For your Sermon Illustration FileIllustrations for Preachingby 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.
ASH WEDNESDAY "Ethic of Forgiveness"
On December 17, 1983, the most sensational news item in my paper was printed on page 12. The story was captioned, Parents Win Mercy for Drunken Driver Who Killed Their Son. It seems that these bereaved parents requested that the judge sentence their son's killer to perform community service rather than serve a prison term. The parents' statement read in part, "Hopefully, we, Bill's parents, have instilled in his brothers and sisters the Christian ethic of forgiveness . . . We all hope that the defendant understands and has true contrition in his heart and in the end will be a better person."
. . . Orpha Vincent, "Forgiveness" The Upper Room, Jan. 7, 1986
The eight-year-old wanted to decorate his room in the latest style so he wrote to the State University and asked for "stickers, brochures and penance." A few days later he received a package from the university with this letter, "We are mailing you the brochures and stickers, but would suggest that for penance you spend an hour a day with Webster's dictionary." . . . Quote, Oct. 15, 1985
CHRISTIAN UNITY "New Decalogue for Ecumenical Discipleship"
1. Daily affirmation that Jesus calls his
followers to be one: An early morning prayer
time or a regular devotional period can be en
riched by recall and/or reading John 17:20-23
along with whatever else may be on the agen
da. It is this daily affirmation of Christ's call to
be one that brings to the conscious level a sober
ing and mangificent acknowledgement: the Ho
ly Spirit is at work in ways that point to our
Lord's call being fulfilled.
2. Daily praise for the infinite variety of
religious expression evidenced in the Universal
Church: Praise God for the infinite smorgasbord
placed in our midst!
3. Daily study of the beliefs and/or organiza
tional life found in denominations other than our
own: We are blessed with numerous teaching and
learning tools that can bring us, at least in an
informational way, what fellow pilgrims believe
and how they understand polity.
4. Daily prayer for those within and outside
our denomination that all might appreciate and
'Clyde W. Chesnutt is publisher of Windows of Truth, a newsletter of sermon illustrations. His mailing address is P.O. Box 339, Blanco, Texas 78606.
be enriched by the diversity found in the Universal Church: Holy Scripture as it speaks to us in Ephesians 4:1-16 provides the background and fertile soil out of which such prayers naturally emerge.
5. Daily practice of intentionally conversing
with a person(s) in another denomination(s)
about the Christian Faith: We miss much by not
entering into conversation and even dialogue
with others wearing different labels.
6. Daily meditation on what it means to be
a part of the Body of Christ: Especially impor
tant for our nourishment are the twelfth and thir
teenth chapters of 1 Corinthians.
7. Daily acknowledgement of our roots
found in the rich heritage of Judaism: While we
kneel before Jesus as Savior and Lord, we also—
along with our Jewish friends—call Abraham our
8. Daily openness to the continually emerg
ing opportunities for worship and understanding
among Christians: While there is still pain in
Christ's Body that comes from some exclusions
at our Lord's Table, there are more and more
other types of worship that are fully open to all.
9. Daily admission that it was and is scan
dalous for Christians to be divided: To own such
a disgrace, however, grants us the humility and
sincerity to move to better days.
10. Daily consecration of our entire being to the cause of Christian unity: Our day calls for undivided allegiance to the cause of Christian unity. While we do not presume to know the final shape of the unity we seek, by the grace of God we shall be victorious. . . . Donald Charles Lacy, "Decalogue for Ecumenical Discipleship," abridged, Fairway Press, 1986
CONVERSION "Pursued to the Bottom of the Sea"
Early one morning, Mike, a professional diver, dove off the Florida coast to salvage parts from a sunken ship. As he descended and swam toward the hull, he noticed something white held in the mouth of an oyster or a type of shellfish.
Slowly stooping so he and his heavy helmet wouldn't tumble over (and he wouldn't be able to right himself again), Mike picked up the small piece of paper. Holding it close to the helmet window, he switched on his marine light. A gospel tract!
Mike read the soggy pamphlet slowly and carefully while conviction struck his heart. He realized God had pursued him to the bottom of the sea, and he could refuse no longer. Still immersed in the ocean, Mike accepted Christ as his Savior. When he returned to the surface, he took the little tract with him.
An incredible story? Yes, but not so unusual for companies producing gospel tracts. Their employees and newsletters are full of anecdotes about God pursuing ordinary people in extraordinary ways via those small pamphlets. . . . E.S. Caldwell, "Whatever Happened to Gospel Tracts?", Christian Life, February 1987
CULTURE "Bakkers Appeal to Both Beliefs"
An expert on television evangelism says Jim and Tammy Bakker's appeal is based on the belief that America is a blessed nation where salvation and wealth go hand in hand, with the Bakkers serving as their own best examples of the creed.
"One version of the American dream is to have earthly success and heavenly salvation at the same time," said Quentin Schultze, professor of communication arts at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and a widely recognized expert on TV evangelists, in analyzing the success of the couple who eventually lost their $172 million ministry in a scandal of sex and lavish spending.
The Bakker's motto: "You can make it," had a dual meaning, Schultze said. "It meant both salvation and material wealth. Their appeal was to the lower middle class, (with themselves) as an example that anybody can make it. They equated making it with God's will.
"What the Bakkers did was represent on TV the kind of earthly dream and heavenly salvation that Americans have been accustomed to believing can exist," he said. The Bakkers did this on their TV program by demonstrating salvation through guests who testified to what God had done for them. At the same time, the Bakkers displayed evidence of their own material success.
"That's what the people wanted," he said. "What the Bakkers did was create a close relationship with their following. They were in homes daily (on TV) and became part of the family. The viewers became parents of the boyish Jim and like-a-doll Tammy." . . . Newhouse News Service, June 1987
SPIRITUALITY "Three Themes of Nouwen"
Something happened in January 1983 that hadn't happened in 55 years. As the world was waiting for Time magazine to name its Man of the Year, Time unleashed a surprise: the Man of the Year turned out to be a Machine of the Year. There, on the cover, was not a statesman, a pope or president, but a faceless, uncom-municating communicator we call the computer. Human was out. Hardware was in.
The significance of this event reached far beyond the breaking of a 55-year precedent. The choice of a machine over person marked a cleavage between an old generation awed by the mystery of Word made flesh and a new generation enthralled by the wonder of word become printout. While it is too early to assess fully the implications of this turnabout, it is not too soon to evaluate the direction the computer revolution has taken to date. The benefits to education, to the economy, to medicine and to the sciences and society in general are vast indeed. But there have been warning signals as well. There are times when the computer is down.
In a technical world which poses the danger of diminishment of the Word made flesh, the voice of Henri Nouwen proclaims and affirms the sacredness and dignity of the human person. Personhood—his own and others'—is very important to Nouwen. It is central in his writings and lectures.
Three important concepts emerge in the structure of Nowen's thought: solitude, hospitality, prayer. If we review these three movements, a beautiful symmetry becomes perceptible: in the movement toward solitude, we see the affirmation of our own humanity: in hospitality, affirmation of the humanity of others; in prayer, affirmation of the source of our common humanity: God.
. . . Robert Durback, "Henri Nouwen: Spiritu
ality for a Technological Age," Praying, May-
June 1987 ■
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