Sermons

David and . . . Who?

 
A Sermon for Covenant
David and . . .Who?
1 Samuel 17:31-49
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
June 24, 2012
Larry Davis
 

The 2007 movie In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron, takes its title from the setting of our Old Testament scripture text for today, the Elah Valley (“the valley of terebinth trees”) in southern Israel. The movie is a powerful statement about the cost of war, the profound loss experienced by father and mother, the persistent search for truth (no matter how painful) against all odds. It is subtly marked with “David and Goliath” themes: a young man serving his country and losing his soul in the face of the Goliath of brutality in modern warfare; the lonely father and the courageous young female detective facing institutional inertia and cover-ups. . .  There is even one scene in which the father (Tommy Lee Jones) tells the story of David and Goliath to the detective’s (Charlize Theron’s) young son. His version focuses on how “little guys” can be winners in the face of overwhelming “big guys” if they know how to be brave.

In fact our whole culture is littered with “David and Goliath” references, from the front page to the business pages to the sports pages. Any time someone takes on a corporate giant or the government, it’s “David and Goliath.” Any time an underdog team unexpectedly defeats a major champion, it’s “David and Goliath.” It has become a cliché, really. It’s often trite and fairly trivial. And so many times this text is read in the church in just that way. It is seen as a story of how a “little guy” manages to defeat, against all odds, a “big guy.” And it finds standard spiritual application in stale little moralisms about how God is bigger than any of the giants you face in life. With God’s help you can overcome anything. Well that reading almost completely misses the point of the story. Read more →

1 Samuel 16:1-13

 
A Sermon for Covenant
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 4:30-32
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
June 17, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

 

Abinadab was the wealthiest, most powerful king in all the land. He was admired by all his subjects, feared by all his enemies. It was said that the very hand of the divine rested upon him with favor. He could not be defeated in battle; he could not be outwitted in debate; he could not be outshone at a party. Read more →

1 Samuel 8:4-22

 
A Sermon for Covenant
1 Samuel 8:4-22
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
June 10, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

 

Samuel was the little boy who heard God’s voice calling to him in the night, the son of Hannah who took over Eli’s job in the temple because Eli’s own sons were corrupt and unfit for the task. But by the time you get to today’s text, the little boy has grown old. Samuel has his own sons now, and what a disappointment, they are no better than Eli’s. Samuel finds himself in the same place as his predecessor. Slowly aging, almost too old to continue, his own sons are not worthy replacements, and he knows it. The people know it too, and they are starting to get anxious. Who will lead them? Who will help them speak to God? Read more →

Isaiah 6:1-8

 
A Sermon for Covenant
Isaiah 6:1-8
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Trinity Sunday
June 3, 2012
Kyndall Renfro
 

Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I’ve just got to tell you what writer Annie Dillard calls us church people. She says we “seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute.” Brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute.

Now, keep in mind, Annie Dillard is a church person herself, so I assume she includes herself in this dismal caricature. She says we don’t “have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke . . . It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares: they should lash us to our pews.” Read more →

Pentecost Sunday 2012

 
A Sermon for Covenant
Acts 2:1-21
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Pentecost Sunday
May 27, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

 

I have been reminded recently on more than one occasion that God answers prayer. But I would be the first to tell you that life experience has, for the most part, taught me exactly the opposite. God does not answer prayer most of the time—or, at least God does not answer prayer in the way I want God to answer or on the timetable I had expected. In fact, life can be so brutal that I forget to pray at all for loss of faith. Or I choose not to pray for fear of being disappointed.

Sometimes I re-choose prayer by a sheer effort of my will. I discipline my practices in hopes that my faith will catch up. But other times I remember to pray because suddenly Grace plops down in my life like a bounding Tigger, as if to say, “I can’t believe you didn’t see me coming,” and I am surprised all over again that Grace is real.

On the Day of Pentecost, Grace plopped down with a flourish and shocked the socks off everyone—so much so that you couldn’t tell a Spirit-filled apostle from a drunken fool on the street, so the story goes. It was a confusing, throbbing, magnificent mess in which the Spirit of God was so conspicuous, so alive, so mobile, so awake and irresistible that the author of our text could only describe it by saying that the Spirit was like fire and like wind. All consuming, it sounded like the blowing of a violent wind that filled the whole house and it looked like tongues of fire that rested on each of them.

