Sermon illustrations


Becoming Aware of Our Lenses

In their excellent book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien share the importance of recognizing the lens through which see the world. In this excerpt, we see how in one culture, “guessing” would be considered lying and therefore cheating:

We speak as insiders, and this has its own challenges. We speak as white, Western males. In fact, we always speak as white. Western males. Everything either of us has ever written has come from the perspective of middle-class, white males with a traditionally Western education. There’s really nothing we can do about that except be aware of and honest about it. That said, we write as white.

Western males who have been chastened to read the Bible through the eyes of our non-Western sisters and brothers in the Lord. For example, I (Randy) remember grading my first multiple choice exam in Indonesia. I was surprised by how many students left answers unmarked. So I asked the first student when handing back exams, “Why didn’t you select an answer on question number three?”

The student looked up and said, “I didn’t know the answer. “You should have at least guessed,” I replied. He looked at me, appalled. “What if I accidentally guessed the correct answer? I would be implying that I knew the answer when I didn’t. That would be lying!”

Taken from Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien Copyright (c) 2012 by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Believing the Lie

Billy is a seven-year-old boy who loves to draw pictures. But he’s not your typical seven-year-old who likes to draw. He has an unmatched talent as an artist. The pictures he sketches are riveting. Billy’s parents are highly moralistic. They are also coldly disengaged from their son’s talent.

They fear that Billy will grow up very prideful over his unique talents as an artist. Plus, forging a career as an artist is not a noble goal in their eyes. So Billy’s parents tell him that his drawings are not very good and that he should stop drawing. So he does. Billy lays down his crayons, his colored pencils, and his markers.

Ten years pass by, and Billy is a high school student. He takes health as one of his electives. One day his teacher gives her students an exercise in projective personality tests. Each student must draw a picture depicting the happiest moment in his or her life and the saddest moment. To his surprise, Billy finds himself doing something that he hasn’t done in ten years. He begins to draw pictures. Upon finishing his pictures, four students who are sitting nearby take a peek at the product of his pen. They are aghast.

They blurt out, “My goodness, Billy, that’s awesome! Wow, you have a real gift, man.” Billy is shocked. He suspects that they are poking fun at him. “Yeah right,” he retorts. “I know I can’t draw, so save the sarcasm.” One of the four students waves the teacher over, saying, “You gotta get over here and see this.”

As the teacher walks over to Billy’s desk, her eyes widen. She says to the young man, “Billy, these are the most incredible drawings I’ve ever seen. You really have a talent. Have you considered taking art class?”  Still, Billy has a hard time believing what he is hearing. Why? Because for the last decade his parents have told him that he cannot draw well. Yet the reality all along was that Billy was a gifted artist. But that’s not how he perceived himself. The lie was easy to believe because it was repeatedly told to him by those he expected to tell the truth.

Frank Viola, From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God, David C. Cook.

Golf and Power Dynamics

George Bush Sr. (41) enjoyed the game of golf, even if he wasn’t necessarily very good at it. Following his presidency and his return to private life, he began to notice something: It’s amazing how many people beat you in golf once you’re no longer President.”

Source Material from Clifton Fadiman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.

The Gorilla & The Lion

A man who is desperate for work applies to a zoo that he’s heard has some openings.  “Well, it’s a little unusual, but I do have something,” said the zoo director.  “Our gorilla died sometime ago, and we haven’t had the money to replace him.  If you’re willing to wear a monkey suit and impersonate an ape, you’ve got the job.”

It didn’t feel terribly authentic, but the man figured a job’s a job, so he signed on.  After a few awkward days he began to get into the spirit of the thing, and soon he became one of the zoo’s prime attractions.  One morning he was swinging from one vine to the next with a little too much animation and inadvertently swung himself right over the wall into the cage next to his – which was occupied by an enormous African lion.

The man could feel the lion’s hot breath on his face.  He knew he was a goner.  Reflexively, he began screaming for help, when suddenly the lion whispered urgently to him, “Shut up, you idiot, or we’ll both be out of a job!”

John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, Zondervan, 2003, p.74.

Insulting My Intelligence

Arnold “Red” Auerbach was one of the winningest coaches in NBA history. He won 9 championships as coach of the Boston Celtics and was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1965 and NBA Executive Coach of the Year in 1980. One night while on the road with the Celtics, Auerbach ran into 3 of his players, each traveling with a beautiful woman in tow.

This was against team rules, and so one of the players, trying to get out of trouble, introduced one of the women as his “cousin.” Not wanting to cause a stir, Auerbach nodded without raising a fuss. But then the player decided to double-down on his deceit saying, “We were just on our way to church.” Sharing the story on a later occasion, Auerbach commented, ““I couldn’t take that. I fined him twenty-five dollars for insulting my intelligence.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Origin of the Word “Sincere”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed hearing stories about the origins of certain words. One of these words is the “sincere.” While there are some questions about the history’s authenticity (ironic, given the word in question) nevertheless it makes for a good illustration. As you may remember from your old Western Civilization courses, the Romans were especially fond of Greek culture (especially after their conquests of much of modern-day Greece) and Greek imports became all the rage among Upper Class Romans. Greek marble sculpture in particular was one of the most highly sought-after treasures of Greek society.

Because many of the sculptures were already a few hundred years old, many were damaged. Traders discovered that if they placed wax in the damaged parts of the sculptures, they looked like new. But of course, over time, the wax would harden and change color to an ugly yellow, thereby exposing the inauthentic parts of the sculptures. Thus, after a while, vendors needed to differentiate their complete works from those held together with wax. To do this they would mark the undamaged statues as being sine, the Latin word for “without” and then cera, the Latin word for “wax”. Sine cera, without wax.

Stuart Strachan Jr.


See Also Illustrations on Character,Deception, Ethics

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Consider checking out our quotes page on Food. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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