From pulpit to big screen

Ten years ago when Jeffrey Schallert wrote the sermon that he titled “The Advent Fairy Tale,” he never imagined it would one day be turned into a feature film. Schallert, pastor at St. James, Cambridge/St. John, Fort Atkinson, Wis., was merely writing one of his “storytelling sermons,” popular with members of all ages.

As Schallert notes, “Usually you preach the sermon, say your ‘Amen,’ and get to work on next week’s sermon. But I was rather fond of this one, and so I kept coming back to it again and again.” Over the years, “The Advent Fairy Tale” was shared during a chapel devotion for students at St. Paul, Fort Atkinson; on a local Lutheran radio program; and in bulletin inserts for Schallert’s churches.

A friend of Schallert’s passed the bulletin inserts on to Steven Zambo, president of Salty Earth Pictures and a member of St. John, Newville, Wis. Zambo was captivated by the story, which is a creative parallel to God’s plan of salvation carried out through his Son, Jesus. Zambo went on to write and direct the screenplay based on Schallert’s sermon. Now titled The Return, the film was released for distribution in November.

“I loved the ‘once upon a time’ aspect to this story,” says Zambo. “The fantasy world is so popular today. It’s an approach of storytelling that crosses ages and cultures. We as Christians can use stories like this to reach people of faith and unbelievers as well.”

It’s the kind of story that Salty Earth Pictures exists to create. The production company focuses on sharing stories that will, as its mission statement explains, “challenge minds, lighten hearts, and strengthen souls.”

Schallert has enjoyed watching the journey his story has taken from pulpit to big screen. He notes, “I hope viewers appreciate anew the poignant beauty of the love of Christ and the power that love has to make us better people.”

To learn more or to purchase The Return, visit



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Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

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