Acts 1: 6-14

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Illustrated Resources from 2017 to 2020

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  • Clouds

    by Stephen Clyborne
    The story is told of a mother and her young son as they stood at a cemetery in the city of Rio de Janeiro, at the graveside of her husband, the young boy’s father. The mother and son were so very sad as they looked out across the horizon and saw the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, whose arms were outstretched as if to embrace the world. The little boy was amazed at the size of the statue; and the mother used the occasion as a teachable moment to assure that Jesus would take care of them. The son seemed to be content with his mother’s assurance and by his view of the statue of Jesus. But the longer they stood there, thick clouds began to move across, eventually obscuring their view of the statue. The young boy was distraught, and asked his mother, “Will Jesus still be there when the clouds are gone?” The mother replied, “Yes. He will.” And He will...
  • Easter 7A (2017)

    by Doug Bratt
    In an earlier Sermon Starter on this passage, my colleague Scott Hoezee tells of putting his German to use by reading an old German fairy tale book a fellow German major at Calvin College had bought at a local garage sale. He notes the original German fairy tales were brutal, unlike their American versions, which seem to have been sanitized and tidied up. Their authors wrote the stories to teach children lessons. Hoezee says those authors clearly believed that scaring the wits out of kids was the best way to get their point across. One of those stories was entitled “Hans Guck-in-der-Luft,” which Hoezee roughly translates as, “Hans Head in-the-Clouds” (literally: Hans Look-in-the-Air). Its author meant to teach children to pay attention to what they are doing and where they are going. Hoezee writes, “to make the point the title character of Hans is a little boy who is forever daydreaming, forever walking around with his eyes fixed on birds, butterflies, treetops. The result is that he keeps bumping into lampposts, tripping over uneven sidewalks, running into old ladies. Throughout the story adults chide Hans for his dreaminess and they warn him to pay attention, to get his head out of the clouds. But Hans does not listen and so at the end of the story he walks straight off a cliff and is smashed to death on the rocks below.”
  • Sermon Starters (Easter 7A)(2020)

    by Stan Mast
    That phrase in Acts 17:6 ((KJV and RSV) about the apostles “turning the world upside down” is a powerful angle into preaching on the Kingdom of God in Acts. The apostles were actually turning the world right side up. In his great book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard summarizes how the upside-down-ness of the world ruins every society. “The end stage of every successful society is when it begins to believe that it is responsible for its success and prosperity and begins to worship itself and rebel against the understanding and practices that enabled it, under God, to be successful in the first place.” Underneath the problems of the world, he concludes, is “the radical evil of the human heart—a heart that would make me God in place of God.” The world is upside down, and none of our attempts to change the world will restore the peace and justice of God until the world is turned right side up and God is King again and we are his willing subjects. And that depends, finally, on the Church’s Spirit empowered witness to the Risen Christ.
  • Upheld by Grace

    by Anne Le Bas
    I’m reminded of a poem about the Ascension by Denise Levertov. She imagines trying to hold onto “God’s garment”. I had grasped God's garment in the void but my hand slipped on the rich silk of it. The 'everlasting arms' my sister liked to remember must have upheld my leaden weight from falling, even so, for though I claw at empty air and feel nothing, no embrace, I have not plummeted.
  • Generating Power

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
    You could make a case that 1936 was a year that America received power (or was at least intrigued with power). Oh, not power like the Holy Spirit gives, but electric power. Hoover Dam, Fort Peck Dam, and Inwood Power Station were all of interest to artists in 1936. The Union Pacific Railroad Boulder City Branch railroad carried workers and materials from Boulder City to the dam's construction site. Margaret Bourke-White's photograph of the Fort Peck Dam brought to industrial sites the same monumentality as photographs of ancient cities or Gothic cathedrals. Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas created a portrait of a new hydroelectric power plant on the banks of the Harlem River. How almost unimaginable the potential for power was during the years of industrialization and mechinization. How much power could be generated with something as common as water. Of course that common water had to be dammed up and carefully monitored and restrained in order to have it make power...
  • Waiting for the Spirit

