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Sermon illustrations

Forgetfulness

Moving Forward With Your Life

After the Civil War, in an incident recounted by Charles Flood in Lee: The Last Years, Robert E. Lee visited a woman who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her home. There she cried bitterly that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Union artillery fire. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. But Lee—who knew the horrors of war and had suffered the pain of defeat—said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and then forget it.”

In the late 1990s, Pete Peterson was appointed U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. Peterson had served six years as a prisoner of war in the dreaded “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. When asked how he could return to the land where he’d endured years of starvation, brutality and torture, he replied, “I’m not angry. I left that at the gates of the prison when I walked out in 1972. I just left it behind me and decided to move forward with my life.”

When you’re tempted to get even with those who hurt you, remember that you can’t go back, you can’t stay where you are, but, by God’s grace, you can move forward one step at a time.

Ray Pritchard, Something New Under the Sun.

The Problem of Forgetfulness

One of humanity’s problems is forgetfulness. Forgetfulness can happen at multiple levels, from a simple problem of recall to a posture of hard-heartedness and disobedience toward the command-giver. When God deals with the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament, God does not merely say, “This is God.” Rather, we often read, “This is the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.” It is a reminder, to a forgetful people (which we all are), what it is that God has done for us.

C.S. Lewis reiterates this problem in the Narnian book The Silver Chair, when Aslan teaches Jill to repeat His instructions in order that should would not forget them. “‘Child’ Aslan says… ‘perhaps you do not see quite as well as you think. But the first step is to remember. Repeat to me, in order, the four signs.’” Like most of us, Jill soon forgets, and her and her companions’ journey is forever altered.

God gives us a variety of practices to remember. Sabbath, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Each exists to remind us of some significant aspect of our faith and the God who created, redeemed, and sustains us each day. So the question for us to answer is, will we remember?

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source Material from C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair.

Where Ought I Be?

Chesterton’s mind was so preoccupied that he frequently forgot to keep appointments. He relied on his wife in all practical matters. Once on a lecture tour he sent her the following telegram: “Am in Birmingham. Where ought I to be?” She wired back: “Home.”

Clifton Faidman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.

Your Name is?

Have you noticed how difficult it is to remember someone’s name when you meet them? Within seconds of a person telling me his name, I’ve forgotten what he said. I may have even repeated it to myself. “Great to meet you, Garrett.” Seconds later, Wait, what was his name again? How in the world does that happen?

When our emotions rise, our ability to think rationally declines. When we are learning someone’s name upon introduction, we are naturally more nervous and anxious because of the social context. When our nervousness rises, our cognitive ability to do something as simple as remembering the word “Garrett” declines. Emotions are such a powerful force for us, which is why we must learn to stay in the balcony when we’re in the middle of tense situations.

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