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Sermon Illustrations

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Action"What good is it, my brothers and sisters if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?" (James 2:14). Many of you remember the lines from "My Fair Lady" when Eliza turns to Professor Higgins and says: Don't talk of stars burning above. If you're in love, SHOW me. Sing me no song, read me no rhyme. Don't waste my time, SHOW me. Don't talk of June, don't talk of Fall. Don't talk at all, SHOW me. With apologies to the composers, I hear God saying, Don't talk of faith, don't talk of love. Don't talk of hope and Heaven above. SHOW Me!View
Advent". . . wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the Child who has been born King of the Jews? For we observed His star rising and have come to pay Him homage." (Mt. 2:1-2). W.H. Auden, the contemporary poet, has written a long musical work (an oratorio) based on the story of the Three Wise Men. In it, each man tells why he is following the star. The first one says, "To discover how to be truthful now is the reason I follow the star." The second one says, "To discover how to be living now is the reason I follow the star." The third one says, "To discover how to be loving now is the reason I follow the star." The moving and beautiful climax occurs when the three strong male voices all sing together, "To discover how to be human now is the reason we follow the star." That is what Advent and the Christmas story are all about: to discover how to be human now. That is why we are here now. That is why we are celebrating an Advent Season. We prepare ourselves for our Christmas discovery of what it means to be human by reflecting seriously on what it means to be truthful, what it means to be living, what it means to be loving, as did Auden's Three Wise Men.View
Advent"Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you." (Jn. 6:53). As we move deeper into the Advent Season, the real preparation for Christmas Day must come not so much in putting the spirit of Christmas into words, but into our life's experience. Our words about it will never live up to the experience of it. What is it like to have Jesus born again in your life, deep within you? A woman (who shall remain anonymous) decided to put her thoughts on this in writing, shortly after major surgery, and the words she wrote are as beautiful and real and inspiring as any you will find anywhere. She said... When someone said that when Jesus referred to the Passover wine as His blood and then shared it with His disciples, He was being cannibalistic, I could not help thinking of the modern practice of giving blood by transfusion. While it isn't eaten, the blood is definitely taken into the body in a life-giving way. After recent surgery I had a vivid experience of this type of life-receiving from a blood transfusion. All day, in the recovery room, my only conscious feeling was the awful coldness, in the middle of Summer. Nothing seemed to bring warmth to my body. I was inert and completely uninterested in anything going on around me. I finally was aware that there was a search going on for the proper kind of blood. There were tests. I was also aware of a timing of two hours which seemed to be the time taken for the careful dripping of this blood into my veins. Suddenly, I felt warmth pour over me right out to my fingertips and to the ends of my toes. I seemed to come up from the bottom of the sea. I felt like smiling and greeting someone. I opened my eyes. The first thing I did was to find a clock. This seemed to relate me to my own real world. I was amazed that it was nearly midnight and I was elated to think I was alive and warm and happy. Then I saw the doctor and I couldn't help joking with him about keeping such awful hours. I heard him say, "Now I can go home," so everything was all right. Later, I felt I would give anything I own - anything - to find the stranger whose blood had brought this warmth, this life to me. Now I walk the streets grateful to some unknown person whose very blood flows in my veins and contributes to my daily joy. This is a debt I can never repay. Surely Christ chose a marvelous symbol of Himself when He suggested that His friends remember Him with the wine which stands for the life-giving quality of His own blood.View
AdversityDuring the Great Depression there was a man who lost his job, a fortune, his wife and home, but tenaciously held on to his faith - the only thing he had left. One day, he stopped to watch men doing stone work on a huge church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. "What are you going to do with that?" he asked the workman. The worker responded, "Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I am shaping this down here so that it will fit up there." Tears filled the man's eyes as he walked away, for it seemed that God had spoken through the workman to explain the ordeal through which he was passing. "I have faith in God's promise of eternal life," he said. "He is shaping my soul here on earth to fit into his plan for my ultimate redemption." Bosch, H. G. "Bread For Each Day" (adapted).View
AdvertisingA little boy went to the corner grocery store and asked for a box of detergent. The clerk said, "Son, what do you need the detergent for?" "I want to wash my dog!" the boy replied. "Well, son, this is a heavy duty detergent and it's pretty strong for washing a dog." "That's what I want!" the boy persisted. So he sold the boy the detergent and said, "Now be very careful. This is a strong detergent, it could kill your dog!" About a week later, the little boy came back into the store. The clerk asked, "How's your dog?" "I'm afraid he's dead." "Oh, I'm so sorry, but I did warn you about that detergent." The little boy shook his head and said, "I don't think it was the detergent that did it. I think it was the rinse cycle that got him!" There are times when we feel like life has put us through the rinse cycle! We have been tossed, and turned, drenched with concerns and worries, overcome with stress and anxiety. Life appears pretty dark and we wonder where and how we will find some relief! "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28).View
AfterlifeSt. Peter and Satan were having an argument one day about baseball. With a suspicious grin, Satan proposed a game (to be played on neutral grounds) between a select team from heaven and a hand-picked team from his "hometown" turf. "Very well," the gatekeeper of the Celestial City agreed. "But you realize, I hope, that we have all the good players, and the best coaches too." "I know," said Satan calmly, "but we have all the umpires!" Griffith, J., Henry, R., Robertson, J., Blakely D., "Keep 'Em Laughin'," Rich Publishing Co. (Adapted).View