    by Jim McCrea
    My Dad used to tell a story about a time when he was five years old. He was out playing in a field by himself, doing that stereotypical thing that children should never do — playing with matches. The end result was predictable for all even slightly above five years old. He managed to set the field on fire and he had no idea how to put it out. The next thing he knew, he heard sirens screaming in his direction and he panicked. He ran home, told his mother what he had done and begged her to hide him. So she stashed him behind the piano and he waited for his inevitable doom. The imagination of a child is a powerful thing. And when you’re cowering behind a piano with nothing else to do, you can come up with any number of exquisite tortures that could be imposed on you. In fact, those imagined punishments are often far worse than what the reality ultimately turns out to be. Eventually, a police officer showed up at the door. My grandmother let him in and the two of them proceeded to have a conversation about my future father. My Dad always told the story from his perspective as a five year old, but I suspect that more was going on in that conversation than he was aware of.
  • Up Toward Heaven and Out of Sight

    Art and Faith by Lynn Miller
    Where we usually look across a landscape to see Jesus hovering above the mountain and the disciples, in Dali's painting, we stand where the disciples stood as they watched Jesus leave them. This is the second time since Jesus' resurrection that his friends and followers have been called to let go of Jesus. The disciples know here how Mary felt on Easter morning when Jesus would not let himself be held onto.
  • Images of Prayer

    Compiled by Jenee Woodard
  • Movies/Scenes Representing Prayer

    compiled by Jenee Woodard

Illustrated Resources from the Archives

  • Christ Has Promised to Return

    by Mark Adams
    ("In his new book When Christ Comes, Max Lucado tells of a time when, as a little boy, he sang in the Odessa boys Choir. In the second year of his membership in this group the choir was enlisted by a local junior college drama department to play the part of the Munchkins in their production of The Wizard of Oz..." and other quotes)
  • Vision Sunday

    by Mark Adams
    ("in some parts of the United States Greyhound racing is still a popular betting sport. In these areas thousands of foolish gamblers fill grandstands to watch these incredibly sleek and beautiful dogs run as fast as they can around an oval-shaped track. Now, unlike race horses, greyhounds of course run without the assistance of a jockey. So, to make the dogs race-and race in the right direction, they are trained to chase a life-like but mechanical rabbit as it zips along the track in front of them...")
  • Between Two Worlds

    by Bob Allred
    ("he happiest decision my mother ever made was to go back to teaching. She had stayed home with my brother and me, but when I was about nine years old she was free to soar. She was on tiptoes as she entered a first grade classroom. She picked out and purchased her first car, a 1953, four toned Buick Special with the three fake exhaust holes in the side of the front fenders...")
  • Is This the Time?

    by Dan Chambers
    ("In discussing the ascension of Christ, Joseph Campbell says it sounds like someone has just floated up in the air. Literally, that is what is being said. But the meaning is quite different. Campbell says: 'The denotation would seem to be that somebody ascended to the sky. That's literally what is being said. But if that were really the meaning of the message,then we have to throw it away, because there would have been no such place for Jesus literally to go......")
  • Different Ways to Bring People To Christ

    by Min J. Chung
    ("Chuck Colson quote: 'During World War II, after Hitler blitzkrieged his way across France, demanding the unconditional surrender of the Allied forces in the European theater, thousands of British and French troops dug in along the coast of northern France in a last-ditch effort to hold off the German forces...")
  • Our Global God

    by Daniel Clendenin
    ("What does witnessing to the resurrection look like today, two thousand years later? I think the writer, agrarian and iconoclast Wendell Berry points us in the right direction when he suggests that we offer a powerful, radical 'witness' to Jesus when we 'live resurrection'...")
  • Witness Begins at Home

