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For Your Sermon Illustrations

Illustrations for Preaching

by Clyde W. Chesnutt*

Much of the following material is copyrighted and is presented here for oral communication on­ly. Permission for reprinting must be secured from the publisher of the periodical from which the illustration is excerpted.

ADVERSITY "Don't Sweat a Thunderstorm"

Over the years I have come to see commer­cial airliners as mini labs for the study of human behavior. If you fly enough, you are sure to witness the full gamut of human emotion up there in the friendly skies. Several years ago I boarded a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Albany only to discover a single vacant seat. It was next to a unique looking character with a full handlebar mustache, a leather western-cut sport coat, and alligator boots. About 40 minutes out of O'Hare we encountered a severe storm. It was, by far, the worst banging and shaking I have ever experienced. My concern must have been showing on my face for after one noticeable crash and jerk the guy reached over and touch­ed my arm. "Don't worry, man, I've jumped out of worse than this!" He went on to explain he was one of the paratroopers who jumped into chaos at St. Mere Iglis on D-Day. "Son," he said, "once you've jumped into a web of tracers, you'll never sweat a thunderstorm again." . . . Barry Johnson, "Nightlight," First Communi­ty Church Sermons, Columbus, OH, September 7, 1986

AGE "Humorous Quotes"

Maybe that's the antidote to old age—being busy. In one of his books, Harry Golden says you should try new experiences every few years. Learn Latin at 70, he suggests. Take up painting when you're 80. Then when you die, he says, you'll hardly notice it.

The late Cary Grant also seemed to have the right outlook. Once a reporter doing a piece on him sent him a telegram asking, "How old Cary Grant?" Grant wired back, "Old Cary Grant fine. How you?" . . . Joy Daane, Grit, Feb. 1-7, 1987

CHRIST "The Church's One Message"

After Karl Barth's visit to this country, I recall with what shock a professor at Union Seminary reported a conversation some had had with Barth. Someone had asked "the Baseler lion" what he would say if he met Adolf Hitler. Barth's reply was, "Jesus Christ died for your sins." How irrelevant, how simplistic, how utterly absurd seemed that reply to American pragmatic ears! And yet I suspect Barth's answer was his way

* Clyde W. Chesnutt is publisher of Windows of Truth, a newsletter of sermon illustrations. His address is P.O. Box 310810, New Braunfels, Texas 78131.

of saying to his listeners, in the context of a brief conversation, that finally the church has only one message—Jesus Christ and him crucified. . . . Elizabeth Achtemeier, "What I Learned from Karl Barth," International Christian  Digest,

February 1987

COMMITMENT "Building More Than a House"

Ascencion Diaz has been busy with much more than finishing his house in Plan de Avala, a small working class neighborhood of Cuer-navaca, Mexico. His days are filled with the needs of his neighborhood: running water, school repair and paved streets. The city has been slow to provide services. Only under continued pressure from residents has some progress been made. As a community leader, Diaz has work­ed hard for that progress.

His involvement began 10 years ago when he was invited to a biblical reflection group. The group is part of a larger movement of base ec-clesial communities where Christian poor (usual­ly Latin American and Roman Catholic) gather to pray, sing and study the Bible and then translate what they learn into social action. "I hardly went to church before because it didn't interest me when they went through the readings without telling the people anything about what the word of God means. They didn't compare it to the situation of the people. But I began to see that the celebration of Mass had more mean­ing, that the baptized had a commitment. We began to make this a reality in our small groups." The group's first project was building the church. Then they moved to the needs of the community. . . . Peggy Cain, People Who Make a Difference, Seeds, February 1987


"Shocking Facts"

Joseph Donkers in his book Creation and Human Dynamism, published in 1985, ar­ticulates a few facts that are shocking: "At pre­sent six million Europeans eat as much food as 240 million Africans ... A Canadian eats 70 times more than an inhabitant of Upper Volta, a country in West Africa . . . The citizens of the United States of America, who form only 5.7% of the world's population, eat half the food pro­duced in the world. The so-called Western part of the world spends ten times more money on the feeding of cats and dogs than the sovereign country, Guinea, earns as its national income. There are only four countries in Africa whose national income is higher than the amount of money spent on cattle fodder in the USA. And yet, it is in the West that one hears: They should be sterilized in the Third World; they are get­ting too numerous, and there is not enough food for all of us."

. . . Dave Treat, Agape United Methodist Church newsletter, Lubbock, TX Nove. 25, 1986

LABOR DAY "Humor on the Personal Level"

Some secretaries were discussing the seman­tics behind such oft-repeated words as recession, depression, and panic. "What's to discuss?" one said. "It's a recession when my neighbor's out of work, a depression when my husband is out of work, and a panic when I'm out of work." . . . Post Scripts, The Saturday Evening Post, July/August 1986

OPTIMISM "Worrying About Tomorrow"

Linus was talking to Charlie Brown in the comic strip "Peanuts," and observed, "I guess it's wrong always to be worrying about tomorrow. Maybe we should think only about today."

Charlie Brown replied, "No, that's giving up. I'm still hoping that yesterday will get better." ... To Illustrate, Preaching, March/April 1987

YOUTH "Build A Life"

"What message have you for young people?" asked Carl Stern of NBC in concluding a televi­sion interview with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel shortly before his death.

Rabbi Heschel replied: ". . . Let them remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments.

"And above all, [let them] remember ... to build a life as if it were a work of art." . . . ed. Samuel Dresner, I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual  Anthology  of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Crossroad, 1985


Post Scripts: Remembering is somewhat like a grammar lesson: We find the present tense and the past perfect.

Daily Walk: Length of service for God is not nearly as important as breadth and depth of service.

Richard Longenecker: Faith in Christ is meant to be the basis for a life of expanded vision, sharpened sensitivities, moral courage, and ac­tive endeavor, not a substitute for thought or change.

Dag Hammerskjold: The more you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside.

The Prairie Rambler: Someone has figured out taht the peak years of mental activity must be between the ages of four and 18. At four we know all the questions, at 18 we know all the answers.

C.K. Chesterton: We do not want, as the
newspapers say, a Church that will move with
the world. We want a Church that will move the
world.                                                          I




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