Agape LoveThe famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, designed some unusual buildings. On a university campus in Florida stands a library designed by Wright with an extremely low ceiling, so low that if you are six feet tall and not careful, you keep bumping your head. A man who was having this trouble asked why Frank Lloyd Wright had designed such a building. "This was a characteristic of his architecture because he hated tall people," A teacher explained. How typical this is. You try to cut the other fellow down to your size. You make him fit into your mold. Husbands and wives, parents and children and friends, remaking each other. This is the kind of love we express by taking the other and using him and carving him and shaping him into what we think he ought to be. But this is not the kind of love which the New Testament calls agape love: The unconditional love that is for the other, the love that affirms the life of the other, the love that rejoices in the difference in the other. AgingView
AgingA young girl was shopping in the supermarket with her grandfather. At the baked goods counter, grandfather selected several items, including a loaf of bread wrapped in plastic. Whereupon, the granddaughter removed the bread from the cart and carefully read the list of ingredients printed on the wrapping. "Put it back, grandpa," she said, "too many preservatives." But grandpa smiled wistfully and said, "Maybe we'd better keep it. At my age I need all the preservatives I can get."View
AgingTongue in cheek, the inventor, philosopher, anthropologist, engineer, and architect Buckminster Fuller described how complex a human being is. Mr. Fuller's Human "Specification Sheet" reads as follows: (1) A Self-balancing, twenty-eight jointed, adapter based bi-ped; (2) An Electrochemical reduction plant, with segregated stowages and thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps with motors attached; (3) 62,000 miles of capillaries; (4) Millions of warning signals; (5) Guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescopic self-registering and recording range finders. With older bi-peds, the range-finders may become less efficient and the pumps and motors a bit worn, but think how much information and experience their stowages have stowed. Unless they are weakened by diseases or discouraged by the "agist" attitudes in others, they have so much more than younger people to apply to problems that may need solving, or judgments that must be made. Johnson, E. "Older and Wiser" (Adapted).View
AgingThe following is a true story. A man named Joe and his wife Evelyn waited in line to board a plane for Chicago. The gate attendant announced over the loud speaker: "Anyone under six or over sixty may now board." People with children moved through the line and boarded the plane. A minute later, a man came up, obviously over 60. When Joe and Evelyn eventually started to board the plane, they noticed that the man who claimed to be over 60 was waiting by the plane's door. Evelyn asked him why he was standing there. He pointed to the waiting room and said, "My wife is still back there. She wouldn't admit she's over sixty - and she has the boarding passes." -Strangis, J., R.D. (adapted).View
AlcoholismA few years ago, an important international medical conference took place in London. As the doctors filed into the main conference room for the opening address, they were each handed an agenda for the day, according to his or her own specialty. One group of physicians received the following schedule: 10:15 am-"Alcohol in the Blood." 12:15 pm-"Alcohol in the Pancreas." 3:15 pm-"Alcoholism." 5:00 pm-Bar opensView
AmbitionIt was reported in "Sports Illustrated" magazine that athletes who intended to participate in the National track and field championships were required to fill out a questionnaire. Among the questions were, "What is your hobby?" and "What is your ambition?" One Olympic distance-runner answered, "My hobby is taking apart my Volkswagen... My ambition is to be able to put it back together."View
Artful LivingHenry Thoreau once described the "art of living" as the "highest of arts." He said that the people who practice this "highest of arts" are not artists in the usual sense of painters, sculptors, authors or musicians. Rather, they are the ones who, through the nobility of their lives, contribute to the "quality of the day," (as Thoreau called it). Thoreau's insight immediately brings to mind such celebrated "artful lives" as St. Francis of Assisi's, Mother Theresa's and Ghandi's. But, as playwright Myles Connolly once pointed out, there are countless people living in obscurity who contribute quietly to the "quality of the day" for others. "Everybody," said Connolly, "at one time or another has known such people. They come into a room in a dark hour - - a sickroom say, or a deathroom, a room without hope, or merely in any hour when we are lonely or discouraged. They may say little, if anything. But the shining quality of goodness radiates from them, from their mere presence, and where there was dark there is light, where there was cowardice there is courage, and where there was listlessness there is love of life . . . These friends or relatives, or wonderful strangers, humble and unaware, carry with them the kindness and generosity of their lives. These are the greatest artists. They practice the highest of arts: the art of living, the art of life itself." "Bits and Pieces," (adapted).View
AtheismHumorist Woody Allen was seen on a television talk show discussing his past romantic relationships. He was questioned about the dating experiences he had while in college. Mr. Allen recalled a wonderful relationship that lasted several years. The couple had even discussed marriage. When asked what he thought was the cause of their breakup, Mr. Allen explained that the relationship had gone sour because of what he called "serious religious differences." He said, "I was an agnostic and she was an atheist."View
AttitudeAn old bishop in Washington, D.C., had grown tired of the socials and embassy parties he was expected to attend just about every other day. At one such occasion, he entered the reception room wearily, glanced sourly at the familiar cast of characters and slumped into the nearest easy chair. "A spot of tea, bishop?" the hostess asked demurely. "No tea," the bishop growled. "Coffee, bishop?" "No coffee!" An understanding woman, the hostess whispered in his ear, "Scotch and water, bishop?" Brightening up, the bishop replied, "No water!"View