Illustrations add sermon sparkle

AGE - Still useful
Eric S. Ritz describes a recent attempt at Annual Conference to deny election as Bishop to anyone over sixty-six years of age, since they would only be able to serve one four-year term. The motion was eventually defeated.
Ritz says, "As I listened to all sides of the argument, my mind wandered back to a biblical figure tending sheep in the Sinai district. Here was an older man getting ready for retirement, accompanied by a teaspoon of Geritol at the Sinai Geriatric Center for Retired Shepherds, and not to be selected to face the gigantic, well-greased machinery of the Egyptian government. The pages of history are forever etched with the witness of this man: Moses. It is not our age that God reviews but our availability." (Ritz is Pastor, Calvary United Methodist Church, Easton, PA)
CHRIST - Gives understanding
In London's famed British Museum you will find the ancient "Rosetta Stone." It was discovered in 1799 by the troops of Napoleon near the city of Rosetta in Egypt. The stone was originally inscribed by priests of Ptolemy V in the second century BC, and contains the same text written in hieroglyphics and in Greek. Because scholars knew Greek, they were able to use the stone to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian language for the first time.
"Just so, Jesus Christ is the touchstone by which we can decipher the meaning of life. Christ is the Rosetta Stone that gives the clue to the language of God's creation." (submitted by Donald B. Strobe, Retired Methodist Pastor, Ludington, MI)
CHRISTMAS - Confused message
Al Mohler points out in The Christian Index that "Christmas presents the Christian church with one of its greatest challenges: how to communicate Christian faith in the midst of Christmas chaos. Our era is marked by what some have termed 'a confusion of symbols.' Individuals have great difficulty separating the meaning of Christmas from its overwhelming commercial context.
"James Fallow, until recently the Far Eastern correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, reports that Americans have exported this confusion of symbols. In one large Japanese department store he came across a display featuring Santa Claus holding the infant Jesus, behind a sleigh pulled by the seven dwarfs." (Mohler is Associate Editor of Preaching)
CHRISTMAS - Paradox
"Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother's arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter's despised son." (Charles H. Spurgeon)
CONDITIONING
A mother and her young son were shopping in a supermarket in Salamanca, New York, when a man walked by them. As soon as he had passed them, his "beeper" went off. The startled little boy exclaimed, "Look out Mom -- he's backing up!"
We are conditioned to respond to one another in predictable ways, aren't we? (submitted by Harvey Rodger, Rochester, NY)
FAITH
The little girl was saying her prayers at bedtime, so Dad stood outside the door and listened in. She was reciting the alphabet. After she finished, he went into the room and said, "Why were you saying the alphabet to God?"
"I really didn't know what to pray for tonight," she answered him. "So I said, 'God, I'm going to give you all the letters of the alphabet and you put them together the way you want to'."
Ken Chafin observes: "If I'm not mistaken, that is what commitment is all about -- the kind of risky faith that opens up every letter of the alphabet of my life and says, 'God, you take me and put me together the way you want to'." (Chafin is Pastor of Walnut Street Baptist Church, Louisville, KY)
FOUNDATION - Gives strength
Earl Palmer points out that frame houses were those which best withstand earthquakes. Those frame houses that are bolted to their foundations can often stand firm in the face of an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale. On the other hand, those houses which are simply sitting atop their foundation tend to slide off and collapse.
As believers, we need to be firmly attached to our foundation, Jesus Christ. When the storms and quakes of life confront us, in Him we stand firm, (submitted by Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)
HEAVEN
American astronomers intend to produce a three-dimensional map of the heavens, which will encompass one million galaxies and one hundred thousand quasars. The new map should be ready after the year 2003. (Dallas Morning News, 11/11/90)
To know the way to Heaven is much more important than having a map of the stars. And the Bible offers us a map to Heaven: by way of Jesus Christ, (submitted by Rick Davis, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Midlothian, TX)
MISSIONS - We must act now
Keith Parks, president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, tells of another time when the time was right for missionary expansion but Christians failed to act:
"In 1258, the fate of Islam hung by a thread, and only Egypt was strong. The great Mongol empire, led by Kublai Khan, stretched from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean. In 1266, Kublai Khan sent word by Marco Polo for the Christian church in Rome to send one hundred men to teach Christianity to his court.
"It could have been a turning point in the history of the religions of the world. But the Christians were so busy fighting among themselves that it was twenty-eight years before one, not one hundred, reached the great court. Already retired, the great Kublai Khan said, 'It is too late; I have grown too old in my idolatry'."
Parks points to forty-seven people-groups in our own day, representing 260 million people, with virtually no Christian witness.
"All over this world 66 percent of the people do not even claim to be Christian, and 26 percent of the world has not even had a chance to hear the gospel.... Do you want to send a message to the villages of Africa, the cities of Asia? Or shall we simply send the message, 'There's no one to come'?"
OPPORTUNITY - Must be seen
In 1951, Kemmons Wilson and his wife, Dorothy, took a vacation to Washington, DC. They had eagerly anticipated the trip, but were disappointed with their cramped, costly lodging. Others might have merely complained and forgotten; Wilson said to his wife, "Let's go home and start a chain of family hotels." They returned to Memphis, and in 1952 built the first Holiday Inn.
Opportunities are all around us -- but we have to look for them, (submitted by David W. Richardson, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Dexter, MO)
PREACHING - Convicts
Adrian Rogers tells of a man who came to the preacher after the service and said, "That was a stout sermon. Were you preaching at me?"
The preacher replied, "I was shooting down in a hole. If you were in it, there's nothing I could do about it." (Rogers is Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN)
RELIGION
"Religion is a defense against the experience of God." (Ernest Campbell)
THANKSGIVING
"It may be useful in this age of drift and hallucination to recall the foundations of the first Thanksgiving Day celebrations.
"The Puritans were undoubtedly motivated primarily by gratitude for survival, but also by something more. They were rooted in the conviction that their prosperity had come from their industry, discipline and virtue, and not their virtue from their prosperity.
"More than that, they believed that they were their brothers' keepers and had survived by helping one another, that they were the trustees of future generations and were to set an example for a civilized world.
"A secular society that forgets its roots is in danger of losing the spirit that holds a nation together." (James Reston, New York Times News Service, 11/28/85)
WITNESS - Must not be silent
When Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning, his house contained few luxuries -- but it contained 246 violins, many of them of great value. The greatest of his collection, a Stradivarius, was found in the bottom drawer of a rickety old bureau, where it had lain unplayed for many decades. He had collected violins all his life, cramming them into an attic -- and leaving them unplayed.
How many Christians are like Tarisio -- storing and saving the truth for ourselves and failing to share these glad tidings with the world? The Good News needs to not only be cherished, but proclaimed, (submitted by Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)