Sermons

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 →

Giving from the Center

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Mark 12:41-44
“Giving from the Center”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
November 11, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

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

 “‘Tis better to give than to receive,” is what they always tell you, but that hasn’t always been my experience. As a child, it was always the thought of the presents I would receive that woke me bright and early Christmas morning, rather than the gifts I was giving. I remember the impetus to give great gifts as a child was there, but the follow-through was sometimes lacking. Like the year I decided to give my little sister my blankie for Christmas—it was a grand gesture as my most prized possession, but eventually I had to ask her to give it back so I could sleep at night. At a very young age, I learned that giving could hurt.

In our story today, Jesus did a curious thing: he sat down and watched the temple treasury. Why? Why sit down there and why watch? I cannot imagine Jesus picked that spot in order to play judge or so he could gossip later about who gave what. I imagine Jesus came to that place not with a scrutinous eye but with a curious one. I don’t think he was scanning wildly for a sermon illustration; he was just being observant. Jesus was as interested in people as a bird-watcher is interested in birds or a photographer is interested in light. Jesus was mildly curious to see what would happen if he watched the coffer and the people who passed it, and a dash of gentle curiosity is often all you need to find your way to a discovery. And what Jesus learned from the widow that day was so extraordinary, it became a story worth repeating. Read more →

Lazarus Lurches to Life

A Sermon for Covenant
John 11:32-44
“Lazarus Lurches to Life”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
All Saints Day
November 4, 2012
Kyndall Rae Renfro

 *Our apologies: no audio available for this sermon due to technical difficulties. 

The thing that gets to me about Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead is how un-sanitized the whole affair is. When Jesus rises from the dead, the tomb is found empty, linens neatly folded. By the time Jesus makes his appearance to the women, you kind of assume he’s had enough time to arrive showered, dressed, and groomed. I have never, not once, pictured a stinky Jesus still oozing the stench of death on Easter Sunday. I imagine him bright-eyed and clean as a whistle come Resurrection Day.

Not so with Lazarus. He emerges looking more like a zombie than a Christ-figure, still wrapped from head to toe in a scene more aesthetically fitting for Halloween than for Easter, which is a good reminder that coming back to life is more shocking than it is beautiful, as disorienting as it is miraculous, and as untidy as it is holy. Read more →

Stay Loyal to Your Healing

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Mark 10:46-52
“Stay Loyal to Your Healing”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
October 28, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

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

I am struck by his stubborn persistence. The way Bartimaeus refuses to be silenced. That’s guts, or desperation, or some of both. There’s the way Bartimaeus jumps to his feet and leaves his cloak behind. If I were blind, I wouldn’t leave any of my possessions behind, for fear I wouldn’t be able to find them again. There’s the way Bartimaeus walks (runs?) to Jesus when he is called. A whole crowd of people, and the blind guy knows without hesitation which one to walk up to. And then there’s the way Bartimaeus gets what he asked for, but instead of running off to live his life, he keeps following Jesus. Read more →

Winning Third

 

A Sermon for Covenant
Mark 10:32-45
“Winning Third”
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
October 21, 2012
Kyndall Renfro

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

Most people want first place, but at youth camp, the desired award was “I’m Third,” given to the most Christ-like camper.  I coveted one, but it was a tricky thing to get. It required that you put Christ first, neighbor second, yourself third, BUT you had to do so discreetly so not to seem like you were trying to win an award, because that would not be putting yourself last at all. You also had to be ever so slightly obvious, because in a sea full of teenagers, you were bound to be overlooked if your service was too quiet. Read more →