Sermon Illustrations

Order of the Wooden Cross! (10.11.05--Sacrifice!--1 Chronicles 21:22-24)

Recently I was asked this question: “What have you sacrificed lately in light of all the sorrow, desolation and bloodshed that have gripped the world?” It was a challenge from a friend of mine who regularly gives to charitable causes and has always considered it his personal task to make others aware of opportunities to do and to give to others. I cited the gifts that I make possible through my church. I also cited a check that I recently sent to a charity that focuses on rebuilding houses that have been destroyed in natural disasters. These, along with my regular gifts to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and several pro-life organizations, I felt well-qualified me as one who “sacrifices.”

Then he posed this question: “What did these gifts replace in your life?” I thought for a moment and answered, “I don’t know. They probably haven’t really replaced anything.” “Then,” he frowned, “you have not sacrificed at all. While you have truly given, you have not sacrificed.”

During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances. He couldn’t disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable. After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down for their country. For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, “I gave gold for iron, 18l3.” The response was overwhelming. Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry. The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross. Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see. (Lynn Jost)

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