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Sermon illustrations

Help

I Know the Way Out

I can’t help but recall here a scene from The West Wing. White House chief of staff Leo McGarry reaches out to his deputy, Josh Lyman, who is struggling with PTSD. Leo tells him a parable:

This guy’s walking down the street when he falls down a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, “Hey, you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription and throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts, “Father, I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” 

The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a friend walks by. “Hey, Joe, it’s me! Can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.”

James K.A. Smith, The Christian Century, “I’m a Philosopher. We Can’t Think Our Way Out Of This Mess”, February 25, 2021.

Rescuing His Pursuer

In sixteenth-century Holland, the Mennonites were outlawed and, when caught, often executed. One of them, Dirk Willens, was being chased across an icefield when his pursuer broke through and fell in.

In response to his cries for help, Willens returned and saved him from the waters. The pursuer was grateful and astonished that he would do such a thing but nevertheless arrested him, as he thought it his duty to do. A few days later Willens was executed by being burned at the stake in the town of Asperen. It was precisely his Christlikeness that brought on his execution.

Ronald A. Wells, History Through the Eyes of Faith (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989)

S.D.G.

If you’re familiar with Bach, you may know that at the bottom of his manuscripts, he wrote the initials, “S. D. G.” Soli Deo Gloria, which means “glory to God alone.” What you may not know is that at the top of his manuscripts he wrote, “Jesu Juva,” which is Latin for “Jesus, help!” There’s no better prayer for the beginning of an adventure.

Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making, B&H Books, 2019.

Thank You God for Sending a Professional

Pastor John Ortberg shares this amazing story about how God sometimes uses even our broken pasts to to help others:

I read about a woman who locked her keys in her car in a rough neighborhood. She tried a coat hanger to break into her car, but she couldn’t get that to work. Finally, she prayed, “God, send me somebody to help me.” Five minutes later, a rusty old car pulled up. A tattooed, bearded man wearing a biker’s skull rag walked toward her. She thought, God, really? Him? But she was desperate.

So when the man asked if he could help, she said, “Can you break into my car?” He said, “Not a problem.” He took the coat hanger and opened the car in a few seconds. She said to him, “You’re a very nice man” and gave him a big hug. He said, “I’m not a nice man. I just got out of prison today. I served two years for auto theft, and I’ve only been out a couple of hours.” She hugged him again and shouted, “Thank you, God, for sending me a professional!”

Taken from John Ortberg, All the Places to Go . . . How Will You Know?: God Has Placed before You an Open Door.  What Will You Do?, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 

See also Illustrations on Comfort, Encouragement, Friendship, Rescue, Salvation