My Robe or Yours?

In Sermon Illustrations by Rachel Schultz

My Robe or Yours?

By Marvin Wray

Photo: Kathy Wynn

I seem to be one of those people who always have experiences that lead to great sermon illustrations. I guess it helps, since I am a preacher, but sometimes I wish that God would just send me some emails!

I forget the exact date, but it was in February of 2003. I had flown up to Seattle in order to visit my parents who live on the Olympic Peninsula. The airports were on an elevated security alert because of the Muslim holy period of Ramadan and specific threats that had been made.

Knowing this I left for the airport in Seattle early so I would have plenty of time to navigate the security check. I returned my car, took the shuttle and entered one of the eight security lines. As I approached the TSA attendant I put my computer in one container, my bag followed that through, and then I placed my belt, shoes, and jacket in the last container.

I got my computer and my bag and had time to organize them while I waited for the other items. Finally the TSA employee asked me if I had anything sharp in my jacket. I assured her that there was nothing and then she said, “Yes you do. You have a razor blade in your jacket.” I reassured her that there was nothing of the kind there and then I was aware of someone at my side. I turned to see three uniformed police officers and an FBI agent right there. One of the police officers “invited” me to come with him. He escorted me over to a desk with a chair and told me to “sit here and do not move.”

Well, I was just a bit confused at this point. I knew that razor blades were the weapons of choice on 9/11, but I also knew that I was no terrorist! At this point the police officer in charge came over to the desk, having left one of the other officers to “keep me company,” and informed me that I was under arrest and was being charged with carrying a concealed weapon through airport security. Hello…

They brought my jacket, shoes and belt over and began to question me about the jacket. “Where did you get it?  How long have you had it?” I had purchased it in San Francisco more than twenty years before while we were on furlough from mission service in Hong Kong.

“Let’s see your identification. Where do you live? What kind of work do you do?” I told them I was a minister. That didn’t seem to help. They wanted to know where I ministered. I told them I was with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and even showed them my credentials. One of the officers said, “I knew several Seventh-day Adventists in Tillamook, Oregon. They were nice people.” I was very glad that he had met some nice ones!

They grilled me for about forty-five minutes and then asked if they could open up the seam of the leather jacket. Obviously, I was anxious for them to do that. In fact I said, “I bet you’re not going to find a razor blade, but rather some kind of reinforcement that is about the same size.” The lady who ran the x-ray machine said, “Save your money. It’s a razor blade. I saw it.”

So, they opened it up. And do you know what it was? It was a razor blade! Oh brother! By this time, however, they had begun to soften their approach to me somewhat. They determined that the seam had never been opened before and concluded that the razor blade was left in the corner seam when the jacket was made. I can’t tell you how many times that jacket had passed through security checks before.

Finally they determined they would not proceed with the arrest. I asked them what the results would be from this point on. They told me that there would be a permanent record of the arrest along with the assumed explanation, but that if anything of a similar nature occurred in the future there would be a record of this event.

Then they had to call agents from United Airlines to see if they were willing to let me continue with my flight. They agreed that if the police were releasing me that I could fly. I had a stop over in Portland and as I deplaned I was aware of two security agents who followed me everywhere I went for the next two hours. Even when I exited the rest room stall I found them patiently waiting.

The illustration is this: One day we are going to go through a security checkpoint much more strict than this one. My problem is that I have material that is now allowed into the Kingdom. It is part of the very fabric of my life. But, just when my accuser steps up to keep me from going through, my very own Special Agent steps up and makes me an offer. “My robe, or your jacket? Which do you want to have tested?”

Yes, there is a record of my concealed wrongs that have been passed through the scanner, but that record has been buried and no one will ever find it to use it against me.

Praise God for the saving offer of His robe of righteousness!

Submitted by Marvin Wray. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.