Sermon illustrations


The Blood Suckers

During a large part of my childhood my father was in school, so we never really went on a traditional “vacation” until late in my elementary school years. I distinctly remember one of our first trips, where we left the suburbs of New York City for the beauty of New England. We finished the first day not quite to our destination, but there was a small pond next to the motel we were staying in.

My brother and I somehow convinced my parents to allow us to take a dip. Unfortunately, our time in this strange body of water was cut short as these strange, quarter-size creatures had attached themselves to numerous parts of our bodies. While we found this quite interesting, my mother did not.

“Leeches! Hold still, I need to get them off you!”

It turned out these odd looking worm-like beasts were sucking our blood. And needless to say, they needed to be removed.  A leech provides an interesting metaphor for our lives doesn’t it? There are circumstances and lies and, dare I say people, that can suck the life force right out of us. And the hard part is that oftentimes we don’t even know it is happening. My brother and I had no idea that these little worms were doing. And this is where mature, safe-brothers and sisters can help us pull the proverbial leeches out and restore us to health.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Buried in the Holy Land?

A man went on vacation to the Holy Land with his wife and her mother. While in Israel, the mother-in-law died from a heart attack. The couple went to a local undertaker, who explained that they could either ship the body home which would cost more than $1500, or they could bury her right there in the Holy Land for only $150. 

The man said, “We’ll ship her home. “Surprised, the undertaker responded, “Are you sure? That’s an awfully big expense, and we can do a very nice burial here. “The man said, “Look, 2000 years ago they buried a guy here and three days later He rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance.” 

Source Unknown

A Coca-Cola Philosophy & Empty Calories

Studies reveal that 37 percent of Americans take fewer than seven days of vacation a year. In fact, only 14 percent take vacations that last longer than two weeks. Americans take the shortest paid vacations of anyone in the world. And 20 percent of those who do, often spend their vacation staying in touch with their jobs through their computers or phones.

The point? Even when we do vacation, we do it poorly. But even if we did vacation well and took great amounts of time off for restorative rest, vacations are a poor substitute for a weekly day of Sabbath rest. I think the devil loves taking that which is of God and giving us cheap knockoffs. When God invents sugar, the devil makes Sweet’N Low.

When God makes sex, the devil comes up with adultery. The devil always twists the goodness of God. The Bible is silent on vacations. Why? Because if we kept a weekly Sabbath, we would not need vacations. Vacations are what Jürgen Moltmann has called the “Coca – Cola philosophy” of Western life.

In the 1990s, Coca-Cola had a well-known campaign depicting people doing hard work, then popping open a cold bottle of Coke and taking a swig. We yearn for the “pause that refreshes. ” Unfortunately, we try to refresh ourselves with empty calories, or vacations, which are not what we really need. Our souls stir, longing for Sabbath. Not for the frills of a can of saccharine drink, a sugary vacation.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Kindle Location 549.

Drifting in the Ocean

If you’ve ever spent time in the ocean, whether it be swimming, body-surfing, boogie-boarding—you know how easy it is to drift. One minute your family is right in front of you on the beach, the next minute you look up they are nowhere to be found. 

Biblical writers wrote about drifting because it is in some ways as easy to do in life as it is in the ocean. We start in one place, but eventually we end up in another. What is required is a harbor, a place we can return to again and again.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

One-in-a-Million Talk

One of the most quotable movies of all time was released in 1994. It featured a rising comedic genius from Canada, paired with another highly successful actor, as well as a considerable ensemble cast that helped raise the work to one of the greatest films in comedy ever produced. 

You know what movie I’m referring to right? Dumb and Dumber, which was at its heart a love story, but unfortunately for its protagonist, Loyd Christmas, an unrequited love story. Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carrey, and Harry Dunne, played by Jeff Daniels, go on an epic road-trip to try and win over Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) as his romantic interest; they finally arrive in Aspen, where Mary is currently on a ski vacation.

Loyd finally works up the courage and asks her the question on every lovestruck person’s mind: “what are the chances of a girl like me and a guy like you getting together?” Her response would have been seen as an outright rejection by most, but not the serial optimist Lloyd: “I don’t know, one in a million.” Cue the long pause, and then the punch-line… “So you’re saying there’s a chance!!!!!” Later, when Mary rejects Loyd more finally, his response is classic, “What was all that one-in-a-million talk?” 

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source content from Farrelly, Bobby, and Peter Farrelly. Dumb and Dumber. New Line Cinema, 1994.

Sabbath vs. Vacation

What differentiates a weekly Sabbath from a vacation? Quite a bit, in fact. When my son was four, he learned how to put his head underwater when swimming. Elliot can hold his breath for a good ten seconds, a feat indeed. Still, he cannot believe how long I can hold mine — upward of sixty seconds. When we both emerge from the water, we catch our breaths. It would be fascinating to watch someone go about their life holding their breath all the time and breathing only when they absolutely had to — a difficult life that would be.

A Sabbath is like breathing. Imagine a life where your breath once every sixty seconds. Or, can you think of what life would be like if we opted to breathe for only two weeks out of the year? It is interesting that God’s invitation to rest once a week is so hard for us to grapple with, yet we do not blink at the notion of breathing all the time. A rest is not the only thing that matters. What matters even more is the consistency and rhythm of rest that we enter into.

A.J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Kindle Location 562.

See also Illustrations on  Adventure, Experience, Journey, Sabbath, Seas, Travel