Sermons

Belly Prayer

 

“Belly Prayer”
Jonah 2:1-10
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
January 18, 2015
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

 

 

An extension of Jonah’s prayer:

Dear God,

It’s me again, and this time it’s a belly prayer. I know I have a lot of heady prayers—the kind where I try to think things through and find new insight. Then there’s the face prayers—these have always been popular among those who pray. It’s the kind of prayer where I put on a pious face. I think righteous thoughts and ask for admirable requests, sorta in hopes God will notice this deep spirituality I have that exceeds those around me, but mostly I pray face prayers to convince myself that I am okay—just look how pure my words! I sometimes have finger prayers—where I’m trying very hard to get a grasp onto something and find what it is in this life I can hold onto. And then there are knees prayers where I am bent down, beggin’.

But today is a belly prayer. This is as raw as it gets, when one prays from the gut. Here the real me is revealed: warts, mistakes, fears, and all. I feel stripped of all else and so I bring my empty hands and my naked heart. It’s all I’ve got, and I hope you’ll take me. I know you’ll take me, which is why I pray. Read more →

Jonah, My True Story

 

A Sermon for Covenant
“Jonah, My True Story”
Jonah 1:1-17
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
January 11, 2015
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

The general consensus among scholars is that Jonah is a story. Just a story, but not a historically true one. More like a faith fairy tale than a real place on the timeline.

However, I don’t really see how its historicity is relevant. Either way, the story tells us things that are true. If you’ve ever been Jonah, you’ll recognize the story’s accuracy. Without ever physically leaving the land and setting sail, I have been Jonah more than once and have shared his story. Why don’t we just take a ride together and see if this story has ever been true for you?  Read more →

The Epiphany That Shattered Walls

 

“The Epiphany That Shattered Walls”
Matthew 2:1-12
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
January 4, 2015
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”

They came asking, seeking, searching, following both the signs in the sky and the tug in their hearts.

The powers that be were threatened by this Mystery they sought. They did not want the thing around. They wanted it gone. They did not want this great King, this great Mystery, this great God among them—oh no, they wanted it shut down. “Help us,” begged the powers to the travelers, “Help us destroy it.” The powers coughed. “I mean, we want to worship it too. Lead us there, straight away. You must find it, for we cannot. All the diviners and knowledge-holders together cannot locate the exact whereabouts of this treasure, this person, this babe. But you, you can find it.  For you are wise. Then tell us. Tell us where he is so we can kill . . . we mean, pay homage. Do this for us, oh wise men.” Read more →

The Ever Ancient Mary

 

“The Ever Ancient Mary”
Matthew 1:16-23
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
December 28, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

She is so old her teeth have begun to rattle loose. They say her mind may be going, but she says her mind is coming, always comin’ to her, alive with recollection and remembrance.

She is tracing the deep wrinkles in her hands with the edge of her thumb. She thinks of her well-worn hands in contrast to his baby fresh skin she once held in younger arms. Whatever they may say of her mind, her memories are clear. She pictures his tiny toes, smells his newborn, feels the smoothness of his miniature, pudgy legs. Read more →

Bathsheba Tells Her Story

 

The Four Women of Advent
Advent Four: Bathsheba Tells Her Story
December 21, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

“Tamar, I’m here,” I say gently as I enter her room. She is nonresponsive. I do not wait for an invitation but sit beside her. Her body heaves a sigh; her brow is furrowed in pain; she does not want to look me in the eye.

My feelings toward her are maternal. She grew up with my children, and they all share a father. I’ve never felt anything but affection towards David’s other children. Children deserve to be loved, no matter who their mothers or fathers are.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Tamar through the years, watching out for her when her own mother was busy with the king. Today I feel a stronger bond with her than ever. I want her to know I am here, in spirit as well as body, but I do not know how to bring up what has happened. I sit quietly. She returns silence with silence. Read more →

Remembering Ruth

 

The Four Women of Advent
Advent Three: Remembering Ruth
December 14, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

One could scarcely call it a decision, my choice to head back home. I just get up one day and start walking. The same way the very act of waking up has become involuntarily, this too is unwilled by me. Every night I lay down, hoping for eternal sleep, wishing for nothing but death. And yet, some unseen force pulls me out of bed each day, moves me to prepare my meal, opens my mouth to eat. My body complies independently; my spirit is elsewhere, wrapped up in despair. One day the force tugs at my feet and without forethought or warning, I begin the long lonely trek home. Read more →

Letters to Rahab

 

The Four Women of Advent
Advent Two: Letters to Rahab
December 7, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

 

April 10, 2014

Dear Rahab,

My name is Cassandra. I am 16 years old, and I’m writing you from the Juvenile Detention Center in San Antonio. I been livin’ on the streets two years, ‘til bein’ arrested for theft end of March.

