Sermon illustrations and a nice letter

By , 26 September 2008 6:40 pm

Another week flies by. I will treat physicists far more seriously when they can account for a) the missing 80% of the mass of the universe and b) why time goes by so much faster than it used to.

Young Simeon continues to do well and is now – six weeks after his birth – back to his birth weight. That is progress. Thanks for praying.

Searching for a sermon illustration this week I came across the following: “Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett received great recognition for his work — but not every one savored his accomplishments. Beckett’s marriage, in fact, was soured by his wife’s jealousy of his growing fame and success as a writer. One day in 1969 his wife Suzanne answered the telephone, listened for a moment, spoke briefly, and hung up. She then turned to Beckett and with a stricken look whispered, “What a catastrophe!” Was it a devastating personal tragedy? No, she had just learned that Beckett had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature!”

It is a fine illustration of how jealousy works and as it focuses on a man who was pretty anti-Christian, quite a satisfying one. But when I read the story something about it didn’t quite ring true and I did some homework. The reality it seems is thus: In October 1969, Beckett, on holiday in Tunis with Suzanne, learned he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Suzanne, who saw that her intensely private husband would be, from that moment forth, saddled with fame, called the award a ‘catastrophe’. On this basis, far from being an expression of jealousy, Suzanne’s comment seems to have been a sensitive statement of concern for her husband. (What is beyond doubt is that it seems to have been a fairly stable marriage, continuing until her death twenty years later.)

I suspect the sermon illustration is at fault; partly because I have heard all too many exaggerated statements from the pulpit, particularly where non-Christians are concerned. Exaggeration in the case of unbelievers seems legitimate. Hmm. Can I make a plea that if you do preach or write you check your sources? In the age of the World Wide Web and Google it’s not hard. Honestly is important.

Finally, yes I know the books aren’t doing very well and most people have never seen a copy let alone heard of them. But even in the darkness I get the odd ray of light. I had the following this week.

“Thank you. I just finished reading The Infinite Day tonight. I wrote you about 9 months ago. I read aloud all three of your books to my children, age 10 and 6, as a bedtime story. We spent some time discussing the characters, reading perhaps a half chapter per night. I tried to relate the moral decisions the characters face to biblical characters as well as our own temptations and opportunities to serve Christ. I never thought we would read a book series that we would enjoy as much as the Chronicles of Narnia, but I must say, you proved me wrong. I hope your works will become as timeless as those of C S Lewis.

“Although no eye can see, no ear can hear, nor any heart imagine what God has planned for us, I was brought to tears by those last pages of your work. I can not wait to see and experience even more than what you have imagined. The picture painted by your hand is an encouragement to me and my children to live every day for our Lord because of his great love for us. I know we will lean on the memories of your books for support when we are facing the trials of life. Thank you Chris. If not in this life, we look forward to giving you a big hug when we are together in ‘above space’.”

It makes it all worthwhile.

Have a good week

4 Responses to “Sermon illustrations and a nice letter”

  1. mv says:

    Chris – I heartily agree with your quoted reader. Although I have not yet shared your books with my kids, the picture (mural?) you’ve painted is, indeed, a tremendous encouragement to me.

    I do wish you better sales. The giving season is shortly upon us, and the complete set would make a great Christmas present for friends and family. Hmmm… Are any other fans considering giving these treasures this year?

  2. Catherine Brislee says:

    What a wonderful letter to receive! And please remember, Chris, that for every reader who actually writes to you, there will be hundreds who read your books and don’t contact you. You can’t possibly know how many people you have helped and encouraged.

    And yes, Christmas – great idea!

  3. Terry says:


    Yes, I am hoping to give a couple of sets as gifts. I appreciate the reminder – I need to follow up with my local bookstore on ordering.


    I suppose there are classics out there that took time to reach wide recognition, and hopefully this is one of them. I appreciate the balance with which you approach the book sales. In your blog, at least, other issues of life weigh more heavily with you, and that’s as it should be. It must be a challenge to invest that kind of time into a project and not see the results you were hoping for, at least not yet.

    Thanks, too, for the reminder on accuracy in the stories and information we relate – that was significant for me this week. Honesty and integrity have no limits, be the issue large or small. And I suspect that my passion for truth isn’t always what it could be. It really boils down to how much I love God, I think. Loving God means loving all He loves, and hating all He hates. And I suppose He hates the little indiscretionary lies as much as the blatant ones.

    Take care,


  4. Mark Walley says:

    Other partially made up illustrations (I think I started writing about some on my blog until I realised I was referencing snopes every time): That one about the space pen… and uh, the others one I can’t remember.

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