Sermon illustrations


The Difference between Avoiding Pain and Seeking Comfort?

What’s the difference between avoiding pain and seeking appropriate comfort? I have a friend who says, “The first episode of my favorite TV show is soothing. But if I’m watching the fifth episode in a row, I know I’ve crossed the line into numbing.” Another friend comments, “A glass of red wine at the end of a long day is comforting. But if I’m pouring my third or fourth glass, I’ve slid into escape.” Soothing activities like a warm bath, a heartfelt talk with a friend, or a solitary walk don’t usually become compulsive the way our escapes do.

The difference between comfort and avoidance is, ultimately, something you will only know for yourself. What are the things you most often go to for comfort and escape? What would you consider limiting or giving up for a time to make space to mourn?

Taken from The Ninefold Path of Jesus: Hidden Wisdom of the Beatitudes by Mark Scandrette Copyright (c) 2021 by Mark Scandrette. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Escaping the Maze

The maze It is rare to escape a maze on the first attempt. And when we are stuck in a maze, we can’t escape by following the same path that got us lost. We escape a maze by trying new routes. We don’t feel like we have failed when we hit a dead end. In fact, we appreciate the new knowledge. There is now a dead end we won’t try anymore. Every dead end and cul-de-sac helps us escape the maze. To know which path to take, it helps to take a few wrong ones.

Matt Haig, The Comfort Book, Penguin Life, 2021.

The Lie that Held Him Captive

When legendary magician Harry Houdini came into a town to do his show, he often went to the local jail, gathering a crowd of people along the way. To get buzz going about his upcoming performance, he asked the jailer to lock him in a cell. Time after time, jail after jail, town after town, Houdini escaped within minutes. But one jailer had heard that Houdini was coming, and the jailer was ready.

When Houdini closed the cell door, the jailer put the key in the lock and secretly turned it in the wrong direction. He then removed the key, and everyone watched as Houdini struggled to escape—by unknowingly locking himself in repeatedly. Finally, in frustration, Houdini admitted he could not escape. The jailer then revealed his deception. Houdini had believed a lie, and the lie had held him captive. Living your life by a lie is a lot like believing the door is locked when it isn’t. On the other side is freedom. But you first have to commit to some personal lie detection to experience the abundant life Jesus came and died to give you. That leads us to our first exercise.

Craig Groeschel, Winning the War in Your Mind, Zondervan, 2021.


A People Distracted by Distraction

From drugs and alcohol to TV and workaholism, we are increasingly a society that fulfills T.S. Eliot’s description of a people “distracted by distraction.”  There is hardly a public menace we can name that is not in some caused by one or another of the million ways in which our society teaches and enables us to abstract and distract ourselves—to escape in one way or another from the concrete presence of the here and now.

Daniel Kemmis, The Good City and the Good Life (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Scripture Grounds our Story in Place

Our Scriptures that bring us the story of our salvation ground us in place. Everywhere they insist on this grounding. Everything that is critically important to us takes place on the ground. Mountains and valleys, towns and cities, regions and countries: Haran, Ur, Canaan, Hebron, Sodom, Machpelah, Bethel, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Samaria, Tekoa, Nazareth, Capernaum, Mt. Sinai, Mt. Of Olives, Mt. Gilboah, Mt. Hermon, Ceasarea, Gath, Ashkelon, Michmash, Gibeon, Azekah, Jericho, Chorizan, Bethsaida Emmaus, the Valley of Jezreel, the Kidron Valley, the Brook of Besor, Anathoth. Big cities and small towns.

Famous landmarks and unvisited obscurities. People who want God or religion as an escape from their place because it is difficult (or maybe just mundane), don’t find this much to their liking. But there it is—there’s no getting around it. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less, this insistence that all genuine life, life that is embraced in God’s work of salvation, is grounded, is good news indeed.

Eugene Peterson, Introduction to Eric O Jacobsen, Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith.


Until the Snake Has No Head

My grandad told me a story once and that story became a light. A light that unlocks the dark and releases you into the land of a thousand suns. Apparently, so the story went, there had been a tropical snake, longer than the length of a man, that wound its way up the stilts of a jungle cabana and slithered right into one unsuspecting woman’s kitchen. That woman turned around, split the day with one blood-curdling scream, and flung herself outside wide-eyed. That’s about when a machete-wielding neighbor showed up, calmly walked into her kitchen, and sliced off the head of the reptilian thing.

The strange thing is that a snake’s neurology and blood flow make it such that a snake still slithers wild even after it’s been sliced headless. For hours that woman stood outside, waiting. And the body of the snake still rampaged on, thrashing hard against windows and walls, destroying chairs and table and all things good and home.

My Grandad turned to say it, and I can tell you, it felt like a proclamation of emancipation: A snake can only wreak havoc until it accepts it has no head—that it’s actually dead. The enemy of your soul can only wreak havoc in your life until you accept that it’s already dead—and you’re already free. Be who you already are. Be Free — because you already are free. Your enemy is dead — so silence the lies in your head. No enemy can’t imprison you — because your Savior empowers you. Nothing can hold you in bondage — because you are held by him. Not one thing can hold you back — because his arms are holding you.

Taken from Ann Voskamp in Rebekah Lyons, You Are Free, Zondervan, 2017, pp.14-15.

See also Illustrations on Distraction, Rescue, Salvation, Smart PhonesSocial Media