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For Your Sermon Illustration File

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.

VISION "Seeing the Goal"

In the early morning hours of July 4, 1985, a 34-year-old woman waded into the icy waters off Santa Catalina Island and began swimming toward the California coast. Her name was Florence Chadwick, and she was determined to be the first woman to complete the swim across the Catalina Channel. She was not a novice to the world of long-distance swimming. Already she had become the first woman to swim across the English Channel, a feat which she had ac­complished in both directions.

On this particular day, however, an obstacle loomed over the sea like a blanket. Fog, so thick that you could cut it with a knife, made it dif­ficult for Chadwick to see even her support vessels. She was prepared for the numbing water and even for the sharks which had to be driven away with gunfire, but, in the end, it was the fog that defeated her. After 15 hours, 55 minutes, Florence Chadwick was taken out of the water—only to find out later she was but one-half mile from land!

As she reflected upon the experience, she said it was not the cold water or the fatigue or the sharks that had caused her to fail. The fog alone was responsible. It had blinded her eyes, her reason and her heart. Because she could not see the goal ahead of her, she quit. Two months later, Florence Chadwick not only completed the swim, but in so doing, shattered the men's record by two hours!

Our ability to see the goals before us is called vision. To put it simply, vision is "seeing" what God wants to do and believing that God will do it.

. . . Bob Webster, "How's Your Vision?", Quaker Life, Jan/Feb 1987

CHRIST "Oh, Yesu Swami"

Nursamma, a charismatic, itinerant priestess in the Hyderabad area, used to perform "puja" (worship) to exorcise the evil goddess of small pox. One day she heard an evangelist preach on John 3:16 and was converted. The preacher bap­tized her, but did not record it because he did not wish to stir up trouble in the community. In a few weeks Nursamma was so transformed that people could hardly recognize her. She now used her power and influence for Christ. Although illiterate, she bought a Bible and ask­ed others to read it to her. People overhead her pray, "Oh Yesu Swami, why could I not have heard about you earlier? Here I am an old woman; I could have done so much more for

* Clyde W. Chesnutt is publisher of Windows of Truth, a newsletter of sermon illustrations. His address is P.O. Box 339, Blanco, Texas 78606.


. . . Herbert ]. Singh, "The Story of Methodism

in India," New World Outlook, October 1986


During World War II General Omar Bradley was puzzled over the low performance of a regi­ment in General Early's division. The regiment had trained soldiers, adequate equipment and good battle plans but it was not producing results. General Bradley learned that the colonel could not inspire his men, so he replaced him with another officer. Immediately morale went up and the regiment began to produce in the midst of overwhelming odds. Bradley visited the regiment to discover the secret. Written in large letters on every piece of equipment and across the helmets were the letters "A A A-O." He asked what this meant and was told it meant "Anything, anywhere, anytime, bar nothing!"

When we, as members of Christ's church, begin to honestly pray, "Anything, anywhere, anytime, no reservations" we will have a power and performance unprecedented in our history. , . . Charles Whittle, "A Message from God," Challenge to Evangelism Today, Fall 1986

DISCIPLESHIP "Nothing But Style"

Once a man attended a fair and saw another man leading a fine, well-groomed horse. He in­quired, "Is that a saddle horse?" The other replied, "No, sir. This horse will buck off a sad­dle. Nothing can stay on his back."

"Is he a driving horse, then?" the man asked. "No, he was hitched up once and made kindl­ing wood of the vehicle he should have pulled."

"Well, what is he good for? Why is he here?" The answer was, "Style, man, style, Just look at the picture he makes."

Once I was in a church building and saw people clad in fine clothes coming into the morn­ing service. I asked the preacher, "Are those peo­ple workers in the church?" "No," he answered sadly. "Do they visit the sick and minister to the poor? Do they attend other services of the church?" "Never," he answered.

"There's that horse," I said to myself, "Nothing but style." . . . Quote, September 1, 1985

HERO "New Code of Conduct"

When John Shad was a boy, his grandmother gave him a piece of advice. Divide your life, she t old the future chairman of the Securities and Ex­change Commission (SEC), into three parts: a third of the time to learn, a third to earn, and a third to serve.

To date, Mr. Shad has stuck by his grand­mother's agenda—much to the chagrin of Ivan Boesky, Dennis Levine, and several other big names on Wall Street. For Shad's idea of service has led to their downfall and to the biggest crackdown that Wall Street has seen.