    by Richard Donovan
    In his book, Who Speaks for God? Chuck Colson told about a debate about homosexuality and AIDS that took place in the newspaper between a New York bishop and conservative church leaders. The bishop had said that AIDS was not God's judgment on the homosexual community, and the conservatives said that it was. Colson commented: "The debate raises a timely question. Who does speak for God? "Ironically, while the bishop and his conservative challengers were pontificating over who was responsible for AIDS, I discovered that a young woman on my staff named Christy was using her evenings and weekends to do something about it. At a time when most Americans were panic-stricken over the contagious disease or snickering at snide AIDS jokes, Christy and her prayer group were visiting terminally ill AIDS patients at a Washington area hospital. None of the men had families in the area, and certainly no visitors. So Christy's group brought them postage stamps, stationery, books, tapes and cookies." Christy says of their ministry to these AIDS patients: "They are socially unacceptable because of their lifestyle and medically unacceptable because of their diseases. They are scared. They are dying. They are unsaved." In her ministry, Christy was reaching out in the name of Christ to bring Christ's love and compassion to the unlovely—just as Christ had reached out to touch the lepers and demon-possessed and disabled people of his day...
  • *Ascension/Easter 7B

    by Judith Evenden
    ("Thirty years ago, next month, I stood at the grave side of my grandmother, my father's mother. Many said her death was a blessing. After all, she had been sick for many years, a victim of that dreaded disease, Alzheimer's, which steals away our loved ones one memory at a time. This was my first funeral as a young teenager and so I as unsure of how to act, where to stand, what to feel...")
  • Concerning the Second Coming of Christ

    by Arthur Ferry Jr.
    ("On May 19, 1780, during the anxious days of the Revolutionary War that darkness came at noon. Bats flew and chickens roosted. A meteorological phenomenon seemed to bring day to an end when the sun was at its zenith. Panic broke out, and many thought the end of the world was at hand...")
  • Taking a Special?

    by Frank Fisher
    ("'Found myself in charge, gave myself a special.' Those words from are legendary within the Chicago Fire Department. They come from the days when Chicago firefighters worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off throughout the entire year. They had very little vacation time. But occasionally an officer would grant a firefighter an unscheduled day off; a special....")
  • Majesty and Ministry

    by Vince Gerhardy
    ("An ancient legend tells of the return of Jesus to glory after his time on earth. Even in heaven he bore the marks of his earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached him and said, 'Master, you suffered terribly down there. Do they know and appreciate how much you loved them and what you did for them?'...")
  • You Will Be My Witnesses

    by Vince Gerhardy
    ("Some time ago now Joseph Bayly wrote a book called the Gospel Blimp. It's about the attempt of Christian neighbours reaching out to the community for Christ. The family purchased a hot air balloon to broadcast the gospel to the community and dropped "bombs" on the town. These 'bombs' were tracts wrapped in coloured cellophane...")
  • Easter 7A (2014)

    by Scott Hoezee
    Years ago a fellow German major at Calvin College was delighted to purchase an old German fairy tale book at a local garage sale. We enjoyed putting our German to use by reading these children’s stories, although we were surprised at how horrifying some of them were. Because unlike the American versions of these stories, which seem to have been sanitized and tidied up, the original German tales are brutal. The stories are designed to teach children lessons, and the authors obviously believed that scaring the wits out of kids was the best way to get the point across. One story I remember was titled “Hans Guck-in-der-Luft,” which I would roughly translate, “Hans Head in-the-Clouds” (literally: Hans Look-in-the-Air). The story is meant to teach children to pay attention to what they are doing and where they are going. To make the point the title character of Hans is a little boy who is forever daydreaming, forever walking around with his eyes fixed on birds, butterflies, treetops. The result is that he keeps bumping into lampposts, tripping over uneven sidewalks, running into old ladies. Throughout the story adults chide Hans for his dreaminess and they warn him to pay attention, to get his head out of the clouds. But Hans does not listen and so at the end of the story he walks straight off a cliff and is smashed to death on the rocks below. Sweet dreams, boys and girls!
  • Into the Arms and Womb of God