Read more →

Ephesians 1:15-23

 
A Sermon for Covenant
Ephesians 1:15-23
Steve Spivey
May 20, 2012

Children of God (Living as Resurrection People)

 
Living as Resurrection People: Children of God
Acts 10:44-48; 1 John 5:1-5
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Eastertide
May 13, 2012
Kyndall Renfro
 

I had no idea that future generations of believers would invent jokes about St. Peter standing at the pearly gates of heaven, asking why should God let you into heaven? For me, it was no joke. My name is Cornelius, and I literally sent my servants to Peter’s doorstep where they knocked on behalf. From miles away, my heart was thumping as if I was standing at the gates myself, one single question thudding in my heart: Will God accept me? It felt like Peter held my life, my fate, my destiny in his hands. I felt so indebted to him, in fact, that I bowed to him upon first meeting him, though I was a centurion and he a common man.

Read more →

For the Love of God (Living as Resurrection People)

 
Living as Resurrection People: For the Love of God
John 10:11-18; 1 John 3:16-24
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Eastertide
April 29, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

 

Pardon my language when I tell you that Anne Lamott says Easter “hope is about believing this one thing: that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.”[1] The 23rd Psalm tells us (in PG language) that love is bigger than the valley of the shadow of death, and John tells us love is so big that it lays down its life for its friends. These are beautiful, Easter-sized sentiments, but they make love seem too big to get a handle on for a regular, non-heroic person like me. Laying down your life is rather lofty. I’m just trying to figure out how to love Nate when he forgets to wash his dishes. If only I could find the receipt, I’d like to return 1 John and exchange it for the beginner’s manual. This stuff is advanced. I wouldn’t even qualify as intermediate!

Like most people I find Love to be quite pleasant as an idea or as a dream but it is a near absurdity as a real-life situation. Read more →

The Journey of Repentance (Living as Resurrection People)

 
Living as Resurrection People: The Journey of Repentance
Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4, 1 John 3:1-7
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Eastertide
April 22, 2012
Kyndall Renfro
 

At the beginning of Lent, I told you I was on a pilgrimage to rediscover the practice of confession because I was afraid it had gone missing. I confessed to you, there was a lack of confession in my life, and I am afraid there is a lack of confession in the church. That sermon was the beginning of a Lenten pilgrimage and now, here we are, on the other side of the Cross, celebrating the glories of Eastertide and an empty tomb, and our lectionary texts today are filled with talk of repentance.

While I was geared up and ready to talk about confessing and repenting during Lent, it seems a bit too sad for Eastertide, don’t you think? In the Acts chapter 3 passage, Peter’s sermon returns us to the pain and shame of the cross before we are ready. “It’s only been two weeks since Easter,” I want to protest, and Peter takes us right back to Good Friday, reminding us it was our voices shouting, “Crucify him.” Peters says this to the crowd, “You handed him over to be killed. You disowned him before Pilate. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you instead. You killed the author of life.”

Whew. I don’t know about you, but this is not the memory I want to go to on the third Sunday of Eastertide. It’s a harsh opener: “You killed the author of life.” This is not, by the way, how they teach you to start a sermon in seminary, but it is surprisingly effective for Peter, who sees five thousand people come to Christ. Of course, the point of Peter’s sermon is not the judgment, but the repentance of the people. He concludes by saying, “God raised him from the dead . . . and now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance. So repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that time of refreshing may come from the Lord.” 1 John 3 echoes, “But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins,” as if to say, the resurrection would be in vain if it didn’t in turn raise people up out of their sins and into a new way of life. Peter isn’t interested in whether the people feel bad for what happened at the crucifixion. What Peter wants is to see Easter brought to completion in their very hearts. His sermon is less about the sadness of Good Friday, and more about the joy of repentance. This can be hard for us to get our minds around since we’ve often been taught to associate repentance with sorrow. Read more →

The Forging of Unity (Living as Resurrection People)

 
Living as Resurrection People: The Forging of Unity
Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1 John 1:3, 6-7
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Eastertide
April 15, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

 

Very few people these days have ever experienced church in the rosy, picturesque way it is described in Acts chapter 4: “They were of one heart and soul. God’s grace was powerfully at work among them. There was not a needy person among them.” Of course, the rest of Acts will paint a more realistic portrayal, complete with persecutions, church disputes, and everyday setbacks. But even still, shouldn’t the church of today live up to the ideal in Acts chapter 4 at least partway or some of the time?

Instead, it is more common for people go to church and experience burn-out or manipulation or bullying or judgment or bickering or just plain boredom, and as result it is becoming a trend in my generation to leave the church behind altogether. My peers aren’t necessarily losing faith or abandoning God, but they are exiting the church doors by the herds and most are not coming back. While spirituality remains in vogue, the church itself has been too big of a disappointment to stomach. These days God is easier to spot among the trees than he is to find beneath any steeples, and my generation isn’t afraid to say so out loud and head to the forest, without glancing back at the pews. Read more →