Super Bowl Commercial Sunday
That’s one of the ads from our very first national campaign for the United Methodist Church. I really liked that ad and all the others we’ve put together as a denomination. Advertising has been around forever; maybe not to the extent that it is today, but it’s always been there even if it was just word of mouth. So, what’s the purpose of advertising?
Some say advertising isn’t really about attracting new customers but “to ensure that the target audience remains familiar with the brand.” To be honest, I’m no sure about that definition. The United Methodist ad we saw wasn’t designed to ensure people were familiar with our brand, it was a way of inviting people to our churches and to engage in the community of faith with us.
The more reasonable understanding of advertising is about market share, expanding the customer base, recognition of the brand and to promote improvements, developments or changes to the product.
As Christians, you might be asking, “Why should we concern ourselves with what the advertisers are saying?” Well, I think it’s because we are bombarded on all sides, in every medium with advertisements. Some good. Some bad. Some very destructive in their message and some completely opposite of our basic beliefs. There are even some that could lead us from our beliefs like the Atheist Bus Sign Campaign in Ft. Worth.
Advertising and the psychology that goes into making these advertisements is big, big business. The advertising industry IS trying to influence us and our decision making processes. So, I think we need to engage that process every now and then and look at what the world is saying and compare it to what Scripture says. Not all of what is being said is destructive. Nor is it all Constructive either.
The Super Bowl is the most watched program in the world. A 30 second commercial slot cost $3 million dollars, not to mention the cost of creating the commercial, which one site says costs between $250,000 and $400,000 for a National Spot. Local commercials are generally much cheaper. But still that’s a ton of money. We need to look at what they are saying. That’s our focus today.
Let’s look at the passage for this morning. A single verse. John 8:12 (NRSV) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
You know by now that I’m pretty much an optimist in my point of view. I tend to look for the good in everything and in everybody. And I’m a dyed in the wool Wesleyan. The more I look around, the more I see God’s Grace in the world, especially the Prevenient Grace of God, that Nudging Grace that we’re not even aware of most of the time. God’s Grace is everywhere. It’s working in our lives and the lives of those around us. And I believe God is trying to break into our lives with the Good News of Jesus to overcome the darkness that we’ve grown used to living in.
God wants our lives filled with light, the light of Christ. And God wants us to be reflections of that light for the rest of the world; to point where the light is and also to be aware of where it is not. It was definitely NOT in some of the Super Bowl Commercials.
A. I’d have to say that for the most part, most of the commercials weren’t all that bad. They were engaging, funny, some of them were thought provoking like the whole tribute to Detroit and the autoworkers that singer Eminem and Chrysler did. Some were basically innocuous attempts to persuade us to purchase their product like the Chevy Commercials. WATCH
Even though I actually thought those were pretty funny, a Chevy won’t solve all of our problems or save the world. The advertisers did make the brand recognizable and memorable. However, all commercials have one basic characteristic and purpose and that’s to tempt us. They tempt us to be dissatisfied with what we have and to desire something else. That’s not all bad. Sometimes we need to be dissatisfied with who we are and seek to become the people God calls us to be. But that’s more of a calling and not a temptation.
Most commercials tempt us to become dissatisfied and to think that our self-image can be improved or enhanced simply by using their product. At least that’s the implication. In a sense these types of commercials stand against the 10th commandment, “Thou shall not covet.” They pretty much tell us to covet everything, especially whatever it is they’re selling.
The beer commercials really play on the theme of dissatisfaction all the time. You will be more appealing if you drink a certain beer. Or they imply that you’re a complete loser or a dolt when you don’t drink that particular brand of beer. And they portray everyone else but you, the loser, as being cool because of the brand of beer their drinking. So, the message is, unless you drink such and such beer, you’re a loser.
That’s not what Scripture says about us at all. Scripture is clear, “You are created in the image of God.” That’s what Genesis tells us. Genesis 1:27 (NRSV) So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. And then in verse 31 we’re told
Genesis 1:31 (NRSV) God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Nothing else in creation rated that very good. It is only said about us. And if God says You are very good; if God says you are created in His image, well, that’s enough for me and it gives me the strength to no succumb to the some of the temptations of advertising.
B. You may not know this but for the last couple of years, Doritos has sponsored a “Crash the Super Bowl” Contest and have solicited commercials from amateurs. Some have been pretty funny. Some have bordered on creepy. Some make it and some don’t. They don’t really tempt us or challenge us, they really only keep the brand name in front of people so the next time you’re at the store looking for snacks Doritos will pop into your head before some other chip. WATCH
Here’s two that made it this year, plus and one that was a runner up but wasn’t aired; I found it on Youtube. Notice that all of these commercials deal with various levels of temptation, while at the same time not tempting us just lifting the product.
Actually thought the last one, the one that didn’t air, was the best one of the bunch. The first one was a little creepy and the guy with the dog, I think, got what he deserved. And we know Doritos won’t save us from Temptation. Scripture’s clear about that. The only one who can help us in time of temptation is Christ Jesus himself.
1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us: No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
And in Hebrews 4:14-16 we read: Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Bottom line, Jesus can help us overcome temptation. By trusting in Him we won’t have to deal with buyer’s remorse or even worse, the guilt of Sinner’s Remorse.
