The following sermon illustration collection is good for Lenten Season.
Our Chaotic Life
This notice appeared in the window of a coat store in Nottingham, England: “We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coat rationing, government control and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is to see what happens next.”
Becoming What We Are
Somerset Maugham said it best in his autobiography, Summing Up, “I knew that I had no lyrical quality, a small vocabulary, little gift of metaphor. The original and striking simile never occurred to me. Poetic flights…were beyond my powers. On the other hand, I had an acute power of observation, and it seemed to me that I could see a great many things that other people missed. I could put down in clear terms what I saw…I knew that I should never write as well as I could wish, but I thought, with pains, that I could arrive at writing as well as my natural defects allowed.” Somerset Maugham discovered the secret of genius.
The point is that life does not ask us to become what we are not. The fig tree was only required to produce figs. No more. You and I are asked only to accomplish what our natural gifts allow, but we are asked to accomplish just that.
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
Turning a Life Around Begins with the Christ Event
The autobiography of G. Stanley Jones is titled A Song of Ascent, and is considered to be one of the spiritual classics. Jones was a great man: a missionary to India, a friend to Gandhi, a tireless world traveler, and a great writer and speaker.
Now, what is amazing to me is that this book was actually his third attempt at an autobiography. And he was 83 at the time. He had actually written two previous books but had been unwilling to publish them. The first, he said, was too filled with the little events of his life — things he judged not worth telling. In the second attempt, he tried to take the events of his life and to use them to philosophize about life in general. But even this, he decided, was not the right focus. The third time, he determined, he was going to begin with Jesus, and that’s what he did. You see, what he discovered after two bad attempts was that he had been working backwards; he had been working from events to the Christ Event. And now, in his third attempt, he found he had it wrong. As he would say in his introduction to that third book: “Christ has been, and is, to me the Event.
There is a story that Stanley tells about an African, who, after he was baptized, changed his name, calling himself ‘After.’ What he was saying was everything happened ‘after’ he met Christ. Stanley said that that was description of his own life. Everything that happened to me happened to me after I met Christ.
In his first two attempts, said Jones, he had been too events centered and not enough Event-centered. In the third and successful book he concentrated on the Event and worked back to the events, understanding his own life in the light of Christ.
Glenn E. Ludwig, Walking To – Walking With, CSS Publishing. Adapted.
Using Up the Ground
Soil was at a premium in Israel. It was not unusual for a vineyard owner to give a little bit of his soil up for a fruit tree but the tree took up the best soil, the deepest soil, and required the most water. A fig tree doesn’t grow fruit until three years after planting. The owner in this story, had given the tree “due season” to bear fruit and yet the tree bore no fruit. It took up valuable space and resources. The owner questioned why the tree was allowed to “even use up ground.”
God had given the Israelites the choicest ground. Their land possessed everything necessary to make themselves a great nation, indeed, a light to all nations. They were strategically positioned to send the fruit of God north and south, east and west; but instead, in-fighting continued to make them a worthless fruit tree.
Everyone one of us and all of our churches will have to answer (from God’s perspective) this same question; “Why does it even use up the ground?”
Jerry Goebel, Why Does HE Even Use up the Ground?
Garrison Keillor warns us, “You can become a Christian by going to church just as about easily as you can become an automobile by sleeping in a garage.” What we’re speaking of is the danger of presumed spiritual security. Our parable says that we’re not called just to be here. It is a clear warning against a fruitless existence in the light of God’s grace given to us.
Wiley Stephens, Missing Is Not Final
Not Nearly as Big a Man
It seems that the University of Tennessee coach bought a bolt of cloth thinking he would have a suit made out of it. He took the material to his tailor in Knoxville where the tailor measured him, examined the bolt of cloth, did some computations on a piece of paper, and said, “I’m sorry, coach, there just isn’t enough material in this bolt to make a suit for you.” The coach was disappointed, but he threw the bolt of cloth in the trunk of his car, wondering what he was going to do with it.
A couple of weeks later he was in Tuscaloosa, Alabama — the home of the Crimson Tide — arch enemies of the Vols. He was on his way to the coast for a vacation. Driving down the main street in Tuscaloosa, he noticed a tailor shop, which reminded him that he had that bolt of cloth in the trunk. He stopped, thinking he would give it a try. He told the tailor he had bought this bolt of cloth and wondered if he could do anything with it. The tailor measured him, measured the bolt of cloth, did some computations. Finally he said, “Coach, I can make you a suit out of this bolt. What’s more, I can make you an extra pair of pants. And if you really want it, I can give you a vest out of this, too.” The coach was dumbfounded. “I don’t understand,” he said. “My tailor in Knoxville told me he couldn’t even make one suit out of this bolt of cloth.” The tailor
said, “Coach, here in Tuscaloosa, you are not nearly as big a man as you are in Knoxville.”
I tell the story to make the point that things are not always what they seem. Our Scripture lesson — the parable of the fig tree — is clearly a parable of judgment. But at the very heart of it is a marvelous word of grace.
Maxie Dunnam, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
Never Give Up!
In the middle of WWII on October 29, 1941 Winston Churchill delivered a short address at the Harrow School. England had been through some of its darkest days. But Churchill was equal to the task. He said to the students:
“You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.
[Churchill continues:] Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.”
The church at times forgets that this is also God’s message. God has
promised never to give up on us. Old Testament and New Testaments
together, are a record of how God never, never, never, gave up.
– Adam and Eve disobeyed the very First Rule. But God never gave up.
– Abraham wandered, and Sarah laughed. But God never gave up.
– Moses hid and shook with fear. But God never gave up.
– Saul went insane. But God never gave up.
– David plotted against Uriah. But God never gave up.
– Ahaz sold out to Assyria. But God never gave up.
– Israel fell into pieces. But God never gave up.
– The Jewish people became exiles. But God never gave up.
– John the Baptist was beheaded. But God never gave up.
– Peter denied he even knew him. But God never gave up.
– The disciples all ran away. But God never gave up.
God never, never, never gave up and he has not given up today!
Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com. The full speech can be viewed at: