Sermon illustrations (maybe) from a book on crime

Michael Connelly writes the best crime fiction of anyone. His “Lincoln Lawyer” series, about Mickey Haller, and the detective series of Harry Bosch, are as good as they come.  But before he began a career as a novelist, he was a crime reporter for two major newspapers.  In his book “Crime Beat,” he tells of those early years of covering the dark underside of Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles. 

I’ve chosen three segments from “Crime Beat” as excellent jumping off places for sermons or articles or essays.

 It all comes down to moments.

Connelly’s fascination with detectives started with a single moment.  He was 16, on his way home from his shift as a hotel dish washer in Fort Lauderdale. The streets were deserted, with no person in sight, and when the red light caught him he thought of running it.  Before doing that, he looked both ways. And that’s when he saw something.

A man was running on the sidewalk, full bore toward the beach.  He was large, with bushy hair to his shoulders, wearing blue jeans and a lumberjack shirt.  As young Connelly watched, he stripped off his shirt, bundled it around something and stuffed it into a hedge. Then, he kept running.

Connelly made a U-turn and followed the man slowly.  He watched as the man ducked into a bar.  Then, he turned around and drove back to the spot where the man had stuffed the bundle into the hedge.  Inside the shirt was a gun.  He put it back, and called his dad.

His father told him to come pick him up, and they called the cops.  Fifteen minutes later, they were standing at the hedge with two cop cars.  There had been a robbery nearby. The victim was shot.

Connelly and his father spent four hours with the team of detectives that night, being questioned, looking at photos, and trying to pick someone out of a lineup.  One detective was very rough and kept insisting Connelly saw the culprit in the lineup but was afraid to finger him.  “I was never able to convince him,” said Connelly “that the guy was not there.”

They never caught the perpetrator.

After that, Connelly says, he started reading the paper.  He was hooked. He read every true-crime book he could get his hands on.

Just so quickly do lives turn around, influenced by a single incident which occurred without warning.

It all comes down to moments.

(I’m fascinated by “moments” when movements got started.  On occasion, I’ve asked the founders to tell me the very first moment when they knew this was what God wanted them to do. It’s worth looking into further if you the reader are so inclined.)

One team of cops who work undercover with a number of different police agencies never see the fruit of their labors.

“We’re bricklayers,” they say.  Connelly says these people help build the cases, put the foundations in place. But they usually are not around when the building is finished. They get no credit or publicity and the public is never aware they exist.

Every kingdom ministry–particularly, the Lord’s churches–needs background people who are bricklayers. Scripture calls them servants. Bondslaves, even.

“I planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase,” said the Apostle Paul.  There is no harvest without someone planting and cultivating.  Those who glorify only the harvesters are missing one of the great truths in Scripture.

A commission on crime in Miami convened to hear from a witness who had been a major supplier of narcotics in New York City.

The man sat at a table before a microphone, wearing a black hood over his head.  He spoke of the inner workings of organized crime.

At the conclusion of his report, a commissioner leaned into a microphone and asked the bad guy what he thought law enforcement was doing wrong.  “How come organized crime still flourished despite all the task forces, commissions, police agencies, and money spent to combat it?”

The witness said, “You people have to start communicating.  Police have to cooperate with each other.  It’s the only way.

Connelly says, “Crime does not stop at the county line. There are no boundaries.  So the only real hope of law enforcement on any level is cooperation.”

It’s called networking, and it explains why the crime-riddled lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans had a church on every street corner but was still plagued by problems of every kind imaginable before Hurricane Katrina flooded the area and made much of it uninhabitable.  Each church was independent.  There was no cooperation.

Let us work together, Christians. Let us cooperate with one another, churches.


1 thought on “Sermon illustrations (maybe) from a book on crime

  1. I’ve greatly enjoyed your writing and sermons in Disciples magazine. If ever in Jasper Alabama give me a call at 205/275-4886. I want you to speak at our church near Jasper (Dutton Hill Baptist).

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