The end of “Lost” has created a sermon illustration vacuum. Pastors and church members across the country are staring into the gaping maw of this sermon illustration void with concern and trepidation.
But fear not, if Braveheart, Gladiator and the Matrix taught us anything, it’s that summer movies often provide the greatest sermon illustrations ever.
Let’s review what our options are:
One night while I was speaking, a handful of girls got up in the middle and left to go see Twilight. I guess they were not on “team Jon.” I suppose you could turn this into a sermon series, something about how we all want to live forever and be loved with undying passion and have rock hard abs that we are inexplicably constantly showing because we’re not wearing a shirt even though we’re in Oregon in the fall.
I saw this one, after convincing my wife Meg Ryan was in it and Nicholas Sparks wrote the screenplay. I liked it, but I can’t see how this gets turned into a sermon illustration. Maybe you can say that Peter, the Rock, is like Mr. T’s character B.A. Baracus. And maybe John the Baptist was like Murdoch, long haired, eating locusts, a little out there. But other than coming up with a crazy disciple themed piece, this isn’t going to work. (Is Liam Neeson starting to pick films like Christopher Walken? Clash of the Titans, A-Team? I feel like he must really want a new boat.)
You know how people say if they had a time machine they would go back and prevent John Wilkes Booth from shooting Lincoln? I’d use that time machine to Quantum Leap back to the moment a producer in a meeting said, “We should have Owen Wilson play Marmaduke and do a dog dance scene to Ke$ha’s music.” No illustration here.
I didn’t see this movie, but something about Russell Crowe makes us Christians just assume there’s a sermon illustration lurking about. He has such cache from Gladiator that our Sermon Illustration Radar or SIR goes off automatically.
The Last Airbender
M. Night Shyamalan is due for a hit. His last few movies have fallen flat but we still have love in the bank for him from Sixth Sense. (What if the life you thought you were really living was just a shell of what life was meant to be? What if you found out everything you knew wasn’t true, but was in fact just dead? Etc.) But the 9 year old throwing fire might be a difficult parallel. You could do take the whole angle of how when Christ came to save the world it wasn’t through might or force like the Airbender, it was through surrender. That’s mighty thin though.
All in all, it’s looking like a bleak summer for sermon illustrations, but you’ve still got two aces up your cinematic sleeve. My prediction is that this summer’s sermon illustration film or SIF will be “Inception.” It’s from the director of “Memento” so you know it’s going to be trippy and intelligent. It’s about altered reality and how our dreams impact our lives. On top of that, it’s got floaty scenes where people are balanced in the air all weird. That instantly calls to mind “The Matrix” which won “best sermon illustration film” of the 90s in the contest I run in my head each decade. And it’s PG-13 so your “completely unnecessary to the plot nudity” radar shouldn’t be going off.
But if Inception doesn’t work for you, please turn your attention to the Denzel Washington movie, “The Book of Eli.” Spoiler alert, don’t read on if you want to watch that movie, but it’s a Bible. The Book of Eli is a Bible! They practically gift wrapped that sermon illustration. “Imagine if Christians were as passionate about the word of God as Denzel Washington’s character was? Imagine if we understood the power and truth of God’s word like a world who didn’t have it any longer?”
Those were free, but you’ll have to come up with your own from other movies.
What movies do you think make good sermon illustrations? What are you going to see this summer?
(And you’ll be tempted to say, “Why do we use movies? Why can’t we preach the Bible, the word of God? Why do we have to be so relevant?” I agree, I think we do get intoxicated by relevance sometimes, but we also serve a Christ who used parables. I think God is the master storyteller and is not angry when we use stories too.)