Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

NY Rapper and Florida Grandma Connect Through the Power of Words

It started with the word "phat."

Aspiring rapper and producer Spencer Sleyon, an African-American 22 year old from Harlem, was taken aback when his opponent on the mobile app Words with Friends played "phat" on her turn. His surprise was warranted, given that "phat" is 90s hip-hop slang, and his opponent was an 81-year-old white woman named Rosalind Guttman.

"From day one I knew I was playing an old white woman," Sleyon said. Nevertheless, he persisted. Over the summer of 2016, Sleyon and Guttman played more than 300 games of Words with Friends together. A chance meeting turned into a familiar rivalry, and eventually, into a friendship.

Though their pairing was initiated through a love of words, their real life encounter was facilitated through a practitioner of the Word. While Sleyon told his friend Hannah Butler about his budding friendship with Guttman, Hannah's mom Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church in Manhattan, overheard. "I found it such a compelling story," Butler later recalled.

Inspired, Rev. Butler began scheming to orchestrate a meeting. After asking Sleyon to put her in touch with Guttman online, Rev. Butler traveled with Sleyon down to Florida to meet his Words with Friends friend face-to-face.

The three of them met in the lobby of a Palm Beach hotel, chatting like old friends.
"We're living in a country divided by fear of the other, and people are longing for ways to connect," Butler said. "This story has two unlikely people becoming friends. It's very beautiful and hopeful."

Potential Preaching Angles: Bridging generations is possible when we focus on the Word. The power of friendship can make us more Christ-like. Passionate people from diverse backgrounds can bond when there's common ground.

Related Sermon Illustrations

Researchers Struggle to Define Friendship

The New York Times recently featured an article exploring our current confusion about friendship. "Ask people to define friendship—even [experts who research friendship]—and ...

[Read More]

When the Supremes Socialize

In an article having to do with the socializing of Supreme Court justices Justice Scalia shared some of his wisdom: Ruth Bader Ginsburg fondly recalled her closest friend on the court, ...

[Read More]