that question, what would be your response? Many names have been used to describe and name Jesus through the last two thousand years since his birth. Some of these may have been the words that came into your mind when I asked the question. Lord, Saviour, Messiah, Christ, Healer, Teacher, Rabbi, Friend, Shepherd, Light of the World, Son of God, Word of God, Emmanuel. For some of us, Jesus may be very real as a spiritual presence, a loving presence we have felt near to us, encouraging, challenging and caring. For others of us, Jesus may be more of a historical figure, a wise rabbi who lived two thousand years ago, whose words and actions stirred people to live compassionate and courageous lives. Some of us have the gift of feeling Jesus’ presence; some of us have the gift of being Jesus’ presence for others. We all have different perspectives, understandings and experiences of the one called Jesus – Yeshua, in his own language. We each will have our own response to “Who do you say Jesus is?”
  Date: Sunday, November 03, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 18 mins 7 secs    
  Description: The story of the Bible is a story of relationship. It is a story of God’s relationship with humanity and with all of creation. It is a love story. The Bible is filled with stories, chosen by faithful people, to share their understandings and experiences of God. It is offered in many different voices, in many different genres of literature. The stories each come out of a particular context, in a particular time in history, and the portrayal of God offered is shaped by that time and context. It is not something dictated by God for us, but rather it is a human document, made sacred by its use, that reveals to us how people have understood and experienced God through the ages. As we study scripture and explore the stories, as we discuss scripture together, we receive God’s voice, God’s message. What is at the core of scripture, throughout both testaments is this: God is love and God chooses to be in relationship with humankind. God chooses to be in relationship with us and we choose to be in relationship with each other in this congregation. Faith is rooted in relationship – and that has been our theme this fall.
  Date: Sunday, October 20, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey    
  Description: This sermon was not recorded. Find the print edition under Worship & Music tab - Sermons in Print... I remember singing, “God sees the little sparrow fall,” as a child in church. It is quite an amazing concept – that the Creator of the universe knows and cares about each creature on earth, and each hair or feather or scale on each creature. Truly, it is something hard to fathom. With our limited human abilities, and our memories that seem to hold only so much, to imagine a God who intimately knows and cares about each and everyone of us is incredible, and almost impossible to imagine. Except that over and over again in scripture we are told that we are significant to God, that God notices us and cares for us. Two facts are repeated hundreds of times each in the Bible: 1. God is love and 2. Don’t be afraid because God loves and cares for you. Just let those two statements sink in: God is love, and we don’t need to be afraid in any circumstance because God loves us. That is life-transforming information – and I think it may be very hard for many of us to really, really, really believe it. Yet, the witness of scripture is that we are significant to God. And because we are significant to God, we don’t need to be afraid. Significance is one of the ways that we form relationship or attachment with one another.
  Date: Sunday, October 06, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 11 mins 24 secs    
  Description: Now there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for we are one in Christ! I think it is hard for us, in the 21st century to understand just how radical those words would have been in the 1st century, when Paul was writing to the church at Galatia. These are transformative words also meant to challenge us as we follow the Way. Today we are coming to the communion table to share the bread and the cup. Imagine what this would have been like for the followers of Jesus, 2,000 years ago. First of all, they shared this meal every time they gathered. And they actually sat down together at a big table. Everyone brought some bread (flat bread) from home and some wine, and it was all put on the table –like a potluck. All the wine was poured into a large bowl-like container – good and bad wine mixed together. All the bread heaped on one platter. Once the words, “This is my body; this is my blood; do this in remembrance of me,” were declared by the presider, everyone ate their fill. It wasn’t the little sip of juice and little piece of bread that we share. It was much more like our Soup & Bun or Simple Suppers. Everyone ate their fill. No one went home hungry. Those who had more, brought more, but everyone brought something. The commitment that followers of Jesus made to each other was that they would share everything in common so that no one was in need. They took care of each other! They committed their resources to one another. Now I want you to picture who was at that table. Jew and Gentile, Roman citizens and their slaves, men and women – all sitting together. This is the absolutely radical thing about the church of Jesus at its beginnings. At other tables in the Roman Empire at the time, these people would not sit together. Men and women, especially at Roman banquet tables normally would not be seated together. Men would have their own tables, and women would be set apart or doing the serving. Within Jewish households, the family would eat together, but out in public, men did not speak to or associate with women who they were not married to or related to. Similarly, slaves had their place in society, and did not share a meal with their masters. Jewish people and Gentile people would not interact, except for limited required transactions, such as paying taxes. Paul is writing to a church in the middle of Roman territory – the church in Galatia, in what is present day Turkey. Paul is telling them that once they are committed to following the Way of Jesus, like us, then all of those traditional cultural and religious boundaries are wiped away. Everyone sits at the same table together.
  Date: Sunday, September 22, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 19 mins 40 secs    
  Description: And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve, and clothed them. Genesis 3:21 This statement, found in the Genesis story just before Adam and Eve must leave the Garden of Eden, is one that I find fascinating. It’s a little detail that often gets lost in the bigger story of creation and Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge, but it is a detail that tells us so much about God’s relationship with humankind. This fall, we are talking about relationship, about God’s relationship with us, our relationship with each other and how those relationships are formed and nurtured. That one sentence, God made garments for Adam and Eve and clothed them, tells us so much about what God intends in a relationship with us. Adam and Eve have messed up. They ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge when they were told not to. Now their innocence is gone, and their time living in the Garden of Eden is ended. However, they are not being punished. God is not mad; sad yes, but not mad. This scene of God sewing clothes for the couple and then helping them get dressed is such a tender scene, filled with loving compassion. Perhaps I love it because I love sewing. I can just imagine God creating the clothing. It is a scene filled with the physical senses – the loving touch of God in creating the clothing, one last view of the garden, one last smell of the flowers growing there, and then God, leaving the garden with the pair. There was a time in Christian history, with influence from Greek culture, that anything to do with the body was considered not spiritual and even evil. Yet, the truth is that the expression of our faith is a very physical one. Over and over again, God is described in human form, in ways that engage all of our senses. As people of God, followers of Jesus, we are not disembodied.
  Date: Sunday, March 31, 2019       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 20 mins 8 secs    
  Description: Are any among you suffering? You should pray. Are any of you cheerful? You should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? You should call others in the church to pray for you, and to anoint you with oil in the name of Jesus. For the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up to their feet, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. So confess your sins and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayers of the faithful are powerful and effective. So writes a follower of Jesus, named James, to the scattered Christian communities. And I’m all with James on the three questions he asks, “Are any among you suffering? Are any of you cheerful? Are any among you sick? But with his next phrases my own questions start coming fast and furious. James states clearly and emphatically that the prayer of faithful will heal the sick and get them walking again, promising that the prayers of the faithful are powerful and effective. Which leaves us in a bit of a quandary, because we all know times when we have prayed for healing for ourselves or a loved one, and it hasn’t happened. This is the kind of scripture passage that it is sometimes more comfortable to avoid, or to shorten – only reading the parts we easily agree with. But that isn’t fair to scripture. We have to decide if we are reading the Bible literally or taking it seriously, rather than avoiding what we aren’t sure about.



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