Illustration About Epiphany 3 is the third collection of sermon illustrations about enlightenment.
A Choice to Go
I may be a fairly good sailor at this point in my life but there were
times when, like Peter, I had to be humbled. One time I was sailing a
Sunfish in Michigan. I had trouble controlling the wind which was building
and the sailboat and I ended up in shallow water. I had to walk the boat
back into deep water. About that time an officer spotted me and towed me
back to deep water. I was humiliated as my friends watched me be blown off
course. It was a most embarrassing moment.
Peter was not called because he had any special qualifications except for
the fact he made a choice to go where Jesus led him. He was also called in
the midst of his daily living. It didn’t take place in some holy place
like the temple. For sure, his willingness to “follow” would change his
life, reversing some of his normal priorities and changing the lives of
Keith Wagner, First, You Have to Row a Little Boat
The Impala Problem
One of the few creatures on earth that can out-jump Michael Jordon is the
Impala. This is an African deer with a supercharged spring. It has a
vertical leap of over 10 feet and can broadjump over 30 feet. You would
think that the zoos of the world would find it impossible to keep such an
animal enclosed. Not so! It’s rather easy. Because the experts discovered
something about the Impala. It will not jump unless it can see where it is
going to land. Therefore, a solid wall even 6 feet tall is a sufficient
enclosure. Lots of Christians have the Impala problem. They won’t take a
leap in faith unless they have all the answers in advance about where the
leap will take them. But God is looking for some bold believers who, even
in the face of the unknown, will leap when the Spirit says leap, will fly
when the Spirit says fly, will launch when the Spirit says launch, all to
the glory of the Lord.
Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
How Brave Are We?
Let me tell you a true, but humorous and slightly scandalous story that
comes out of the early days of the church. When the father of Origen, a
third century theologian, was arrested for being a Christian, Origen, then
only 17, was aflame with the desire to follow his Dad and share in
glorious martyrdom. His mother pleaded with him not to go, but the
headstrong boy did not want to listen to reason. His quick thinking mother
did what she could. She hid his clothes. Though Origen stormed and
protested, she wouldn’t reveal where they were hidden. He couldn’t leave
the house, and so he was unable to volunteer for martyrdom.
Isn’t it interesting? Origen was brave enough to be martyred, but not
brave enough to go outside naked. Stepping outside without clothing would
have sped up his arrest and imprisonment, but it was a step he was
unwilling to take.
In a sense, I suspect that talking with a friend about our faith is, for
many of us, the equivalent of going outside naked. It makes us
uncomfortable. We feel exposed. We declare that we will give our lives for
Christ if he should ask it, but to risk a bit of embarrassment for him
seems to be beyond our level of discipleship. How sad. The disciples were
willing to forsake everything including the esteem of their friends.
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
Catching or Getting Caught?
As a boy I was never good at catching things, except a cold now and then.
I tried to catch a pony to ride and failed. The butterfly trip was a
disaster. I tried catching frogs but didn’t try too hard because I didn’t
know what I would do with them once I caught them. Fish weren’t my
favorite for eating, so catching them was no treat, because I knew it
implied that I would eat them with delight rather than gagging on them,
which I always did. I never was good at catching things. A major church
denomination has as its theme, “Catch the Spirit.” As usual, the church
got it backward. We are not to set our sights at catching or getting, but
allowing ourselves to be caught. We are invited to be caught by a spirit
that helps us make a giving instead of a living. The greatest spiritual
arrogance is seen in the language of “catching.” People are in search of
God and will write endless numbers of books telling one how to find God.
The truth of the gospel is that we cannot find God, but there are places
we can go and things we can do where God can find us! The joy in Christian
living is not in the catching but in the vulnerability of being caught by
the one who made us in the first place. Catch the spirit? No! You can’t.
Be caught by the spirit? Of course! Life begins there.
Richard A. Wing, Deep Joy for a Shallow World, CSS Publishing Company
A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?
Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto.
