Past Sermon Series

  • 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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  • Acts of the Holy Spirit

    The Holy Spirit has been described in many ways: An energetic fire that can roar or flicker, but never be held; A breath, as close to us as our lungs, so intimate we forget it is there; As wind, knowing no bounds and found in all places; A womb, the place where we are born again. The book of Acts has many characters, but none so central as the Spirit of God. In some ways this book is a new Genesis — the story of the God creating a new world and new people in the wake of Christ’s resurrection. Sometimes the Spirit moves in exciting ways… often the Spirit moves in ways we find challenging. This Eastertide, we will be walking through the book of Acts, looking for the ways the Holy Spirit shaped, spurred, and stimulated the early church into new ways of seeing and new ways of living. They practiced reconciliation, shared resources, and took care of their community through weekly remembering of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We will do the same by meeting at the Lord’s Table each Sunday throughout the Easter season.

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  • A Walk Toward Forgiveness: The Way of Letting Go

    Because the world is broken – and it is broken in so many ways – forgiveness is a virtue. We not only forgive, but we also need to be forgiving. It should be part of our character. – Wilma Derksen During the season of Lent, we accompany Jesus on his journey, not TO death, but THROUGH death, a journey TO resurrection and new life. This year we travel the Lenten journey as a way of becoming forgiving people: What helps Jesus forgive those who wrong him? How does following Jesus give us the resources to forgive when we have been hurt deeply? How do we receive forgiveness and grace from God? The good news is that God is trustworthy even when life and people betray and hurt us. Trusting God, Jesus taught us how he himself prayed, “Father, forgive us as we forgive those who sinned against us.” In her 2017 book, The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk toward Forgiveness, Wilma Derksen explores the choice of forgiveness after the murder of their daughter. She identifies 15 obstacles to forgiveness and narrates how she and Cliff let go of them. In some ways she breaks down the path of forgiveness into baby steps. For this Lent series we’ve chosen some of the obstacles that Wilma identifies, and we invite Scripture to give us resources to let go of these obstacles as they play themselves out in our own journeys of forgiveness. Each week during Lent, look for a prayer…

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  • Making Space

    Epiphany is a word that feels like it should have an exclamation point following it: Epiphany! It is that moment of joyful discovery, a shift in perspective, a new space opening up in one’s heart, mind, and spirit. No wonder the early Christians chose the word “Epiphany” to describe the revelation of God through the incarnation of Jesus. This Epiphany season, River East is following this theme of inviting the Spirit to ‘make new space’ within us. Preachers have chosen a favourite word, story, or theme from Scripture — something they each have been ‘chewing on’ for some time — and will be offering them in a new light. Each Sunday will be an exploration of different territory, so be prepared to make new space!

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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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