Past Sermon Series

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    Love Up Close

    For the past two Christmas seasons, our families and communities have been literally plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic. Celebrations and traditions were interrupted and, for many, were forced online—connected perhaps, yet physically apart. Is it the same with God, we might wonder? That when God connects with us, it is more like a satellite streaming a Zoom call than the embrace of a family over a meal? This Advent season, we will be exploring ‘Love Up Close’—the mysterious intimacy of the incarnation. In this familiar Christmas story, we see a picture of God in solidarity with us, where there is no place too distant or lowly or surprising for the divine to draw near. Today, we wait for God once more.

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  • Four Faces of the Prodigal Son

    It has been said that reading Scripture is like gazing at the faces of a gemstone, or like peering through a kaleidoscope. You can look at it and see how it catches the light in a particular way—but rotate it or observe it from a different angle, and the light will refract in new patterns. Is Scripture actually like this? Over the next four Sundays, Aaron Thiessen will be putting this metaphor to the test, with one of Jesus’ most famous parables as a case study: the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Many of us will be familiar with this story as an example of God’s patience, forgiveness, and redemption… but what happens if we examine this story from other angles? Must we understand the prodigal son as one who repents? Who should we see in the role of the prodigal son? Must the rich father be seen as a stand-in for God? Over this series we will explore all these questions and more, exposing the ways Scripture—and Jesus’ parables in particular—can shake us up in our modern world, as a sacred text.

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    Season of Creation, 2022

    In the three weeks where we worship outside, celebrating the beauty and messiness of the world around us, less distracted by objects of our own making, we hope to reorient our understanding of our place as creatures in God’s world, specially called to tend and keep all that God has made. How attuned are our ears to hearing the cries of those who are most affected by climate change? How ready are we to change our hearts and lives so that the resilient earth and all its creatures can begin to heal? When our bodies become sick, we are forced to slow down and pay attention, to pause so that we can diagnose what’s wrong and try to heal. Creation is crying out now that the earth is sick. We need desperately to pause, to listen deeply and take steps toward healing of both ourselves and our fellow creatures—of the Earth that is our home. We need to learn to live within the paradox of a world that is sick and a world that still shines with God’s beauty.

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  • Guiding Stars for Spiritual Borderlands

    Borderlands, it’s a term we’ve recently been tossing around a lot at REC. Borderland can mean at the edge or far from the center. Alternatively, Borderland can mean the boundary space between two distinct entities. Then again, Borderland can mean unexplored frontiers. As REC approaches the 60th year of our congregational story, we’re conscious that we are once again journeying the borderlands. Our inclusivity statement shares our goal of reaching toward the margins, inviting those who have formerly not been welcomed among us. Our posture of patience within the wider confessional family means holding together distinct interpretations of God’s dreams for the world. Our conviction is that God is guiding us, not by a precise theological GPS system, nor by a mysteriously-mobile pillar of fire, but by guiding stars, fixed points in the sphere of God’s grand story from which we are orienting next steps. This summer, conscious that REC is in borderlands, this preaching series gazes starward at biblical borderland stories. Exploring the energy of liminality we pay attention to God’s patterns of guidance in the borderlands and identity formation in the wilderness.

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  • Rapture in Reverse: Revelation as Christ's Renewing of the World

    Beasts rising from the sea. Seals and trumpets and bowls. The Number of the Beast. And, some have said, secret descriptions about the end of the world? It’s the Book of Revelation, and it’s one of the strangest and most misunderstood books of the Bible. Packed full with ancient symbols, metaphors, and callbacks, it’s a book that is difficult to interpret. Yet, at the heart of it all is the image of Christ, depicted as a slain lamb, who subverts, resists, and conquers the forces of chaos that were pressing in on the early church. This is the same resurrected Christ we follow today, offering us peace, hope, and love in our modern day chaos. Thus, this Easter, we shall explore the enigmatic book of Revelation, cutting through its interpretive challenges with an eye to Christ’s victory on the cross, here and now—the ‘rapture’ in reverse.