There was a field covered with freshly fallen snow. A father and a son
enter the field. As they walk across the field, you notice that the father
pays no particular attention to where he is going, but his son, on the
other hand, follows directly behind, making a special effort to step in
his father’s footprints. After the two have crossed the field, you notice
that there is only one set of tracks visible in the field, although two
had walked across it. The Christian life is that way. In our daily walk we
ought to be following Christ’s example. Whether in times of suffering,
sorrow or need, whether in times of health, joy, or abundance–if someone
were to observe the snow-covered fields of your life, would there be one
set of tracks, those of Christ? Or would there be two sets, one belonging
to Christ and the other distinctly yours?
Michael Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Grand Rapids: Baker,
1993, p.53. Adapted
In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe “Pioneer 10.” Its main
mission was to reach Jupiter and send back information about that planet.
It was a bold plan because at that time no satellite had gone beyond Mars.
Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and so much more. It swung past
Jupiter in November, 1973, then passed Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
By 1997, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. Despite
that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to
earth. The most remarkable thing was that those signals were powered by an
8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night
light. Not even the most optimistic scientist could have ever imagined
what that little 8-watt transmitter could do.
So it is when you and I offer ourselves to God in faithful obedience. It’s
just incredible what God can do through little 8-watt transmitters like me
and you, when we’re turned on for him.
Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.eSermons.com
It Is Darkest before the Dawn
George Frederick Handel was dogged with misfortune. He had debt upon debt,
despair upon despair. He had a cerebral hemorrhage and was paralyzed on
his right side. For four years he could neither walk nor write. The
doctors gave up on him. He wrote several operas, but again he fell in
debt. At age 60 he thought his life was finished. Then he was challenged
by a friend to write a sacred oratorio. He read the Scriptures and decided
to work on the Messiah. For 24 days, without eating a crumb, he worked
fanatically to produce the Messiah, which many today consider the greatest
oratorio ever written.
The prospects of something great happening can look grim. Peter had fished
all night and caught nothing. Jesus asked him to let down his nets for a
catch. It seemed foolish to do so, because Peter knew there were no fish
to catch. “But at your word,” he said, “I will let down the nets” (v. 5).
John R. Brokhoff, Preaching the Miracles, CSS Publishing Company. Adapted.
Hooked for Life
If fishing is one of your passions, you will love our scripture lesson for
today. Though I prefer hunting to fishing, I have a soft spot in my heart
for fishing because of a childhood experience. I was about 10 or 11 years
old. One Wednesday afternoon Papa took me with him to a nearby pond to do
a little fishing. I was just learning to use a rod and reel. Papa caught a
little bass weighing about half a pound. Then he had to leave for prayer
meeting. He asked me if I wanted to stay a bit longer and make a few
casts. Of course I did. I remember to this day the top-water plug I was
using. I tossed it over near some reeds and let it lie still for a few
seconds. Then I just twitched it a couple of times. Then something
exploded all over that plug, like an NFL linebacker demolishing a
quarterback. I jerked hard and then hung on for dear life. I don’t know
how long I fought that fish. Once or twice I thought it was going to pull
me into the water. When I finally got him to the edge of the pond, I
grabbed him by the gills and ran home. I couldn’t wait for Papa to return
from prayer meeting and see my three and a half pound bass. Mama took a
picture of us, Papa holding that puny little fish he caught beside my
monster of the deep. I can show you the picture at home as living proof.
Of course, I was hooked for life.
Luke’s fish story involved a lot more fish than mine.
Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.esermons.com
The Empty Church
Thomas Reeves in his book The Empty Church describes this scenario.
“Christianity in modern America is, in large part, innocuous. It tends to
be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible. It does not require
self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, a zeal for souls. There is little
guilt and no punishment. The faith has been overwhelmed by the culture.
Christianity becomes a cultural Christianity when the faith is dominated
by a culture to the point that it loses much of its authenticity. What we
now have might be labeled as a Consumer Christianity. Millions of
Americans today feel free to buy as much of the Christian faith as seems
desirable. The cost is low and customer satisfaction is guaranteed.”
Thomas Reeves, The Empty Church