Sermon illustrations


All the Knowledge in the World

At a dinner party, [The Scottish playwright George Bernard] Shaw sat next to a young man who proved to be a bore of historic proportions. After suffering through a seemingly interminable monologue, Shaw cut in to observe that between the two of them, they knew everything there was to know in the world. “How is that?” asked the young man. “Well,” said Shaw, “you seem to know everything except that you’re a bore. And I know that!”

Clifton Fadiman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes

Alone Together

In this excerpt from Jay Y. Kim’s book, Analog Church, the author shares about an experience at a local restaurant after being convicted of his own smart phone use at home, keeping him from being present with his family:

… I was having lunch alone. The restaurant was near a local high school which has an open campus policy, so shortly after I sat down to eat, several students began to file in together for a quick bite before heading back to class. Once again, I’d been on my phone—this time actually checking email. But when I saw the students walk in, I decided to people watch for a while, paying special attention to how they would interact while sharing a meal. What I saw saddened me but did not surprise me.

In total, fourteen students ate at that restaurant during the lunch hour, all of them sitting in friend groups, not a single one of them alone. And in total, thirteen of them had a phone in their hands for the vast majority of the time, occasionally looking up to chat with one another, but for the most part, losing themselves to their digital content, all while sitting so tantalizingly close to other actual human beings.

They were, in the words of Sherry Turkle’s aptly titled book, “alone together.” Entranced by the endless sea of digital possibilities, these kids were missing out on the very unique gift of analog presence surrounding them. While they were busy communicating with the digital world (many of them sending texts and Snapchat messages), they were squandering the opportunity to commune with the real people in their midst. This is what community often looks like in the digital age. Lonely individuals falling prey, over and over again, to the great masquerade of digital technology—the ability to lull us into a state of isolation via the illusion of digital connection.

Taken from Analog Church by Jay Y. Kim Copyright (c) 2020 by Jay Y. Kim. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


Anointing as Hospitality

In his excellent study of the famous Biblical passage on shepherds, (The Good Shepherd: A Thousand Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament), scholar Ken Bailey provides helpful context to the anointing mentioned in Psalm 23:5:

Anointing in Scripture took place for a variety of reasons. Consecration and inauguration were among them (Is 61:1). Wounds and sores were anointed with oil (Lk 10:34), along with the sick in general (Jas 5:14), but here the reference is to anointing as an act of hospitality. Psalm 23:5 focuses on anointing at a banquet where the host anoints the head of the guest.

In the Middle East, oil used for such anointing is usually perfumed. Once again the clearest biblical example of this custom is in Luke 7:35-50, but the practice is of great antiquity. From Egypt, during the reign of Thutmose III (d. 1426 B.C.), we have a stunning tomb painting of eight young women at a banquet where each has a cone of scented oil on her head. The point is that the body heat of the guest slowly melts the perfumed cone and the oil thus gradually runs down over her body, anointing her continuously all evening long. The servant girl sports a cone on her head as well.

Taken from The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey, Copyright (c) 2014, p.80 by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


The Boodle Feast

In his helpful book Peace Catalysts, Rick Love shares a poignant example of how sharing a meal can break down the familiar walls of status, power, and economics:

In 2011, my wife, Fran, and I went to the Philippines to minister at a Vineyard conference. One evening our Filipino hosts set up over twenty dinner tables end to end with no chairs around them. There were no forks, spoons or knives. An assortment of delicious dishes served as the centerpiece for what they call the Boodle feast. We stood across from each other, ate with our hands and talked.

This tradition was popularized by the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City and is primarily done as a form of fellowship and camaraderie between officers and military personnel, no matter what rank.

A similar practice is common when Filipinos go camping. They take their packed lunch and put it on a table or the ground over some banana leaves and share it with everyone around. The kingdom of God may not be a matter of eating or drinking, but in the Philippines, eating and drinking serves as a wonderful way to break down barriers and build bridges. Hospitality like this is one way we can pursue peace. I think that’s why much of Jesus’ ministry took place over food.

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.30 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


A Gripping Lecture

Charles Babbage (1792-1871) was a British mathematician and inventor known for his enjoyment of talking. At one particular dinner, Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish polymath was going on and on about the virtues of silence, leaving little room for anyone else to get a word in edgewise. At the end of the dinner Babbage approached Carlyle and thanked him sternly for his stirring lecture on the topic of silence.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Meals in Heaven and Hell

I once heard a description of what meals are like in heaven. The saints are seated on either side of a four-foot-wide banquet table. The table is set with delicious foods on every plate. The only thing that appears out of the ordinary is the silverware. All the utensils have three-foot-long handles. The dinnertime rule is that everyone must eat using the long forks and spoons. Amazingly, the dining room in hell is designed exactly  the same. What makes heaven heavenly and hell hellish? In heaven, the diners immediately set about feeding their brothers and sisters across the table using the perfectly proportioned utensils, while in hell each person rages at the ill-fitting utensils as they attempt the impossible task of feeding themselves.