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  • Lent 2022: Humility

    Philippians 2 opens by naming community dynamics that we’re hungry for: Encouragement in Christ Comfort in love Sharing in the Spirit Sympathy As River East Church navigates the complexities of returning to hybrid in-person and online worship of conversation with a wider family of faith about inclusion of living in a post-convoy nation and a world at war, what practices do Christ-followers live by so we can experience and share joy? Philippians 2 offers a counterintuitive pathway: Live with humility. Adopt the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus. It’s a value Christ-followers share with the seven Grandfather Teachings of the Plains First Nations This year during the season of Lent we walk with Jesus to the cross and pair our worship with the lengthy, many-layered process of repentance and healing after Canada’s settler peoples broke treaties and betrayed Canada’s First Nations. Our goal is to host one preaching series a year dedicated to each of the seven Grandfather Teachings.

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  • In the Belly of a Beast: A Dive into the Book of Jonah

    Cancelled vacations. Hospital stays. COVID symptoms. Winter blues. These days, it seems there are plenty of opportunities for us to feel as though we have been ‘swallowed whole,’ or living in the ‘belly of the beast.’ Of course, this is nothing new. Descent into darkness is an all-toocommon part of the human experience. Thousands of years ago, the story of the prophet Jonah was told and retold as a way to grapple with these experiences of darkness, yes… but also of vocation, truth-telling, justice, and wrestling with God. For four weeks we will dive into this well-known narrative, opening ourselves to where God may be speaking anew through these ancient words.

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  • God of All Comfort

    Forty per cent of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic. Given the ever-changing events around COVID-19, people of all ages and backgrounds are experiencing varying degrees of a normal reaction to an abnormal event. If you are facing unprecedented stress, you are not alone. If you sense feelings of anxiety in those you love, you may have wondered how to help. How does the God of all Comfort offer us spiritual resources for mental wellness? How do we hear and respond to God when life seems too heavy to bear? This worship series is based on Mental Health Resources for Church Worship put together by Communitas Supportive Care Society and tested in worship by Emmanuel Mennonite Church (Abbotsford), First United Mennonite Church (Vancouver), Highland MB Church (Abbotsford) and Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship (Vancouver).

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  • Advent 2021: Dare to Imagine...

    In our time of uncertainty, division, and weariness, can we imagine a future of beauty and wonder and goodness? Can our desire to live into that future change who we are and how we move forward? This Advent, we will be invited to imagine God’s goodness, God’s embrace, God’s joy, God’s face, God’s creativity— God with us.

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  • Just Love

    Over the last two years (and beyond), River East Church has wrestled with the question of inclusion—specifically, of how to better include those of the LGBTQ+ community. This process has created a lot of discussion about the Christian discipleship and human sexuality. However, almost none of this conversation has discussed Christian sexual ethics. If REC has been talking about the who of sex, we have not yet talked about the how. That is, does the Christian faith offer any moral guidelines for sexual activity in the 21st century? Is it really all about consent? This Fall, we will be tackling these questions in a series entitled ‘Just Love,’ following Margaret Farley’s book of the same name. Over five Sundays, we will explore 7 theological pillars that gesture toward a Christian sexual ethic. Society is absolutely correct to emphasize, over and again, the values of 1) do no unjust harm, and 2) free consent. The Christian imagination, however, calls us to consider five additional angles: 3) equality, 4) mutuality, 5) commitment, 6) social justice, and 7) fruitfulness. Through conversation with all seven of these characteristics, may we grapple with a Christian sexual ethic for our 21st century—start not with which actions are ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but with how our actions build up our relationships.

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  • Season of Creation 2021

    For this short series, we are gathing outdoors to turn our attention to God’s creation—both its beauty, and our role within it.

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  • Marinate

    When the meat or veggies have been marinating, and the barbeque is sizzling we expect that a tender, tasty mouthful of goodness will soon follow. This summer we marinate in the flavour of the psalms, soaking in the trustworthiness of God, absorbing their freedom to fully express the cries of the heart. AND this summer we also marinate in the perspectives of others whose lives differ from ours, becoming more tender as we steep in their worldview and worthiness and translate the ancient psalms into cries of their heart. It’s quite audacious, really, to expect that we can crawl inside someone else’s skin, perceive from their point of view, experience their suffering or guess their heart cry. And yet, as we practice, as we marinate in another’s needs and motivations, as we bring their world into conversation with God, we are transformed. This spiritual practice makes us more tender, more understanding and more compassionate, more able to absorb unfamiliar flavours of God’s presence. Each Sunday, we focus on one psalm. Taking the biblical text seriously, the speaker(s) will translate its images, actions, requests and gratitude into the voice of another person today.