"John Shad is responsible for some of the greatest accomplishments in law enforcement in the history of the commission," says Theodore

Levine, who worked at the SEC for 14 years and is now one of the lawyers representing Mr. Boesky. Last November the SEC charged Boesky with making millions of dollars in illegal profits by trading stocks on "inside" (nonpublic) infor­mation. Boesky agreed to pay $100 million in penalties and now faces a criminal charge.

Shad's crusade seems as much personal as pro­fessional. He is disturbed by what he calls "a change in moral attitudes" in the United States since the end of World War II, and his post at the SEC has given him a chance to try to reverse that ethical decline.

"I think a lot of young people feel that ethics is something you get the reward for in the hereafter rather than in the here and now," Shad told the Monitor recently. "I believe you get the benefits here and now as well as in the hereafter."

Soon Shad will leave the SEC to become US ambassador to the Netherlands. But as he wraps up his 5 and a half years, critics and admirers say his leadership has rewritten the code of con­duct on Wall Street.

. . . Barbara Bradley, Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 1987

HUMOR "You Have to Understand"

Bobby Layne, quarterback and fiery field leader for the University of Texas, the Detroit Lions and the Pittsburgh Steelers, died Monday of cardiac arrest. The flamboyant Texan was a favorite media topic and was quoted widely. Here is one on his short career with the Bears and his relationship with team owner and coach George Halas.

"Johnny Lujack and I were rookies together at Chicago. Mr. Halas thought Sid Luckman was going to retire, but Sid decided to play two or three more years. Mr. Halas was a great man. He told me, 'Bobby, I can't afford to keep three quarterbacks and I can't make Sid retire. He's Jewish, which means a lot of season tickets. Johnny's from Notre Dame, which means more season tickets. And you're a Baptist from Texas. You have to understand.' . . . Sports People, San Antonio Light, December 2, 1986

WAR "More Than a War Movie"

"I am reality." So runs a key line in'Tlatoon," the smash hit film from Orion Pictures that has been featured this year on the covers of "Time," "People," and "The New York Times Magazine," and garnered the Academy Award's best picture and best director prizes.

"I am reality" is said not by the God of Israel on Mt. Sinai 3,000 years ago, but rather by ac­tor Tom Berenger, playing an amoral American killing machine named Sgt. Barnes, "somewhere near the Cambodian border" in 1967. Barnes is a hideously scarred soldier who has long since lost the distinction between mass murder and war, and now racks up victims beyond count, gladly doing in anyone who gets in his way— be they the enemy Vietcong, frightened South Vietnamese peasants, or even his own men. His




"reality" has survived seven combat shooting;

He continues to exist—so he believes—only by destroying any adversary without a twinge of guilt.

"Platoon" is more than just a violent war movie; it is a story of the struggle for a young man's soul. Chris (played by Charlie Sheen) has a choice between becoming a self-deifying psychopath made in Barne's image, like some of the men do, or upholding a more other-conscious morality as represented by Sgt. Elias (William Dafoe). Chris's dilemma, and his conclusion, are gripping.

We are caught up in Chris's battle to remain human, and hence moral, in an inhuman, im­moral setting. And we are embraced by his let­ters home to Grandma, in which he meditates on life's meaning and describes the larger con­texts that frame the film's actions.

The tone of the letters may remind viewers of the young David's tone, in the poems he wrote to God while being pursued by Saul—reminding us again that there have been Chrises and Barneses in every society since time began. Chris's final elegy, on his need to communicate to non-combatants the absurd terror of the organized slaughter he saw, is as moving as those Holocaust-camp recollections that recently won author Elie Wiesel a Nobel prize. Both are tell­ing us messages we need to hear—over and over again and in many different forms—so that we will heed them and live. . . . Rob Wright, condensed, "Oscar-Winning Platoon Replays War's Horrors, " Eternity, May 1987


Laurie Lee, English poet; Any man's child is his second chance. I see my child leading me back to my beginnings, reopening rooms I'd locked and forgotten, and stirring the dust in my mind by re-asking the big question—as any child can do.

Jacqueline Onassis: Money isn't what makes it all worthwhile. An aim in life is the only for­tune worth finding.

Dr. Paul Tournier: In order to make a success of old age, one must begin it earlier.

Theodore Roosevelt: But there must be the look ahead, there must be a realization of the fact that to waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.

Wesleyan Methodist: Our great-grandfather called it the holy Sabbath; our grandfather, the Sabbath; our fathers, Sunday; but today we call it the weekend.

| "Forget about taking along bait to fish! We're crossing the Red Sea in a hurry!" |

Ethel Barrymore: When life knocks you to your knees, and it will, why, get up! If it knocks you to your knees again, as it will, well, isn't that the best position from which to pray? ■





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