On finding illustrations

When Martin Luther was teaching his students about preaching he taught them to seek their illustrations not in the poetic and esoteric, but in the ordinary world all about them.  As good students of preaching they were never off duty, but should constantly be noting the presence of God in the most humble events of everyday life around about them.

Having just completed a batch of scripts for BBC’s Pause for Thought, I’m more aware of this than ever.  Since starting that particular job I constantly note down the things I see around me, like an artist making reference sketches in his sketch book. Some never get used, some sit there for months until their time comes, and others get incorporated into other things.

 Whether they get used or not, they have honed what I call the magpie-instinct.  Magpies, we are told, collect shiny things and put them in their nests. The reasons are not clear, although it may be that they are hoping their displays of ‘bling’ will attract a mate!

Preachers who develop the instinct are presumably not seeking the same effect, but anything they can do make their sermons sparkle and reflect the real and puzzling world around about them is surely a good thing.