    by Rex Hunt
    I am also reminded of the creative work of Miriam Therese Winter, a Catholic sister and theologian. In one of her many reflections she offers this: The God of history, The God of the Bible. is One who carries us in Her arms after carrying us in Her womb, breastfeeds us, nurtures us, teaches us how to walk, teaches us how to soar upward just as the eagle teaches its young to stretch their wings and fly, makes fruitful, brings to birth, clothes the lilies of the field, clothes Eve and Adam with garments newmade, clothes you and me with skin and flesh and a whole new level of meaning with the putting on of Christ.
  • It's Not for You to Know

    by John Jewell
    ["Every parent who has ever taken a long trip by automobile with a child knows the most common words spoken by children during those trips - sometimes within moments of departure. 'Are we __________ ?' (There yet?)...."]
  • Witnesses of the Resurrection

    by Beth Johnston
    "Joyce Rupp, Catholic sister and spiritual writer says in her book Pieces of Light: 'I am always assured by the stories from Scripture of all those women and men who had tough times, because God continually gives two messages over and over to those in darkness: "Do not fear" and "I am with you"..." and other illustrations
  • Footprints on the Earth

    by Barbara Lundblad
    ("Joseph is in love with Maria. I know this sounds strangely close to a Bible story, but it isn't one. These two young people live in a story told by Mary Gordon in her book Temporary Shelter. Joseph has loved Maria ever since the two of them were children, since the day his mother went to work for Maria's father..." and other quotes)
  • The In-Between Times

    by James McCrea
    ("You may have heard of Edwin Booth. In 1865, he was the most distinguished actor of his time, something like an Anthony Hopkins of the American stage. He was one of the greatest actors the world has ever seen. But he had a horrible life; it seemed as if he lived under a cloud...")
  • Risen Lord Society

    by Paul Nuechterlein
    I finally saw this past week one of last year’s highly rated movies, Dead Poet’s Society, a very powerful story which I’d like to share with you this morning. It is set in a New England preparatory school, probably sometime in the early 50’s. The students that we come to meet live under the oppressive forces of adults in their lives who do everything thing they can to make these students conform to their world. All the parents and teachers are portrayed as tyrants ruling over their young peoples’ lives. Into this stifling environment steps one adult who is a breath of fresh air to the boys. He is their new English Literature teacher, John Keating, played by Robin Williams. Mr. Keating captures the boys’ imaginations by teaching them in parables, by using vivid images and having them act out some of their lessons. He makes language come alive with power for them. Mr. Keating also provides some of the boys with the seed for a uplifting community in the midst of their prep school drudgery. He hearkens back to his days at Welton School, when he and some classmates would sneak out at night and go to an old Indian cave. There they would each take turns sharing poems that had meaning and power for them. A group of seven of Mr. Keating’s students grab hold of the idea and begin their own “Dead Poet’s Society.” But the new life these boys find in their little club ends in terrible tragedy...
  • You Shall Be My Witnesses

    by Ray Osborne
    ("I will never forget my first court room experience. I had been hired by a company as a store manager and part of my job was to represent the company in small claims court as needed. My first 'case' was a true eye-opener for me. I knew nothing about legalities. I was truly a 'fish out of water'...")
  • The In-Between Time

    by W. Maynard Pittendreigh
    ("I have a friend who is moving from one city to another. He has sold his home but he is building a new home, and it is not ready to move into -- yet. So he and his family are literally living in a motel room for the next two weeks. Now understand, this man has been through a lot of trials and tribulations...")
  • Why Are You Standing There?

    by Jeeva Sam
    ("It is a scene that has been repeated many times over in the world of movies. The famous last scene. The scene that brings the two, three or four hour adventure to a closure. You see a car pulling away from the driveway of the family home. You see a train start chugging away from the station...")
  • Why Are You Just Standing Around?

    by Bob Stump
    ("Back when the West was being settled, the major means of transportation was the stagecoach. You've seen persons riding in stagecoaches in western movies. What you might not know is that the stagecoach had three different kinds of tickets -- first class, second class, and third class. If you had a first class ticket, that meant you could remain seated during the entire trip no matter what happened...")

Other Resources from 2020

Other Resources from 2014 to 2016

Other Resources from the Archives

Children's Resources

The Classics