Sermon illustrations


Choose Your Rut Carefully

I read somewhere that in the early days of the Alaska Highway, tractor-trailer trucks would make deep ruts in the gravel as they carried construction equipment to boomtowns up north. Someone posted this sign at the beginning of the road: CHOOSE YOUR RUT CAREFULLY, YOU’LL BE IN IT FOR THE NEXT 200 MILES.

Philip Yancey, Finding God in Unexpected Places: Revised and Updated, WaterBrook Press, 2008.

“Do it Again”

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Co., 1909), 109.

The Repetitive & Repetitious

Film theorist Bruce Kawin distinguishes between “repetitious” and repetitive.” “Repetitious,” says Kawin, occurs “when a word, percept, or experience is repeated with less impact at each recurrence; repeated to no particular end, out of a lack of intention or sloppiness of thought.” On the other hand, “repetitive happens when a word, precept or experience is repeated with equal or greater force at each occurrence.”

The repetitive is characterized by intention, self-awareness. Repetition counts on the listener to recognize the repetitiveness and to rejoice in that recognition. Repetition seeks to revitalize the elements of the originating source so that they can be seen anew. Therefore, creativity and repetition go hand in hand.

William H. Willimon, Undone by Easter: Keeping Preaching Fresh, Abingdon, 2009.


Is Repetition Good or Bad?

Chesterton observes that when we grow up we tend to think that repetition as a sign of deadness, “like a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe were personal it would vary, if the sun were alive it would dance.” To the contrary, “variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire.  A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue.” Whereas repetition, far from signifying monotony and deadness, may signify delight, desire, and vitality.

Vigen Guroian, Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1998.

See Also Illustrations on CeremoniesHabits, Memory, Rituals

Still Looking for inspiration?

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

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