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  • Eastertide 2021: Christ Abides

    The two disciples had been through hell. Their teacher and friend had been arrested in the middle of the night, sent to a kangaroo court, brutalized and executed by the state. They had thought he had been sent by God… but apparently not. Confused and depressed, the disciples did the only thing they could: go home. But as they walked Emmaus they encountered a strange man, apparently oblivious to the news of the day. They shared with him the painful events of the weekend, and invited him to dinner. It was then, unbelievably, that the two of them encountered the Risen Christ once more. What do we do with this kind of story? Is it limited to the world of Luke chapter 24? Does Christ really show up on our roads today? For some, such stories are myths at best, or illusions at worst. Yet, one doesn’t have to look long before one finds new stories of Christ’s presence—within our families, workplaces, or pews. Whether dramatic or mundane, these stories somehow resonate for those who experienced them, a feeling that the Risen Christ has reached toward us and is abiding with us. This Easter, as we retell the stories of the resurrected Jesus, we will be hearing these abiding stories from throughout our own community. They may be moments of acute connection, moments of feeling profoundly ministered to, or even the story of an entire lifetime—but in each case these stories point to a Christ who is in our here…

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    Wisdom: Deep Calls to Deep

    During Lent we create space in our spirits for Wisdom: The many faces of Wisdom within the biblical tradition; The manifold forms of Wisdom needed for depth in this life; The singular footpath when Jesus set his face toward the counterintuitive Wisdom of the cross. Three dynamics fed into the flow of Wisdom through this worship series. The Season of Lent During the 40 days of Lent, our spiritual journey is to walk intentionally with Jesus toward the cross. This journey is one of trust in God’s Wisdom, radically different than what comes naturally. This journey moves us through the distresses and seeming failure of self-sacrificing love to the regeneration of Christ’s resurrection. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action  Canada’s settler peoples broke treaties and betrayed Canada’s First Nations. River East Church is finding ways to participate in the lengthy, many-layered process of repentance and healing. We aim to have one preaching series a year dedicated to each of the seven Grandfather Teachings of the Plains First Nations. The goal is to respect both First Nations values and Christian theology for their own sake, to celebrate points of resonance and to deepen our ability for dialogue. In 2018, in the season after Pentecost, we explored Courage. In 2019, during Lent, we explored the grit and grace of Honesty. And now, during Lent 2021, we pick up our COVID-stalled 2020 series to explore Wisdom, visualized in Indigenous teachings as a beaver. One of River East Church’s Core Values…

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    ReVerb: The Moving Music of the Triune God

    “It’s like an egg! It’s like water! It’s like a 5 dimension object intersecting with 4 dimensional space!” It’s the Trinity, and it’s a baffling conundrum. How can One also be Three? How can Three only be One? The idea of a Triune God subverts the foundations of our logic — an almost embarrassing math problem for which there is no solution. As such, we tend to relegate the Trinity to the corner, and understandably so. Let’s be honest — if the Church were to drop the Doctrine of the Trinity tomorrow, what would practically change for our shared faith? For many of us… not very much. This Epiphany, as we celebrate Resurrection and God’s New Creation, we will take a close look at the mystery of the Trinity. Rather than a problem to be solved, we will use the image of the Trinity as a porthole to peer through; a divine community we always already relate to. Rather than something to be explained, the Triune God is something to be experienced. As we grapple with the mystery of the Father, Son, and Spirit — the Three in One — we may find that the Triune community of God is one of Christianity’s greatest gifts for the world today.

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    Cruciformed: Reprise

    Way back in March, 2020, we began a series on Christian virtues, examining the contemporary qualities that form us into a people of God: patience, tolerance, obedience, among others. Little did we know how much the pandemic would test these qualities! That series was interrupted as we pivoted our worship online. We are now picking it back up where we left off. See below for the original blurb: — Freedom. Consent. If our world is a ship in choppy waters, these are often the bright guiding stars. Though the winds may blow and the waves may swell, a world built on freedom will one day bring us to shore. A world based on consent will one day keep us safe. Or so they say. While Freedom and Consent are no doubt vital for our time… do they form a complete constellation? For Christians, can these words fully capture how God is shaping us and guiding us as we walk in the Way of Christ? Christians have a much broader constellation to guide their ship to maturity, love, and justice. They called them ‘virtues’ — Christ-like characteristics that God brings forth in a people… characteristics that Christ-followers practice and habituate in community. Some virtues are familiar to contemporary ears: ‘Peace’ or ‘Tolerance.’ Others seem strange: ‘Obedience’ or ‘Humility.’ Each, however, names a particular arena where the Spirit grows fruit in our lives. Each shapes us to share the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God…

