Sermon Illustration: God and the Dog Collar
Here is an opening illustration I used recently to preach a sermon on Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8. The point of the sermon was to help encourage my congregation to engage the lost anywhere and anytime. If you have a dog, preacher, perhaps you can use something similar.
You’ve heard me talk about the Pearson family dog Eddie. Eddie is a wonderful dog, but during this first year of residence at the Pearson home he has single-handedly destroyed every piece of furniture and carpet in our bedroom and den. We have an invisible fence that works wonders. We can let him out and trust he will stay in the boundaries of our property. I love it and highly recommend it. The downside to an invisible fence, however, is that unless you are wearing the collar that goes with the fence, you don’t feel a thing. So, Eddie can’t get out. But it doesn’t prevent other animals and critters from getting in. This means that often – at night and when we are gone for extended periods during the day – we leave Eddie inside. . . .to tear up everything his little puppy teeth feel like chewing.
We recently were given, by some friends, a training collar. It doesn’t come with an invisible fence. No. It comes with a remote. It has three levels. A level that makes a noise. A level that vibrates. And my personal favorite – a level that shocks. So, when I see Eddie going toward a delicious looking piece of fine furniture – I can press the button on the remote and let him know that’s not a good idea. If I am around and watching, and he begins to do something he shouldn’t do, instead of just giving him the word “no,” I also let him know I mean it from across the room. It’s wonderful. We are just now beginning to try this on our beloved puppy.
It works on children too. . . just kidding. . . sort of. 🙂
This has caused me to wonder: why doesn’t God do that? Not necessarily when I am about to sin. More often than not, I know when I am sinning or about to. I mean like, why doesn’t God give me a gentle buzz on the neck when an opportunity to share Him with someone is right in front of me? Why not a gentle shock when someone’s open to talk about spiritual things? Why not a gentle nudge when it’s okay to say the “J” word? It would seem to take away a lot of stress and frustration and guilt and fear if he would just zap us when an opportunity to engage was right in front of us.
I think the reason why He doesn’t is two-fold. First, the Father wants us to be on mission with Him all the time. Constantly. Not putting pressure on ourselves to “seal the deal,” but to always assume He is working and that it’s no accident the people He has put in and around our lives are there. But I also think He doesn’t give us a divine zap is because He really does want a relationship with us. Anytime and anywhere means we are walking with Him, seeking Him, listening to Him, talking with Him – leaning in to what He is saying and doing and leading.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “The world is crowded with God. God walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”**
The world is indeed crowded with God. Engaging the whole person with the whole gospel anywhere and anytime is coming and remaining awake to this reality. . . seeking to join Him in what He is already doing in the world.
**I found this quote in the “Praying Incognito” chapter from Winn Collier’s book Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church.