Sermon illustrations


Finding Lost Treasure

In 1991, a yet-to-be-identified flea market enthusiast discovered a simple picture frame to his liking. Securing the purchase, the shopper returned home only to discover an ancient document hiding inconspicuously behind the frame. Thinking little of the discovery, he continued about his life. Two years later, a friend stumbled on the document and investigated its origin. The rest is history. The four – dollar frame had hidden a first – edition copy of the Declaration of Independence reportedly worth north of one million dollars.

This accidental discovery is not isolated. There was the contractor who found $ 182,000 in a bathroom wall he was remodeling. A three-dollar Chinese bowl later sold at Sotheby’s for $ 2.2 million — it was a treasure from the Northern Song Dynasty. Then there was that California family who stumbled on a can of ancient gold coins in their backyard valued at $10 million.

To borrow Calvin’s words from Bill Watterson’s iconic comic strip, “There’s treasure everywhere.”  Not only do treasures of gold and silver lie hidden everywhere around us, but priceless ideas do as well. History is the story of ideas lost and found, disappearing and reappearing time and again to the surface.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Location 215.

First Hating, then Loving, Coffee

When the Venetian botanist Prospero Alpini introduced the use of coffee to Europe from Egypt, the Vatican advocated against its infernal influence. That is, until Pope Clement VIII tried the foreign brew, loved it, and gave coffee his blessing. (In the end, the Italians turned out to be pretty big fans.)

If you have a wild idea and a burning desire to make it a reality, never expect a warm welcome. Change of any kind threatens the establishment, and the greater the change, the greater the resistance. So think ahead: Who are the key players? Who stands to lose if you gain? The impact of a new product can be hard to predict. It can lead to unexpected, far-reaching consequences. Before you take a single step, map the battlefield thoroughly. Make sure you really understand the size of the fight you’re about to start.

David Brown, The Art of Business Wars: Battle-Tested Lessons for Leaders and Entrepreneurs from History’s Greatest Rivalries, Harper Business, 2021.

The Land of O-Z

The American writer and journalist Frank Lyman Baum found that his first book began when a band of children, including his own four sons, asked him to tell a story one night in their home in Chicago. The story began immediately with a farm girl from Kansas named Dorothy and the amazing journeys she went on. At one point, the children asked what country Dorothy had landed in, and Baum needed a little inspiration. The first thing his eyes landed upon was a filing cabinet, with the label O-Z. “The land of Oz!” he exclaimed!

Stuart Strachan Jr.

A Matter of Life and Death

Ideas are a matter of life and death. Take slavery, for example, which deems some peoples as inferior to others and regards people as objects to be used. Eugenics similarly witnesses to a whole set of beliefs that suggest only certain human lives are intrinsically valuable — so long as (in the case of Nazism) they are German, have blond hair and blue eyes, and do not have Down syndrome or a disability.

One cannot read Hitler’s writings on the concept of lebensraum (“final solution”) and suggest that ideas, even in seed form, are insignificant or not worth debate. In the end, the ideas of a few led to the murder of millions. For this very reason, Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl commented that the very ideas behind the Holocaust did not arise out of nowhere.

Rather, these monstrous ideas were disseminated mostly from the cold lecterns of university classrooms across Europe in the years leading up to World War II. The Holocaust was first conceived as a simple, inconspicuous idea — unchallenged and unquestioned by far too many.

Ideas are not neutral, be they religious, philosophical, or scientific. Cultural critic and historian Howard Zinn once wrote, “We can reasonably conclude that how we think is not just mildly interesting, not just a subject for intellectual debate, but a matter of life and death.”  Christian philosopher Dallas Willard agrees: “We live at the mercy of our ideas.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Location 229.

The Shower Provides Great Ideas

Why do my best ideas come to me in the shower? I feel like my IQ is at least twenty points higher while lathering up than at any other time of the day. And I’m not alone in finding my light bulb moments there. Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says that seventy-two percent of people get creative ideas in the shower.

That’s because thinking critically requires uninterrupted mental space. It’s not just showering that creates these times of clarity. Mowing the grass, taking a walk, driving to work, or pausing long enough to look, observe, and connect the dots brings the space necessary to think clearly. If you’re’ going from meeting to meeting, you will not have that space. You need to carve it out or your leadership will suffer.

Clay Scroggins, How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, Zondervan.

See also Illustrations on The Brain, DeceptionFallacies, Inspiration, The MindThought/s

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Ideas. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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