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    New Norms, Nehemiah, and the Theology of Anti-climax

    The pandemic forced us all to change. At River East, this meant shifting our worship online and connecting digitally. For many, this was a significant shift, and we longed for a time we could return to gather in our sanctuary. That time has come! But… is it exactly as we expected it? So much has changed over the past few months, and new norms might not yet feel normal. The ancient story of Nehemiah may hold resonance for us, we who return to a familiar space but can’t shake an unfamiliar situation. As one tasked to revitalize his beloved city, Nehemiah found that things are not always what they seem. May God give us the patience, strength, and creativity to follow that path again today.

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    Year of Jubilee

    It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood! For the Sundays of August 30th, September 6th, and September 13th, we gathered outdoors both to celebrate God’s creation… and to finally meet (physically distanced) after a season of Zoom worship.

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    Signs and Wonders

    The lame walk. The blind are given sight. The water turns to wine. The miracles of Jesus come in many forms, but they always interrupt the our normal, restore what is broken, and expose us to God’s New Creation in the here and now. This year has been a whirlwind, with widespread sickness, struggle, and unrest on a global scale. As such, for the remaining weeks of summer, our worship will be following several of the signs and wonders of Christ. May God continue to disrupt our present moments, bringing us healing and life.

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    Materiality

    What images come to mind when you think of the word ‘spirituality’? Hands folded in prayer? Light shining through a cloudy sky? A dog-eared and underlined Bible? Theologian Walter Brueggemann thinks these sorts of images aren’t inappropriate—but definitely incomplete. He laments that Christian spirituality typically evokes otherworldly, individual, or mental images in us, rather than the mundane, everyday interactions of our lives. He suggests we try using the word ‘materiality’, signalling that our spiritual lives are deeply intertwined with the material realm, everything from money to food, place and time. This summer we will be tracking with Bruggemann and this idea of materiality, following the chapters of his recent book, “Materiality as Resistance.”

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    Christ, Community, and Coronavirus

    The word “church” literally means “the assembly.” It’s really tricky to assemble during a global pandemic. What is the Church to do? Like everyone else, we’re figuring it out as we go. Be it prayers online, door-to-door grocery deliveries, digital worship, or the Social Distancing Scavenger Hunt, we are trying to find ways to be the Church during this difficult and unpredictable time. Below you’ll find recordings of some of our messages we streamed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout it all, we continue to proclaim that God is Love, God is active today, and Hope has a name: Jesus Christ.

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    Cruciformed: The Shapes of Lent

    Freedom. Consent. If our world is a ship in choppy waters, these are often the bright guiding stars. Though the winds may blow and the waves may swell, a world built on freedom will one day bring us to shore. A world based on consent will one day keep us safe. Or so they say. While Freedom and Consent are no doubt vital for our time… do they form a complete constellation? For Christians, can these words fully capture how God is shaping us and guiding us as we walk in the Way of Christ? Christians have a much broader consellation to guide their ship to maturity, love, and justice. They called them ‘virtues’ — Christ-like characteristics that God brings forth in a people… characteristics that Christ-followers practice and habituate in community. Some virtues are familiar to contemporary ears: ‘Peace’ or ‘Tolerance.’ Others seem strange: ‘Obedience’ or ‘Humility.’ Each, however, names a pariticular arena where the Spirit grows fruit in our lives. Each shapes us to share the pain and puzzlement of the world so that the crucified love of God in Christ may heal at those places.

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    Daniel: Standing Tall in the Shadow of the Empire

    Through the book of Daniel we hear our ancestors in faith speak to us: We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. And this is your time… The book of Daniel tells stories of young people figuring out what it looks like to trust God in the midst of seemingly impossible choices. The book of Daniel shows confusing visions of an ultimately hopeful future in the midst of dehumanizing, seemingly all-powerful forces. The book of Daniel explores what it looks like to act faithfully even when one is engulfed in the long shadow of an empire that demands total allegiance–body, mind and soul. And then there’s the paradox; the book of Daniel paints a picture of wisdom, wisdom which holds the tension of unwavering faithfulness to God combined with knowledge learned in the school of the empire. During Epiphany, a worship season when we shine the good news of God to the world, we explore the book of Daniel that demonstrates a covenant people living in a dominant society that doesn’t share their worldview. Daniel and his friends adapt to their new world and influence it. They also withstand its demands of total allegiance. During this season of Epiphany, we watch the faithful in the book of Daniel shine, and learn from them what it might mean to shine in our own context.

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    Christ Will Come Again

    Since the beginning of time, human shave told stories of the end of the world as we know it. These stories differ greatly across the globe, but almost every culture has some story to be told of the end. For any culture, how we view the future influences how we live today. Christians boldly and hopefully proclaim the end in a three-fold confession: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. But what do we mean by confessing that Christ will come again? In the ’70s, films like “Thief in the Night” narrated a certain timeline of fear-inducing events leading up to Christ’s return. This kind of narrative was revised in the late ’90s with the “Left Behind” series. Christ-followers who find these perspectives unsatistfactory sometimes opt to believe that the second coming is a metaphorical way of speaking about a mystery, and then think no more about it. And yet, we set aside four Sundays a year, every Advent, to celebrate and proclaim Christ’s first coming, and Christ’s second coming as well. This Advent, we explore Christ’s second coming. What are we hoping for? How can we read the Bible’s vision of the future from the perspective of our world today? In what ways does our understanding of Christ’s second coming impact our engagement as faithful Christ-followers in our world?

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    Being Church

    What does it mean to be a church? In 2017, we at River East Church embarked on a journey together to answer that question. Through prayer, discernment, and conversation, we worked to name three values that encapsulate how God has been shaping our church community—three things that we uniquely embody, that define us as this church in our here and now. In February, 2018, we discerned the following core values God is growing among us: Wisdom — We seek God’s way through mutual discernment, holding paradox, in the midst of complexity. Prophecy — We speak what we understand to be true; do justice; heed God’s call to hear and act for the least, the lost and the left out. Compassion — We bring a casserole, listen to each other’s stories, laugh with those who laugh, and weep with those who weep. For the next few weeks, we’ll be engaging in a series simply called ‘Being Church.’ This is a time for us to explore not only what it means to be a faithful church in 2019 and beyond… but also a time to explore what it means for this church, River East Church, to follow where God has already been leading us—into Christ’s Wisdom, Prophecy, and Compassion. During this series, we will be practicing these values in two particular ways: First, we will once again work toward the goal of filling 100 relief buckets in partnership with MCC’s ‘Buckets of Thanks’ initiative. $55 will provide essential hygiene items for a…

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    Parables: The Sacred Art of (Mis)communication

    What is the difference between a myth and a parable? On the surface, they have many similarities. Both are ways of telling stories. Both have meanings that point beyond themselves. But we might say they differ on the effect they are intended to have on listeners. Myths are foundational stories. They gesture to the origins of things, provide explanations, and establishes one’s worldview. Each of us has been shaped by many myths over our lifetimes, be they about money, happiness, relationships, or God. Often, however, parables are de-centering stories. Through twists, absurdities, or open-ended conclusions, they can call into question our foundational myths and unsettle our frameworks. Jesus was a master story-teller, and often used destabilizing parables to illustrate the coming Kingdom of Heaven. In this series, we will be deeply exploring Christ’s subversive stories from the book of Luke. Rather than simply read the parables, each week we will be hearing one of these stories in the style of Biblical storytelling—a way of using Scripture that emphasizes the oral tradition from which is was born. May we have ‘ears to hear’ these familiar stories in new—and possibly unsettling—ways.

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    Great Meals of the Bible

    There is much that happens around the table. On the surface, a meal is about sustaining our bodies. But it can also include moments of sharing, story-telling, enjoyment, laughter, and bonding. In a very real way, the simple act of eating as a community can provide glimpses into God’s New Creation. Time and again, Jesus taught deeply while he ate, got into trouble for what he ate, or was questioned for eating with certain people at the table. In the Old Testament, the sharing of the meal often represents the sharing of life itself, with many stories turning on the moment of eating. This summer, we shall be exploring the stories behind the meals throughout the Bible—for what physically nourished our ancestors may nourish our spirits today. Once again we will be sharing the series with Jubilee Mennonite Church. Sermons will be preached twice: once at Jubilee on Thursdays at 7:00pm, and once again at River East on Sunday mornings.