II. TRANSFORMED NOT CONFORMED:
A. Did you notice that there were a whole lot more car commercials this year than in the past? Either it has been a good year for car sales or they all decided to really do a big push during the most influential commercial slots possible. There were a number of them that stuck out. I’ll show my favorite later, but there were three of the car commercials which I think dealt with a very important passage of Scripture and one of the basic teaching of living the Christian life. WATCH.
You all know that my thought processes are a little weird at times. I’ve always loved Emily Dickinson and subscribe to her way of thinking when she wrote: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.” So, I have that bent part of my brain that makes connections no one else sees. You might roll your eyes a little but believe it or not when I saw that last commercial the passage of Scripture I thought of was Romans 12:1-2 (NRSV). “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In a sense, that what these commercials are saying, be different, stand out from the crowd, don’t conform to the world. Or as one of them put it drive these kinds of cars not one of the cookie cutter models.
You and I are called to live a different lifestyle. We’re called to live a life that reflects the light of Christ. We’re called to live a lifestyle that reflects the Grace of God and the saving work of Jesus in all that we do. We’re called to bring Glory to God through Christ by living IN this world but living a life that reflects another world, the Kingdom of God.
III. PREVENIENT GRACE :
A. It’s hard to live the life of discipleship. But we have one thing going for us and that’s God’s Grace and specifically God’s Prevenient Grace. It’s sort of like this Cars.com commercial. WATCH
That commercial really captured some of the flavor of God’s Prevenient Grace. You see, God goes before us in all that we do. If we look, if we trust God, if we follow, our lives will be like the children of Israel as they fled Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. God went before them as a Cloud of smoke in the day and a pillar of fire at night. What that means for us, is that there is no place we can go that God hasn’t already been. There is nothing that we can do that God hasn’t already made plans for.
That doesn’t mean that God is pulling our strings, it just means that God knows and has planned a way out of or through every circumstance in our lives. We choose our own path but God has already been there before us. If it’s rocky and treacherous, God will try to warn us. If we ignore the warning and choose that path then God will be with us.
In Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV) God said: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Ultimately it’s our choice. But like any parent, God wants the best for us and has planned and prepared the best for us.
A. Unfortunately, like errant children, we don’t always follow those plans. Sometimes we don’t even want to hear those plans. Instead we fool ourselves by listening to the promises of others or we’ve been promised power and abilities like Superman, far beyond our human abilities. You can see some of those promises in my two favorite commercials. WATCH
B. Unfortunately those promises are false. And we only fool ourselves when we think otherwise. The sad thing is we delude ourselves quite often. As a result we live with the consequences. There were three of the commercials which I thought spoke very well about our human condition. WATCH
The human condition is that we are a fallen people. We have all sinned and separated ourselves from God and one another. I think these commercials represent what life on our own is like. When we try to control everything in our lives we wind up hurting people, especially the people we love. The truth is we can’t do it on our own, no matter what kind of tires we have. All that really happens is that we alienate ourselves from God and each other. The truth is, we ARE the border guards of our lives. Generally speaking, we are the ones who cast the first stone and separate ourselves form each other.
James 1:14-17 (NRSV) tells us and warns us: One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.
To often we allow our rules of life, the rules we’ve made up, rules which we’ve put in place to keep us separated, we allow these rules to override our common sense. We use Scriptural law as a weapon to beat each other up and divide God’s Kingdom. We forget the Grace Christ brought and bought with his life and we let the pettiness of our differences keep us separated when, in truth, we are all God’s children. We think differently and believe differently but we are all God’s Children created in God’s Image. Jesus came for all of us. He came to fulfill the law and to break down barriers.
Galatians 3:26-29 (NRSV) Paul reminds us: In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
V. LIVE THE FAITH:
A. I think the best commercial, the one with the best Christian message of all was one which reflected the Golden Rule in a very positive manner. It was the Bridgestone Tire commercial with the Beaver. WATCH
It’s amazing what can be said in 15 seconds or 11 words isn’t it. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Or the simple street version: “What goes down, comes around.” What we do, how we live and especially how we live out our faith can have a huge impact on the world.
We can see this being lived out in Tehrir Square right now. Friday is the Muslim Sabbath. A week ago Friday, shortly after the protests began, the Muslim community which gathered in protest wanted to worship and pray. However, there was the very real threat of attack by Mubarak’s troops. It had happened before.
Coptic Christians or members of what we might call the Egyptian Orthodox Church only make up about 10% of the Egyptian population. They are the minority but that day Coptic Christians gathered around the Muslims and facing outward, formed a protective barrier while they worship prayed. Christians protecting Muslims in worship in a country where they barely tolerate each other.
Then on Sunday those same Muslims surrounded the Coptic Christians and protected them as they held Mass and worshipped and prayed. This is huge. This is how we should be treating one another.
This is what the Golden Rule is all about. Even the Koran. I may be taking these out of context, I don’t know the Koran, but it says in Al-Ma’idah 5:32: “[If] anyone slays a human being-unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind. […]
And in Al Hujurat, 49:13: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
James 1:17 reminds us that Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
There is no more perfect gift that can be given to God and another human being than unselfishly standing up for what it right and good and holy.
Advertising is an incredibly effective tool for any business, especially the business of God’s Kingdom. Be the best billboard, the best commercial, the best advertisement for Jesus that you can possibly be. Let the Light of Christ, who is the light of the world shine in you and through you.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.