Analogies and Illustrations

by | Apr 18, 2024 | Uncategorized

Storytellers throughout history have used analogies and illustrations to draw in their audiences and foster deeper understanding and greater thought about the topics they share. Comparative similarity allows listeners to gain a greater understanding of the delivered message by connecting a familiar issue to the piece. Effective analogies and illustrations employ examples that are integral to the culture and surroundings of the listeners.

Jesus Christ was regarded among the greatest teachers. Our Lord was well-versed in the use of these communication tools in his messages. The Holy Scriptures are chock full of examples. He includes references to animals, foods, plants, and practices of the primitive agrarian culture familiar to the people of that time and place in Galilee and the surrounding areas. These connections in his teachings helped his followers gain a pronounced understanding of his message by identifying personally with them.

Although his storytelling connected to life as his contemporaries understood it, sometimes those analogies tended to lose their relevance over time. Teachings over two thousand years ago may have been spot on for the immediate audience, but is the context lost for an audience in a different setting and time– especially today?

This coming Sunday, the church commemorates “Good Shepherd Sunday.” In the Gospel reading assigned for the day, Jesus proclaims, “I am the Good Shepherd.” His reference to shepherding was probably quite evident when he explained how he offered loyalty, protection, and care since his listeners were intimately involved with sheep herding as a prominent vocation in the region. But, do we appreciate the same analogy today?

In November 2022, I was blessed to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While traveling on a highway outside of Bethlehem one morning, our group unexpectedly spied a Palestinian shepherd herding his flock in the nearby distance. The sight of one of the oldest professions still practiced in the region gave me reassurance that the Good Shepherd analogy probably still resonated in that region. But I questioned whether our appreciation of our Lord’s message penetrates as strongly in our industrialized, suburban/urban settings in our world today.

I also pondered whether the sheep-herding vocation active in the Holy Land since before the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry is still present in our nation. According to the American Sheep Industry Association, the answer is yes. As of January 2024, there were more than five million head of sheep in the United States, with over 88,000 sheep farms and ranches. Most are located in Texas and other western states, but New York is home to 86,000 sheep and lambs. Maybe the Good Shepherd analogy still resonates in those communities.

Others in more urban/suburban settings may need some further analogies and illustrations to bolster the message of Jesus. That’s the job of preachers this Sunday. Why not make the connection and illustrate your interest in the loyalty, love, and protection Jesus offers us? Join us for worship this Sunday, April 21, 2024, at 9:30 AM at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 36 E. John Street, Lindenhurst. A worship bulletin is attached.

Pastor Marc