Sermon illustrations


The Cursed Lawnmower

One day a pastor went to a yard sale and found a lawnmower. It seemed in decent-enough shape and the owner said it worked, so the pastor ultimately decided to buy it, and not for very much either. 

After a quick review of the machine, the pastor filled it with gas and was ready to take it on its maiden voyage. Unfortunately, after a few pumps on the fuel line and a pull of the cord, nothing happened. The pastor pulled a few more times and finally gave up. 

Thankfully, the yard sale was still happening and the pastor, now quite exasperated, asked for his money back. “This machine doesn’t work!”

“Well,” the man said, “I did forget to tell you one thing about this lawnmower—it only works if you curse at it.”

“Curse at it,” the pastor said, “I can’t do that!” I’m a man of the cloth. I don’t even know if I can curse anymore. It’s been so long.”

The man smiled and said, “Just keep pulling that rope, Pastor. It’ll come back to you.”

Original Source Unknown, Stuart Strachan Jr.

Lifting the Rock

One day a father decided to take his son to play at the local park. The boy quickly gravitated to the sandbox and found himself mesmerized by the colors and textures surrounding him. After a short time, he began digging around to see what treasures might reveal themselves to him. 

As his hands plunged under the sand he discovered something rather large, and having pushed enough of the sand away, realized it was a large rock. Instantly he knew he needed to move that rock, no matter how big it was. This rock was the obstacle to his dreams of a sandbox clear of all extraneous matter.

So the boy tried as hard as he could to move the rock. He pushed and pushed and pushed, and finally he was able to get it to the edge of the sandbox. But the next step would be the hardest. How could he get it over the edge? Again the boy pushed and pushed until his energy was completely fried. The rock’s stuckness matched the boy’s feelings of the situation. Eventually he started to sob.

The boy’s father watched all this, and just when the meltdown began, the father went over to his son and began to comfort his overtaxed, dejected son. 

“Why didn’t you use all the strength available to you to move the rock?” the father asked. 

The boy was confused, “I did daddy, it’s just too heavy.” 

“No son,” you didn’t. You didn’t ask me to help.” And at that, the father lifted the rock with a single hand and tossed it out of the sandbox.

Original Source Unknown, adapted by Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Love Song

Richard Foster wrote once of a father walking through a mall with his two-year-old son. The child was cranky; he kept whining and wriggling and complaining.  The father struggled to remain patient.

…[The father] scooped up his little two-year-old grumbler, held him tight to his chest, and began to sing an impromptu love son.  None of the words rhymed.  He sang it off-key, but as best as he could, he shared his heart: “I love you. I’m so glad you’re my boy. You make me laugh.” From store to store the father kept going, words not rhyming, notes off-key.  His son relaxed, captivated by this strange and wonderful song.

Finally, when they had finished, the dad went to the car, buckled his son in the car seat, and his son raised his arms and lifted up his head.  “Sing it to me again, Daddy.  Sing it to me again.”

Taken from John Ortberg, Love Beyond Reason (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998).

Making Pearls out of Irritations

Most of us are aware of the fact that pearls come from oysters, but do you know how they are formed? It all begins with an irritation. Some foreign particle, for example, a piece of sand, works its way into the shell of the oyster. The oyster can’t push the sand out of the oyster, because it’s too big.

So what does the oyster do? The oyster finds this unwanted outsider bothersome, and so it responds by trying to cover it up by emitting a small secretion. And that’s just the beginning. The oyster continues to send out secretion after secretion in the hopes of covering that piece of sand. The bigger the particle, the more the secretions, and so eventually the bigger the pearl. 

Life is also sometimes like that. The bigger the irritation, the greater the value. What irritates us is also often what requires our attention, because there’s probably something God wants to do with it.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Space Between Ourselves and the World Around Us

Frustration is something that does not exist—except within the self. It translates my world to me through the filter of my own need to control it. Frustration becomes the space we put between ourselves and the world around us.

It forgives us the effort to live well in a world where noise is a given and the nature of computers is to crash. And so it becomes the dark cloud through which we see our world. Worse, frustration is the very thing that smothers our joy in it and blocks our growth, as well.

 Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight, The Crown Publishing Group, 2015, p.24.

See Also Illustrations on Anger, EmotionsConflict, Cursing, Self-ControlStuck, Violence