Sermon illustrations


Discipleship is like Learning a Language through Immersion

The third way people learn is by immersion. This is of course when someone is put into an environment and they learn things simply by picking them up through their observations, what they see, hear, and so on. Immersion as many of us know with languages, is one of the fastest ways to learn. Watching a toddler learn to talk is perhaps one of the most enjoyable, often amusing ways to watch someone learn through immersion.A toddler starts with sheer gibberish right? I mean when words start coming out of their mouth your thrilled as a parent, but you have no idea what they are saying…and then after some time, actual words start to emerge…but it’s still a process right, sometimes the words make sense, and other times they make sense to just the toddler speaking them.

G.K. Chesterton once said “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”Learning to speak is worth doing, even if toddlers do it badly at first.

Sometimes you don’t even know if their words have any meaning, or whether the toddler is just working their vocal chords. Just in this past year our son Jack has been in the immersion process of learning English. One of the words he would say all the time was “Mino”. We really liked the word, it was cute, and he sounded cute saying it. But of couse we thought it was just gibberish, until one day when Colleen realized a “mino” was a tomato. And I’ll never forget when he started saying tomato, okay, let’s be honest, “mato”, because for Jack any word with more than two syllables gets cut off at the beginning.So avocado is “cado” motorcycle is “cycle” etc…And so Jack, after day in and day out of hearing his parents, you all, our family and friends, continues to develop his language skills. What started as gibberish has gradually began to sound like modern English.

Just in the last few months Jack has started to string sentences together, even if he’s not quite sure what he is saying. We’ll say “good night Jack” and he’ll say “good night Jack” or I love you Jack and he’ll say I love you Jack…So he’s getting it, but it’s a process and that’s how learning through immersion works. And the same goes for discipleship.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Emotions, Language, and the Experience of Homesickness

In her book Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home, Jen Pollock Michel reflects on the nature of home in a transient age. In this short excerpt, Michel focuses on the language associated with the experience of homesickness.

In an interview with the New York Times, Tiffany Watt Smith, author of The Book of Human Emotions, described her research on the role that language plays in our emotional lives. As Smith argues, words not only describe how we feel; they distinctly shape how we understand our feelings. In other words, a diminished vocabulary limits not just emotional self-expression but emotional self-perception.

As complex emotional beings, we need nomenclature for fear and self-doubt, longing and desire. In short, we must be taught to explain ourselves to ourselves as well as to others. “One of the emotions I became really interested in when researching the book was homesickness,” Smith described in the interview. In the mid to late eighteenth century, homesickness was counted a credible source of physical ailment and even considered a possible cause of death.

According to medical records, homesick patients experienced the expected symptoms of depression and fatigue, but they also suffered surprising physical ones, such as sores, pustules, and fevers. In severe cases, sufferers refused to eat, growing so weak as to eventually die. Their doctors labeled their deaths severe cases of nostalgia—from nostos, “homecoming,” and algia, “pain.” (The last mention of “nostalgia” on a death certificate was in 1918.)

Taken from Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home Jen Pollock Michel. Copyright (c) 2019 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


God is Good

Recently I (Stu) was watching a lecture on Old English (yes, the nerd levels are extremely high here), which looks almost nothing like the English we speak today. It is essentially the result of Germanic tribes (Angles and Saxons) moving to/invading parts of England, and combining their language with the native tongue of the Britons (which itself is a combination of Celtic and Latin, but I digress). 

During the lecture, the professor began discussing the etymological connection between our word for God and the word “good.” 

Not exactly a difficult connection to make as they are separated by a single letter. Probably like many of you, I had noticed that connection before, but never knew if that was an accidental similarity or something more significant. When these Germanic people began to worship the God of the Bible, they needed a word to describe him. They of course had proper names for the pantheon of Germanic gods (e.g. Odin, Thor, Freya), but they didn’t have a word that would ultimately work as a way of describing the God of the Old and New testaments.

The God revealed most fully in Jesus Christ. But as these people began to learn about the God of scripture, and God’s inherent goodness, they decided to take a form of the word “good” and make it their word for God. In fact, the words are almost indistinguishable in both the early Germanic languages and the modern languages (German, Dutch, English) from which they came.

So there you go, when a group of people came to believe in God, the word that made the most sense for them to use was the word “good.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Light of God in Language

Some people may wonder: why was the light of God given in the form of language? How is it conceivable that the divine should be contained in such brittle vessels as consonants and vowels? This question betrays the sin of our age: to treat lightly the ether which carries the light-waves of the spirit. What else in the world is as capable of bringing man and man together over the distances in space and in time?

Of all things on earth, words alone never die. They have so little matter and so much meaning. . . . God took these Hebrew words and breathed into them of His power, and the words became a live wire charged with His spirit. To this very day they are hyphens between heaven and earth. What other medium could have been employed to convey the divine? Pictures enameled on the moon? Statues hewn out of the Rockies?

Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Where is the Money?

Years ago, the story goes, a San Diego bank hired a private investigator to track down a bank robber and retrieve stolen funds. The search led to Mexico. The investigator crossed the border and then, realizing he would need a Spanish interpreter, opened up the telephone book and hired the first interpreter listed in the Yellow Pages.

After many days, he finally captured the bandit and, through the interpreter, asked him, “Where did you hide the money?” In Spanish, the thief replied, “What money? I have no idea what you’re talking about”.

With that, the investigator drew his pistol, pointed it at the suspect, and said to the interpreter, “Tell him that if he doesn’t tell me where the money is, I will shoot him where he stands.”

Upon receiving this message, the bank robber said to the interpreter, “Senor, I have hidden the money in a coffee can, under the fourth floorboard, in the second-floor men’s room of the Palacio Hotel on Via Del in LaPaz?

“What did he say?” the investigator asked the interpreter. “Senor,” said the interpreter as he thought for a moment, “he says he is prepared to die like a man!”

Ivan R. Misner, The World’s Best Known Marketing Secrets, Bard Press, 1994, p. 41.

Words of a Father

How many of you have ever been told that women talk more than men? How many of you have heard this statistic, on average women use 20,000 words a day to men’s 7,000? I know I’ve heard this quote in sermons before. Well guess what, it’s not true…women do speak more than man, but only by a very small amount. Men, or to be more accurate, fathers are often known for certain words that come out of their mouth, I found this list from another pastor:

“Ask your mother.”

”Don’t worry; it’s only blood.”

”Do I look like I’m made of money?”

“I’m not sleeping; I was watching that show.”

”I’m not just talking to hear my voice.”

”A little dirt never hurt anyone; just wipe it off.”

”We’re not lost!”

”No, we’re not there yet.”

”Don’t make me stop this car!”

The Father of Jesus, Joseph, is a man of few words, at least, what we know of. The truth is, we don’t have one single recorded word from Joseph in all of scripture.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

See Also Illustrations on Communication, Conversation, Culture, SpeechTalking, Words

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