Truth in Advertising & the Gospel
Sometimes you strike gold (not literally speaking of course). You know, when you come upon that great find. For me, that usually happens as I meander through a discount department store and stumble upon the, “As Seen On TV” section. A whole section of the store dedicated to nothing but those miracle items advertised on TV as “too good to be true”. I don’t know about you, but the skeptic in me comes out every time a product is advertised to do amazing things. So, the As Seen On TV section is my chance to see if all the hype about a product is true.
From experience we learn that not everything is cracked up to be what it claims to be. So most of the time I remain unconvinced. Have you had your share of disappointment where your hopes and dreams of an outlandish claim are crushed when the advertised product doesn't work as promised? I am being overly dramatic, for sure. Not a big deal if the perfect pancake flipper is a flop.
Which brings me to the outlandish claims of the Gospel. The Bible is full of them. From prostitutes to criminals, and even leapers entering the Kingdom of God. Even ahead of, good and worthy people! The poor filled and the rich sent away empty, the guilty freed, those in great debt, forgiven. What’s up with that?
The gospel reveals that through the life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see that grace unfold
Sadly, many people believe that the gospel is too good to be true. We, as the church, have our work cut out for us. The fact is, we have gotten too comfortable with our faith. We have watered down Jesus’ words or rationalized them away, because if we are truly honest with ourselves, Jesus’ words make us uncomfortable. Church has become our business and not people!
A huddled church focused on itself is no way to advertise the gospel. The church was never intended to shelter us from the world, but to be a place of discipleship. Discipleship that equips and empowers the people of God to fulfill the words of Jesus:
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah[n] is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses[o] of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:45-49
How might we live out these words? First and foremost we must ask and seek this power from on high and be willing to move in some way beyond the walls of our sanctuary and beyond Sunday, into Monday and Tuesday and the rest of days of the week where people find themselves in need of grace. To use an advertising term, this is where we “pitch the product” or as Jesus would say ”be witnesses”. Never saw yourself pitchman/woman? You are!
May the church advertise the grace of God by witnessing a radical hospitality to others and by offering a safe place for the broken, disenfranchised and wayward to find a blessing beyond belief in Jesus Christ!
Grace and peace,
THE WAITING GAME AND THE LIFE OF FAITH
Let’s admit it most of us don’t like to wait. What we want we want right now. The days when delayed gratification was viewed as a virtue has long past us by. The coming of the credit card has put the proverbial nail in the coffin of delayed gratification.
The act of waiting is excruciating. Childhood memories of the sleepless nights before Christmas come to mind. Oh the wait! The retail business takes full advantage of our lack of patience when it comes to waiting. Displays in stores are months ahead of the actual season. Last month I went out thinking I would pick up a few Halloween decorations for the front of the parsonage only to find Christmas decorations! All that was left of Halloween decorations were leftovers exiled to isles in the back of the store. Halloween is still three weeks away and I thought I would find plenty of items- silly me!
When it comes to Christmas, even people in the church don’t like to wait. Many times a frustrated parishioner has said, “Why can’t we sing Christmas carols in worship before Christmas?” Fact is, we can and we do, just not to the extent it is promoted in the secular culture. The Church competes with retailers who pipe through the beloved carols into the hallowed walls of superstores way before their time. Shoppers start hearing these tunes around November 1st almost two months before Christmas! Is this a sign that the secular culture has more religious devotion than the people of faith? I don’t think so. Rather, the hopeful effect is to get us into a spending frenzy. Christmas is coming don’t wait - spend now. Retailers can’t wait to pull the dollars out of our wallets!
Before Christmas arrives there is a season called Advent which literally means “coming”. Advent is a season of preparation for the people of faith before the celebration of Christmas. During Advent the Church waits. Why? Simple. Waiting is a fundamental spiritual practice. To wait is to be steeped in prayer. To wait is to be immersed in the words of scripture as it foretells the birth, ministry, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To wait is to be prepared. Advent is an active time of faith where God’s people listen deeply to another voice calling them. The voice of Hebrew prophets like of Isaiah, and Micah, John the Baptist, the Angel Gabriel, and Mary speak to us about God’s coming. Advent sets Christmas in its proper place, time and context which is rooted in the faithfulness and God’s promise.
We live in a world of instant gratification. Waiting is too passive and of little value in the world of merchandizing. When it comes to faith, however, waiting is anything but passive. Waiting is a time of active faith. Let us not rush into Christmas because the culture demands it of us. After the tree is down and the decorations packed away, our reward will be a shallow celebration with not much lasting joy.
So don’t be pushed into Christmas. Wait. Listen. Be prepared. Christ is coming!
Grace & peace,