Sermons

When You Listen

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(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here. Note: Sermon introduction for this sermon available by audio only. Rest of text below.)

“When You Listen”

The Good Lord bestowed upon humanity five senses
—one of which is hearing, but there are others—

Taste, by which we enjoy our food
Sight, by which we view the earth’s colors
Touch, by which we experience our bodies in relation to other things
Smell, by which we sniff the air for invisible signs of what exists around us

Read more →

Reading the Signs

“Reading the Signs”
Linda Cross
Covenant Baptist Church
San Antonio, Texas
January 20, 2013
John 2:1-12

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Read more →

Baptism Burns

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Luke 3:16b-17
“Baptism Burns”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
The Baptism of the Lord
January 13, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand,
to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary;
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
~Luke 3:16b-17~

The Baptism of our Lord typically conjures up warm, cozy images of a gentle cooing dove descending from heaven and the voice of the Father speaking the cherished words, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with you I am well-pleased.” These lovely images are how Jesus’ baptism ends, but warm and lovely is not how the story begins. Instead, things begin with John, who was known for many traits but lovely wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t much for warmth either; his prophetic tongue had only one temperature: blazing hot. Thus the story of Jesus’ baptism begins with John’s rather ominous proclamation about the Messiah: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear the his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Read more →

The Not-So-Pious Pilgrimage

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Matthew 2:1-12
“The Not-So-Pious Pilgrimage”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Epiphany
January 6, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

In his book, The Sacred Journey, Charles Foster says, “Pilgrimage involves doing something with whatever faith you have.”[1]

Which is why I am enthralled by the Wisemen. They did something so drastic with so little evidence. These Magi had the reverent impudence to get up, pack their bags, and pilgrimage to a distant town in search of a baby. I don’t know whether to liken them to explorers, gypsies, hippies, mad scientists, or vagrants, but whatever they were like it was different, edgy, and brave. They carried in their packs some strange confidence in the stars, and what do you know, it worked! They got to where they were going, despite not knowing the destination. They found the treasure without a map, laid their own treasures down at his feet, and went back home again by a different way. It was all so magical, mystical, and mysterious, this journey of the Magi from the East. I love it. Read more →

A Christmas Homily

 

A Christmas Homily for Covenant
Isaiah 9:2-7
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
December 30, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

 (To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

I saw a facebook status of a friend this week whose son said to her, “Mom, the best gifts are things you can’t buy in stores.” She smiled down at him, full of pride, until he continued, “Like my Amazon kindle. You ordered it online, right?” Isaiah prophesied about “rejoicing as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder,” and in my childhood experience of Christmas, the prophecy was fulfilled in this way: the “harvesting” of a great many gifts from under the tree. My sisters and I started off every Christmas by “dividing the plunder”—picking up packages, reading the tags, and distributing accordingly.

It was the “harvesting” and “dividing” of presents that defined Christmas for me as a child, but as I’ve grown older, things have lost at least some of their significance. As so often happens, your dreams and hopes for your life and for the world transform in conjunction with the pain you’ve seen and known. You experience some of life’s harshness, and you begin to yearn for that which can’t be bought with money, like health, family, hope, healing, reconciliation, justice, mercy, love. Your wish list for Santa pales in comparison to the deep prayers of your heart, your longing for wholeness in the face of brokenness. Read more →

Finding the Christ in Christmas

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Luke 1:46-55
“Finding the Christ in Christmas”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

 (To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

“Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?” asks the Christmas song.

It is hard to say what Mary knew, though if her song tells us anything, before our Lord was any bigger than an acorn inside her womb, Mary knew things. There are some things I wish I knew, such as:

Was Mary always a poet?
Was she startled by the song
as it burst into the open,
Or had the song been stirring within,
unsung, all her life?

Was the melody as haunting,
beautiful and unsettling
as the words?
Did heaven stand still
and bend its ear to listen in?

Read more →

Can There Be Any Rejoicing?

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Philippians 4:4-7
Can There Be Any Rejoicing?
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Third Sunday of Advent
December 16, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

Note: Audio recommended.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

My eye—or more accurately my heart—was drawn to this particular lectionary passage from Philippians, and I think the reason it got to me was because it is sooo the opposite of how I feel and where I am right now. Typically, when I feel dissonance with a text, that means: Pay attention. Dig deeper. Don’t run from the discomfort. Sit with tension and see what comes.

But this week the disconnect was too much. Rejoice in the Lord? Small children were gunned down in an elementary school in Connecticut on Friday morning. What is there to rejoice about in times such as these? Read more →

The Dark Side of Christmas

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Luke 1:76-79
“The Dark Side of Christmas”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Second Sunday of Advent
December 9, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

 

“And you, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

We light the Advent candles one by one, week by week, ever so gradually, because the dawning of light happens slowly. Outside of here, the pell-mell rush of the holiday season disguises the agony of real waiting. Waiting is hard work, so we lighten the mood and count our way to Christmas with cookies and candies and carols.

The world’s all abuzz except when we come here. Everything slows to a snail’s pace here, enough to annoy us a little when we bustle in all bundled up in holiday frenzy. The steady rhythm of worship collides with the chaos of our consumerism. We were probably more at home in the chaos, because waiting, real and honest waiting, is uncomfortable, slow, dismal. Read more →

What is Truth?

 

A Sermon for Covenant
John 18:36-38a
“What is Truth?”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
Christ the King Sunday
November 25, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

(To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.) 

“What is truth?” said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer . . .

. . . so begins Francis Bacon’s essay on truth from 1597. What is truth? It’s a question that has captured philosophers for millennia, though the skeptic Pilate scarce had the time to consider it. It was the only question he asked Jesus for which he did not care to hear an answer. He was interested in Jesus’ alleged kingship, where Jesus came from, what Jesus has done, but he did not listen to Jesus’ truth.

It was just as well, perhaps, that Pilate left the room without Jesus’ reply, because Jesus’ truth was hardly something that could be summarized and digested in a single conversation. Pilate was looking for evidence, not a whole new way of life.

When he did have room to answer, Jesus responded to Pilate’s whole interrogation in the predictable Jesus-y way: he evaded the questions, taking the dialogue his own direction instead. Jesus showed no interest in winning a debate. He came to earth to do one thing, he told Pilate: “to testify to the truth,” and such a testimony had little to do with an argument and more to do with how he lived and who he spent time with and that he healed people. His truth was embodied, not debated. He gave parables instead of lectures, because his truth was like stories that live in your heart. It wasn’t the kind of truth that could fit on a flashcard; it was the kind of truth that blew up the world. Read more →

It’s Our Business to Be Subversives

 

A Sermon for Covenant
“It’s Our Business to Be Subversives”
Steve Spivey
November 18, 2012
Acts 17: 1-9; 19:23-41; Phil. 3:17-4:1

 (To listen to the audio, click “play” button above. To download audio, click here.)

The formation of this sermon has been long in coming.  It was being conceived, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, over the course of the last few years, intensifying over the course of 2012 and reaching its tipping point this month.  Its places of gestation have ranged from blogs to editorials to news articles to comment sections on websites of different stripes and to the content of and response to the flood of campaign commercials, claims, counter-claims and robo-calls. Read more →