There’s a chaplain here who talks with me. At first she seem alright, but that was before I knew she was the chaplain. I tell her I don’t believe in God, so she might as well leave me alone. She asks me why I don’t believe. “What did God ever do for me?” I tell her. She waits quietly for me to say more. “I’m pissed at God,” I yell, thinking I can shock her. “What kind of God just stand by and let a kid get beat up and used? God never protected me from nothing.” Read more →

Tamar’s Diary

 

The Four Women of Advent
Advent One: Tamar’s Diary
November 30, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

Dear Diary,

It has been 17 days since Er died. I feel I should be crying, but the truth is we barely knew each other. He was a harsh man, and in the short time we were together, I was shown little kindness. Perhaps in time we could have acclimated to one another, but now I will never find out whether we could harmonize. I don’t know if this is grief I am feeling. I feel . . . bereft. Heavy with emptiness—I am empty with what I will never have. I am made heavy by the void of what will never be mine.

I wonder daily if it is possible that even in this season of death, there may yet be life in me. Perhaps I am with child. His child. It is too soon to know. Every morning, the first thing I do on waking is place my hand over my belly and listen, though not with my ears. I don’t know what I am listening for. A mother’s intuition? My own mother always knew before any outward signs. How did she do that?

Read more →

Matthew 25:31-46

 

Matthew 25:31-46
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
November 23, 2014
Christ the King Sunday
Will Bearden

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

In Which I Encourage You to Gamble

 

“In Which I Encourage You to Gamble”
Matthew 25:14-30
Covenant Baptist Church, San Antonio
November 16, 2014
Kyndall Rae Rothaus

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

I want to know about the servant who invested all five talents but ended up losing two of them in a stock market crash. What happens to him? What does the master say to him?

I’m wondering this because I have made some pretty large investments of love in my life that did not pay me back. I have made investments of trust in my life that did not pay me back. I have made investments of kindness that did not pay me back. Not all my risks brought reward, not all my ventures have got me to the top of the class, to the head of the department, to the front of the line, to the experience of bliss, to the big fat bonus. Some of my investments fall flat, some of my dreams get thwarted, some of my courageous acts and courageous words turn out to be embarrassing.

This is the untold side of the parable, and it is the side where most of us spend most of our existence. Risking and investing and getting no return. Or not enough return. Or just enough return, but we had hoped for more, you see. Most of us are stuck somewhere between shovel and success. Not quite ready to dig a grave for our dreams, but not really clear on how to make our goods multiply.

The parable sets up two extremes like a fork in the road, offering two directions you might take. You can be the one who risks or the one who fears, the one who creates or the one who buries, and it is obvious which route the wholehearted and brave are supposed to choose. But choosing to risk doesn’t mean you’ll have ten talents to show for it right away. You may lose some money or some time, lose energy, lose hope, lose confidence along the way. The market for investors is never steady. The pay-off for engaging is never certain. You may indeed experience loss. You’ll gain some things back, while others are plain lost. For example, the guy who stole your time and money—he’s probably not bringing it back. But sowing seeds of hope today can sprout a hundredfold tomorrow. Some dreams die, but others rise up in their place. The stock market of living goes up, then down, down, then up.

We are often in limbo between investment and burial, licking our wounds from the latest loss, contemplating giving up, then mustering up the bravery to go at it again.

It’s an unfortunate read of this parable to think it is saying life is about profit, product, outcome, and success. I think it is a better read of the parable is to say life is about the living of it. The risking, the trying, the leaping out in faith—the journey itself is the thing of the value, not the end result.

