High River United Church of High River, Alberta

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  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.
  Date: Sunday, August 26, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 20 mins 57 secs    
Passage: Luke 18:1-17    
  Series Summer 2018
  Description: A widow, a tax collector, children, and a rich young ruler. These are the characters of four of Jesus’ parables that the gospel writer, Luke, places together to share what he believes about Jesus. Like any great storyteller, which he was, Jesus would have told these stories on many occasions to many different audiences. But you don’t write a book or a gospel by repeating the same stories over and over, so Luke chooses this point in the gospel to share these stories and he groups them together, along with a story about a rich young ruler. Luke ends this group of stories with the disciples asking a question: “Then who can be part of your kingdom?” Let’s back up to the previous chapter (remember the chapters and verse were added later and are not in the oldest manuscripts – they are one person’s idea of what stories go together, so it is good to look beyond the chapter we are reading to get a broader view of the story.) In the verses leading up to these stories, we hear this introduction: (Luke 17:20-21) Once Jesus was asked by the pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” And then, after a bit longer explanation of this introduction, we are presented with the stories: a widow, a tax collector, a group of children, and a rich young ruler. What an interesting collection of people. The widow, the tax collector and the children are ones who were on the sidelines of society at the time. They wouldn’t count for much or have any status or power. In fact, the tax collector would be considered a traitor of his faith and his people. Yet, each of these – the widow, the tax collector and the children – are honoured and valued in these stories. They are held up as models for what it means to be part of the kingdom of God.
  Date: Sunday, August 12, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 14 mins 36 secs    
Passage: Isaiah 25:1-8    
  Series Summer 2018
  Description: We need a vision for our individual lives, for our life as a faith community, for the community in which we live, for our country and our world. Without vision, we are lost and scattered, we get pulled in too many directions. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard business professor says, “A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.” That’s what vision does for our lives – calls us to become something more, calls out our gifts and our skills, challenges us to learn new skills and try out new possibilities. Vision is the inspiration to create in own lives, our communities and our world a place of hope, justice, peace and compassion for all people. In today’s scripture, we read of a vision – a dream, a hope, a picture of the best of what can be.
  Date: Sunday, July 29, 2018       Teacher: Rev. Susan Lukey     Duration: 16 mins 2 secs    
Passage: Hebrews 10:22-39    
  Series Summer 2018
  Description: The spiritual journey is not a solitary journey. We can't do faith alone. We need to be supported and challenged within a community that accepts us unconditionally. We need to gather regularly to encourage one another in faith.
  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, 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 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 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?”



Winter Solstice 2018 Labyrinth Walk
Created On Thursday, 13 December 2018
For those who appreciate walking the labyrinth, as a way to focus your prayers, to calm your...
Experiencing Grief, Depression or Loneliness this Holiday Season
Created On Thursday, 13 December 2018
We know that this season is not Merry for everyone. Join us for our Longest Night Service on...
Thanks to the High River Downtown Businesses!
Created On Thursday, 06 December 2018
We love our downtown High River.....and its businesses! Thanks to these businesses who donated...
Don't Forget to join us for Games Night
Created On Thursday, 15 November 2018
Board games, card games, role-playing games and more. Bring your own or play one we have...



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

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