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    Hope: An Acquired Taste

    At the end of his book, Surprised by Hope, theologian NT Wright names three critical tasks of the Church as we participate in the Resurrection of Christ. The first task is justice; that is, actively participating in God’s ongoing work renewing the world. Another is evangelism, announcing this new creation and inviting others to participate. However, the third task he names may catch us off guard — the cultivation of beauty: “Beauty matters, dare I say, almost as much as spirituality and justice… Part of the role of the church in the past was — and could and should be again — to foster and sustain lives of beauty and meaning at every level, from music making in the village pub to drama in the local primary school, from artists’ and photographers’ workshops to still-life painting classes, from symphony concerts to driftwood sculptures. “The church, because it is the family that believes in hope for the new creation, should be the place in every town and village where new creativity bursts forth for the whole community, pointing to the hope that, like all beauty, comes as a surprise.” This Easter, as we celebrate the Resurrection and the new creation Christ announces, we will be working to take Wright’s claim seriously. In this series we shall seek to identify, discern, and enjoy the beauty with which God surrounds us and inspires within us. It may be that as we learn to cultivate a Christian sense of beauty, we will also learn…

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    The Grit and Grace of Honesty

    Honesty as a societal norm is eroding. ‘Fake news’ has entered our vocabulary. With the click of a button we can enhance a photo. Forbes magazine predicts that in 2019, “skepticism will become the new trust,” as normal people encounter a mushrooming level of misinformation and deception on a daily basis. “Real is fake and sometimes fake is fake. How are we to know?” Jesus says: Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:3) Could it be that honesty is fast becoming a practice that distinguished Christ-followers? 500 years ago, in an era of persecution, early Anabaptists equated following Jesus with a life of honesty. So ardently did they practice integrity that in 1527, in the Schleitheim Confession, they agreed unanimously that refusal to take oaths was one of the seven principles of discipleship. This high value on honesty intersects with the ancient wisdom of Canada’s indigenous peoples. Honesty is one of the seven Grandfather Teachings of the Plains First Nations, along with Love, Courage, Humility, Wisdom, Truth, and Respect. Last year after Pentecost, we explored biblical teachings of Courage. This year for Lent we stories of Jesus through the lens of Honesty. Recognizing shared values between the Christian faith and the culture of First Nations is one way REC responds to calls for action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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    Romans: God's Unlikely Dream for a Polarized World

    What comes to mind when you think of the book of Romans? Do you imagine theologians arguing about ‘justification?’ The ‘Romans Road’ to salvation? Those one or two verses that “all have sinned” or you should “renew your minds?” Or maybe this book is simply Greek to you — unfamiliar, and let’s face it, a bit unfriendly. If that’s you, fair enough! Romans is one of the most difficult and debated books of the Bible, with seemingly as many interpretations as there are verses. But underneath it all, Paul is trying to draw readers into a story — a story that calls two completely different people groups into life together. Paul is convinced that in Jesus, God is triumphing over the cosmic forces of evil in our world, and in doing so is bringing together Jews and non-Jews alike into this new world — a radical dream! Though the deep divides we experience today are different than in Paul’s this passionate, reasoned, and profoundly theological book may have more relevance than ever. This Epiphany, we at River East Church read Romans together to inspire us to be proactive, incorporating others into God’s dream that already unfolding here and now.

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    The Glorious Impossible

    Advent is our journey from darkness to light as we anticipate the ‘glorious impossible’ of God taking on human form — God becoming one of us. The light comes, slowly, through our remembering the familiar symbols: candles of hope, peach, joy and love. But what of some of the other symbols, like holly, ivy, the poinsettia, and crèche? These appear all around us through Advent, but their meaning and origin have been obscured by tinsel and Santa Claus. This Advent, we explore these ancient stories, symbols, and traditions — may they deepen our steps toward the birthplace of an infant; Emmanuel, God with us.

