A few saints were no doubt aghast, but “Chris,” a thirtysomething listener, was effusive in his praise. “You guys played a bit of ‘Hotel California’ on a Voice of Prophecy radio show? I love it!”
Quick, let me explain. I was preparing a sermon script on the always prickly topic of OSAS or “Once Saved, Always Saved.” If a person gives their life to Jesus, is that commitment ironclad? Later on, can they not depart from God’s kingdom even if they want to? And it brought to my mind the chilling tag of the Eagles pop tune: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave” . . . followed, of course, by the classic guitar duet.
The illustration worked creatively for this Chris (and hopefully others) because it tied a Scripture truth to a musical moment already indelibly planted in the mind.
At least two decades ago, I heard a Gordon Bietz sermon that is still with me today. He talked about how Jesus is available, standing ready to rescue in a dynamic and unstoppable way. “Just like MacGyver,” he added, and the congregation howled. They also filed the link away and added to their store of impressions regarding our mighty Savior and Redeemer.
Bietz then followed with one of the best sermon metaphors I’ve ever heard: how the church should be the haven where people go to be loved, embraced, and valued. He quietly began to muse: “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.”
Something stirred in our hearts and we all sat up and almost began to hum. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” And that should definitely be the church instead of some bar in Boston sitting next to Cliffie and Norm.
Creativity in the arts means capturing people with something warm and familiar before stretching them into the new truth or a-ha! reality. Yes, an astute preacher takes advantage of the fact that Cheers boasted the most popular TV theme song in broadcasting history! When a writer describes a sunset or an Italian meal using word pictures we’ve never before considered, it works because we’ve all seen sunsets and had pasta primavera . . . we’ve just not thought of those exquisite moments in the way he portrays them.
Jesus invariably made use of the reality that His audience related to stories about fields and fishing, weeds and wedding feasts. His stories spun out new truths and eternal principles, creatively couched in the landscape of their hearts. Which is why I once gave a worship devotional on the topic of anger and seeking retribution, quoting the ancient Chinese proverb: “When planning revenge, you first dig two graves.” Then, thankful my mother wasn’t present, I nervously added: “That’s from James Bond in For Your Eyes Only.”