Our relationships to what we eat and to each other are important here on earth. We humans have the ability to eat a highly varied diet. We can eat fungi, mollusks, birds, grains, fermented foods, nuts, insects, flowers, tree sap, bees’ honey, fish, eggs, cow’s milk, and plant roots.

Who figured out that the bark on one tree made cinnamon and the bark of another made poison? We will never know. Our relationship to food is vital. Food is not an option. It is a necessity we can merely eat our fill, or we can be nourished. We can choose foods that are good for us or ones that do us long-term harm. Our choice of diets can encourage sustainable, ethical farming, or we can support agriculture that is out of sync with long-term planetary and human health.

Matthew Sleeth, Serve God, Save the Planet, Zondervan.

A Reminder of our Dependency on God

Every meal—not just Communion, but including Communion—is a reminder that we are dependent on God as creatures. We are not self-sustaining. Much of our food is grown, processed, distributed, and possibly cooked by other people. We are part of a complex web of relationships upon which we rely day by day. And behind them all is our loving Creator, who generously provides for the needs of his creation.

This is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). But the Communion meal is special. For Communion is also a recognition that we are dependent on God not just as creatures but also as sinners. We live through the death of his Son. Each mouthful is a reminder that we cannot save ourselves. Just as we rely on daily bread for physical life, so we rely on Jesus for spiritual life. For he is the bread of life. We come to Communion as sinners in desperate need of reassurance, and we hear the words, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28).”

Taken from Truth We Can Touch by Tim Chester, © 2020 pp.65-66. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

God’s First Menu

What is the very first thing God said to humanity after he created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden? “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” (Gen. 2:16). God’s first words are a menu—a comprehensive, hunger-satisfying, pleasure-giving menu.

One of the striking features of this is that the account of creation in Genesis was almost certainly used to counter the creation stories of the Babylonian Empire. And in the Babylonian creation story, humanity was made to provide food for the gods. But with our God, the true God, it is the other way around: God provides food for humanity. The first words humanity hears from God reveal his generosity.

Taken from Truth We Can Touch by Tim Chester, © 2020 pp.65-66. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

He Saw it, He Loved it, He Ate it

Maurice Sendak, author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are and other children’s books, gets many letters from his young fans. A favorite was a “charming” drawing sent on by a little boy’s mother. “I loved it,” Sendak says. “I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on a post card and sent it to him. His mother wrote back: ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ The little boy didn’t care that it was an original drawing. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it. That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received.”

Submitted by Chris Stroup, source material, Maurice Sendak.


Once, when sharing my faith with an agnostic friend, I was asked to make my greatest argument for God’s existence. I uttered one word: mangoes. I was not talking about just any mangoes. I was talking about fresh, ripe, just-off -the-tree mangoes, about have-to-change-your-shirt-afterward mangoes.

Mangoes, I explained, were my greatest argument for God’s existence. To this day, I cannot eat a mango and say with a straight face that this is a world that has been invented by a jerk. Or that something so delicious could come from nowhere. Creation is good. Why? Because God is good. And his goodness is reflected in what he makes. A mango, as part of creation, is God’s love letter to humanity.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Kindle Location 443.

Preparing a Table

In his excellent study of the famous Biblical passage on shepherds, (The Good Shepherd: A Thousand Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament), scholar Ken Bailey provides helpful context to “preparing a table before my enemies” in Psalm 23:

In traditional Middle Eastern culture, when you want the community to know that you have acquired wealth, you do not buy an expensive car or a large house with acres of grass around it. Rather, you host meals with three times as much food on the table as the numerous guests can eat. The modern Western way of showing off possessions assumes isolation and distance from the community. It is enough that you drive by, note my palatial house and see my expensive car parked beside it.

The psalmist’s imagery(Psalm 23) has to do with community life that is strengthened and solidified by shared meals. But there is more. To “prepare a table” means to “prepare a meal” (Ps 78:19; Prov 9:2; Is 21:5; 65:11; Ezek 23:41). This phrase cannot mean “set the table,” because in traditional Middle Eastern society people eat without using individual plates or eating utensils. Eating is carried out by tearing off a small piece of flat bread and using it to lift food from the common dish to the mouth. Each bite starts with a fresh piece of bread. There is nothing to do to “set the table” except perhaps “spread the rugs” (Is 21:5). As regards the food, servants and women prepare it. The master of the house provides the food, he does not prepare it.

Taken from The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey, Copyright (c) 2014, pp.50, 54-55 by Kenneth E. Bailey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Show and Tell, Religious Edition

It was Show and Tell day in a 1st grade class room,. The teacher picked 3 boys to stand up and present their objects to the class. The first boy stood up and said “Hi, My name is Abram, I’m Jewish and this is a Star of David!” The second boy got up and said “Hi, my name is Johnny and I’m Catholic, this is a Crucifix!” Finally the third boy got up and said “Hi, My name is Billy and I am Presbyterian, and this is a casserole!!”

Source Unknown

See also Bread, Communion (The Lord’s Supper), Food, Wine

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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