The master commends the servant not for his profit, but for his faithfulness, his goodness, his trustworthiness. Arguably faithlessness sometimes looks like, feels like failure. Even when the revenue is down, faithfulness can still be intact. What this parable reveals is that it isn’t failure that keeps us from investing our lives in meaningful ways—it is the fear of failure that limits and restricts us.

The guy who buried his talent—why did he do it? He was scared of the master. He says, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” We know these callous, ruthless characteristics the servant names are not true about God, but as soon as the servant says it, the master becomes what he fears. Suddenly, the master morphs from a genial, giving man into a condemning, greedy one.

Does God himself morph to match our fears about him? Of course not. But, we will often interpret our experiences as if God were exactly what we believe him to be. If we think God punitive, we will see punishment in everything. If we think God merciful, we will see grace wherever we look. So what if this isn’t a parable about what God is like, but a parable about what we are like depending on who we believe God to be? The servants who believe their master is good and that they therefore have freedom and the capacity to use their ingenuity act accordingly. The servant who believes the master to be greedy and insatiable cowers accordingly.

Those of us who believe in a God who wants us to use what we’ve been given, even if we have a track record of failures and mishaps, know that at the end of it all, we’ll find the investment was worth it and God is infinitely pleased. Those of who believe in a frightfully vindictive God will do as much hiding and cautious avoiding of the real world as possible, paralyzed by fear-based interpretations of reality. Every misfortune will seem to be the hand of God, ready to strike, if that’s what we are looking for. But if hope is able to wriggle its way into our hiding places, if mercy makes its way to the heart, if our vision of God is able to transform and expand, then the shackles of fear fall off, and we begin to live our lives.

You know, as the pastor of a church, I really wish I could promise every person who walks in the door: “All your investments are safe here! Give of your time, your talents, your resources, and no one here will ever use you. You won’t get hurt; you won’t be disappointed. Invest 5 talents, and you will receive double.”

But as much as I want to, I can’t promise it. I do believe this is as good a place as any to start investing your life, but there is no guaranteed interest rate, not here, not anywhere. Any time you give of your life, give of your love, give of your trust, you make a gamble.

The church isn’t a place to earn rewards, but if it’s a loving church—a faltering but loving church—then the church is a place to have your fears purged and your life awakened.

Here is what I would say to those who have given and sometimes gained but sometimes lost: Keep investing. Keep risking. Keep putting yourself forward and your heart front and center. Keep taking off the armor and walking about unarmed. Keep opening your life. Not because you’re bound to succeed and risk is bound to pay off. But because you believe in a God who will be pleased if you do. Because you believe you will be most pleased with yourself if you do. Because investing might not pay off, but burying yourself will never pay off. Because your melancholy and your pessimism do not define you. There may be seasons where the despairing voices in your head can be real and unrelenting, but they are not the voices that guide you. You are steered by a deeper wisdom and you are haunted by a deeper hope. You have the whisper of resurrection countering all shouts of despair. You have the image of the risen Christ forever rising from your heart.

At the end of it all, your hope will come true. The God of mercy will be there to greet you with joy, and you will look down at your hands and to your amazement, you will be holding ten talents instead of five. How did this even happen? You will marvel at the multiplication, because in the daily grind of life on earth, you could not know what was accumulating unseen.

But the one who predicts a god harsh and exacting and demanding will never be satisfied. This one will never find mercy because he knows not how to recognize it. He will bury his life in the ground; she will tuck away her giftedness out of sight; he will hide from God and hide from people; she will dig a hole for the biggest and best of her dreams. This one will recoil in fright, will imagine a god terrifying and ruthless, a god who reaps what he did not sow and gathers what he did not plant, a god will steals from the poor to give to the rich. This fear-filled one will see himself as a victim of unfairness, irreparably handicapped by tragedy and incapable of change, incapable of courage. This one stays buried and small, and likewise his god stays small and punitive.

But you and I will not stay buried and we will not stay small, because our God is big and our God is love and our God values our faithfulness and our lives, even when our report card comes back so-so. We trust this, and therefore we live.

May we be a people who risk, even when the odds are against us. May we be a people who invest, even without guarantees. May we be a people who believe our God to be Mercy and Love. May we be a people of ever-resurrecting courage. Amen.