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.
ADVENT "Jesus and Crutches"
Many of us will, in this Advent season, see once again Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors." Amahl, the crippled boy, is miraculously cured when he himself gives to the infant Jesus his crutch. That's the Christmas present we should all bring to the manger: our crutches, our way of making God responsible for all the thinking and doing that we should be undertaking on our own. God provides the minimum protection, but maximum support—support to help us grow up, to stretch our minds and hearts until they are as wide as God's universe. , . . William Sloane Coffin, Living the Truth in a World of Illustration, Harper & Row, 1985
CHRISTMAS "Where Shall We Find Christ?"
Santa Claus sits, elevated in his throne-like chair, inspiring awe in children. He is surrounded by styrofoam canes, plastic holly, glitter, and leggy women helpers handing out candy. Children, even youth and adults, have their picture made with Santa as they whisper into his ear what they want on Christmas Day. Is this where we can find the babe Jesus? Or is Jesus to be found in other places where people are hurting—whether from oppression, hunger, sickness, loneliness, or guilt?
The original St. Nicholas gave to those in desperate need, or so the ancient legends tell us. (Our Santa Claus gives to those who have.) Perhaps it is time to emulate the original St. Nicholas and give gifts to the poor, visit the sick, lonely, and imprisoned, and celebrate Jesus' birthday by joining him and the church in ministry. . . . Youth?, December, 1986
"Traffic Jam on Fifth Avenue"
During the Christmas rush two men were standing on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street in New York City, waiting for a red light. One of them was irritated by the traffic. "This town is totally disorganized," he growled. "Look at this traffic! It's terrible! Something ought to be done about it."
The other man was more philosophical. Thoughtfully he countered, "You know, it's astounding, the romance of it. There was a baby born of peasant parents in a little out-of-the-way place halfway around the world from here. The parents had no money or social standing, yet two thousand years later that little baby creates a traffic jam on Fifth Avenue, one of the most soph-
*Clyde W. Chesnutt is publisher of Windows of Truth, a newsletter of sermon illustrations. His address is P.O. Box 339, Blanco, Texas 78606.
isticated streets in the world. This irritates you. Instead it should fascinate you." . , . Norman Vincent Peale, "The Wonderful Excitement of Christmas," Plus, December 1984
FAITH "Hearing Reports"
William Peter Blatty's novel and screenplay The Exorcist, stirred up considerable controversy on diabolical possession and demonic powers. The purpose of this interview, however, was not to find out what Bill thought of the devil, but of God.
Blatty: I personally have always felt that my relationship to God is that of a person who writes lots of letters. He never gets a letter back, but he keeps hearing reports from mutual friends of what this father is doing. And his father seems to be taking the attitude of "look, trust me, I'm taking care of you . . ."
Sweeney: You mentioned a moment ago that you're like a person who writes letters to God. And you really don't get a direct response back, but you are comforted by the fact that there are other people writing letters and getting information.
Blatty: Sure. It's like going to an island where they say, "Gee, he just checked out of this room a week ago. He was here. Did you see him? Look, there's a book, some papers he left behind."
. . . Terrance Sweeney, God &, Winston Press, 1985
NEW YEAR "I Thank You, Lord"
I thank you, Lord,
For the unstained page
That is the New Year:
A fresh, clean sheet to replace
The one I've scribbled on so long.
I thank you that this year is not Simply a recycled remnant Of all that has gone before; It is a new world Awaiting this explorer's feet.
This year—this year!—I am alive,
And all your promises are true.
Nothing is beyond your means, Lord,
And nothing is impossible with you. . . . Susan DeVore Williams, Decision, January 1986
HUMOR "Carve the Turkey"
My wife's parents don't like me. On Christmas Day my wife said, "Who wants to carve the turkey?" And my father-in-law said, "You carve him, you married him." "Good Old Fruitcake"
I finally opened the fruitcake my mother-in-law gave me and it's good. It's good for a doorstop . . . good for a paperweight . . . good . . . . . . Quote, December 15, 1986
PRAYER "Answering Speech"
One thing to learn is to be led in prayer. I'm
apt to think of prayer as my initiative. I realize I have a need or I am happy, and I pray. The emphasis is on me, and I have the sense when I pray that I started something.
But what happens if I go to church? I sit there and somebody stands before me and says, "Let us pray." I didn't start it: I'm responding. Which means that I am humbled. My ego is no longer prominent. Now that's a very basic element in prayer, because prayer is answering speech. . . . Eugene Peterson, "A Monk Out of Habit," interviewed by Rodney Clapp, Christianity Today, April 3, 1987
THANKSGIVING "No More Fox Hunts"
I don't know how it is with your family, but with mine, especially on Thanksgiving when so many relatives are gathered, everybody is talking and laughing at the same time. Then after dinner, Dad speaks a word of thanks, and each one of us—sometimes as many as 25—around the big oak dining tables does, too.
Thanksgiving 1967 came. I was in the hospital hooked up to intravenous tubes and to a catheter; I was strapped to a smelly canvas Stryker frame that was both confining and claustrophobic. The darkness in my heart was as dreary as the hospital walls that surrounded me. In my bitterness, in my anger and resentment in my suffering, I felt as if it were impossible to thank God. I thought I could never thank God again.
Another year passed, and my heart had time to mellow. Thanksgiving, 1968, came. My spirit had begun to soften and my ears were open and once again I was thankful. No more fox hunts for me, but I was home from the hospital with my family.
After dinner, in our usual tradition, Dad stood up, and through his tears he said that he was so thankful that I was home.
When it was my turn, I looked down at my plate and then up at the faces of my family. I said, "I'm thankful that I'm sitting up in a wheelchair now. I'm thankful that I don't have any more bedsores and that I don't have to go through any more operations. I'm thankful that I'm home for good. I'm thankful that I found a corset that fits me right so I can sit up comfortably and breathe OK. I'm thankful for my family. Most of all, I'm thankful for God and all his blessings."
And you know what? On Thanksgiving, 1968, it didn't matter that I couldn't go on a fox hunt or that my fingers couldn't braid the mane and tail of my thoroughbred. It didn't matter that I had no strength to polish a saddle or drive my car out to the farm. It didn't matter that I couldn't help my family prepare dinner or set the table.
What mattered was that I was alive and that I was beginning to smile and feel. Thanksgiving 1968 was far more wonderful and meaningful to me than any other Thanksgiving I had ever had before.
. . . Joni Erickson, as told to Twila Knaack,
"Thanksgiving Past and Present," These Times,
November 1982 ■
CHURCH MANAGEMENT—THE CLERGY JOURNAL