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    The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes

    What is the church to do with Ecclesiastes, a book filled with stark words and cynical observations on life, faith, and God? What do we do with a book that claims “everything – everything – is really and truly absurd…”? Peter Enns suggests that we dive in, embrace the tension, and let Ecclesiastes speak for itself. The book pulls no punches, but this captures an important aspect of human life that we do well to remember. Yet Enns hastens to say that the Christian reader can go a step further. Though Ecclesiastes shows us a bleak and brutal landscape, a Christian confesses that in Christ there is another, grander landscape beyond that horizon. It is in the light of this new dawn that we might bring Ecclesiastes to bear on our individual and corporate lives. For the next six weeks we will be working through Ecclesiastes with the Resurrection in mind — not to dull the painful words the Teacher aims at us, but rather to embrace them as Christ embraced the world. Furthermore, as we practice this difficult, Christ-like embrace, we will be packing relief kits in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee. One kit costs $50, and materials will be present in the foyer. Our goal is to pack 100 kits total — a reminder that although life brings absurdities, the church can still act for change in the name of Christ.

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    Sabbath: Practicing God's Delight

    Pluck from the vine a ruddy tomato. Pinch basil leaves. Breathe deeply. Cultivate awareness. Perceive abundance. These are the signs of Sabbath — practicing God’s delight. Savour slow food. Enjoy conversation. Laugh, or cry, with neighbours. Welcome the stranger. Harvest truth. These are signs of Sabbath — practicing God’s delight. Live with wide margins. Flow with creativity. Find pleasure in your work and in the fruit of your labour. These are the signs of Sabbath — practicing God’s delight. In a ‘progressive’ culture that unconsciously struts status by a full schedule or equates worth with busyness… rest, ironically, can be hard work. Sabbath is not simply a break from frenetic, self-obsessed ways of living. Sabbath has the potential to redirect and transform all our existence, bringing it into more faithful alignment with God’s life-building and life-strengthening ways. Sabbath life is a truly human life — abundant, because it is founded in God’s overarching design for all places and all times.

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  • A Cloud of Witnesses

    The Christian faith spans generations, languages, cultures, and continents. For 2000 years, Christians the world over have experienced, practiced, and proclaimed the risen Christ — and today, each of us have received from these spiritual ancestors. This summer, Jubilee Mennonite Church and River East Church are once again partnering for our sermon series… but this year looks a little different. Instead of writing new sermons for each Sunday, preachers will be speaking with the words of someone else — words they’ve received that have gotten under their skin. Be it a mentor, a family member, a famous person or someone long deceased, this series nods to those who have gone before us, the great ‘Cloud of Witnesses’ that we stand with across time and space.

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  • Courage

    Courage is what stories are made of. From antiquity ‘til today, people from every corner of the globe value courage. Plato named courage as one of the four cardinal virtues. The ancient Japanese named courage second of ten samurai moral values. Canada’s First Nations name courage as one of the seven Grandfather Teachings. For them, the bear symbolizes the gift of courage, the ability to face life with integrity, to do what’s right even when consequences are unpleasant. We live in an era of mounting anxiety. A year and a half ago, five Manitoba schools present at an Mennonite Brethren function — CMU, MBCI, MB Biblical Seminary, School of Leadership, Steinbach Bible College. Each one mentioned the growing challenge of responding to students with high levels of anxiety. Our hunger for courage is increasing. The God of the Bible cares about freeing people from the power of fear. Over 80 times, the Bible commands, “Do not be afraid.” Pentecost is the generous outpouring of God’s resources to face fear. In the Season after Pentecost, this worship series explores how the Christian faith, rooted in the Trinitarian God of the Scriptures, contributes to the global, timeless conversation on courage. Be alert to how the Christian understanding of courage dovetails with courage in other traditions, and how it is unique.

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  • Reconstruct: The Building Blocks of Faith

    In our postmodern era, we are encouraged to deconstruct the world around us. Many may ask, What Canada 150 is really celebrating? Who is really benefiting from that legislature? Why are those voices heard, but others are not? What underlying assumptions are driving our society, for good and for ill? Religion is hardly exempt from these questions. Christianity is regularly picked apart, questioned, and scrutinized — this is often a good thing that promotes dialogue, nuance, and spiritual growth! However, deconstruction without reconstruction is merely destruction. In this series, we are asking, ‘What is beautiful about the Christian faith that we wish to affirm?’ We will consider several paradoxical ‘building blocks’… challenging questions that take seriously the critical lenses of our world, but also take just as seriously the new life made possible in Christ.

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