Leap of Faith (John 8:12)

By | February 10, 2013



     This morning is Super Bowl commercial Sunday, we’re going to be looking at what our culture says through the Super Bowl commercials as juxtaposed with what Scripture says. By using of these commercials I am not endorsing any of these products. And the opinion expressed is strictly mine.

     First thing I want to do is look at two passages of Scripture. John 8:12 (NRSV)

[12] 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.”

Mark 4:33-34 (NRSV)

[33] With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it;

[34] he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

     I picked those two passages for today because one of our purposes as Disciples is to continue to walk in the light of Christ. And many of the commercials we will be looking at are basically parables that need to be unraveled or deconstructed to make sense of them.

     The first commercial I want to look at is one many of you, especially if you’re over 40, don’t and won’t understand. Frankly, I don’t get the allure except for the beat of the music.

     Psy is a South Korean, singer, songwriter, rapper, dancer and record producer who is known internationally for his hit single Gangnam Style. On Dec 21, 2012 his music video topped one billion views on YouTube. He has been recognized by media as the “King of YouTube” and the “Viral Star of 2012.” Why did I start with this video? Because you may not know who he is but your children and grandchildren do. He is a pop culture icon.

     Psy literally has an unlimited global reach. That’s the power of the internet. That’s the power of our modern culture. And because of that power we have to understand it and proclaim the message of and Good News of Jesus through the language of the current culture because that culture has a tremendous influence on us, on how we think, what we buy and sometimes even what we believe.

     For example, take the Church of Scientology Super Bowl Ad.

     This is a very engaging and inviting commercial, it draws us in with words like curious, seekers, rebel, free thinkers, non-conformity and knowledge. Their stinger line says “The one thing that’s true is what’s true for you.” That’s a great line. Unfortunately, as a Christian, I can’t believe that because in John 14:6 (NRSV) Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

     If Jesus is the Truth made flesh then he is the one thing that is true, not what I think or what I believe is true for me. Jesus IS The Truth. Does that mean we can’t be curious and seek knowledge and insight? Does it mean we can’t be rebels and non-conformists? No. Christians, by the very nature of surrendering their lives to Christ become rebels and non-conformists because we’ve chosen to be the Abnormal People; we’ve chosen to live by the Way of Jesus and not the Way of the world.

     The way of the world is well represented in the commercials from the Super Bowl. Some of which I wouldn’t, shouldn’t or couldn’t show in church even if I wanted to because they pushed to the very edge of what is acceptable. Some of those we never saw.

     And even of those we did see, there were a couple which raised eyebrows and caused an uproar concerning racism. The first was the Volkswagen commercial where the one guy spoke in a Jamaican accent the whole time. And the second was the Coke Chase commercial. They may have been in bad taste but I think the reaction to them really shows how easily it is for us to be offended. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should do everything to avoid racial and ethnic stereotypes. We should Do No Harm and Do Good as Bishop Rueben Job says, If anything, I thought the commercials were trying to be multi-culturally inclusive, not racist.


     A. Let’s look at a couple of the Car Commercials WATCH (KIA, Audi, Rav4)

     I could have added a couple of more like the Hyundai Epic Play Day but those three kind of sum up all of the others. The underlying message here isn’t just that you’re buying a new car, you’re buying something that will help you solve your problems and help get you out of a jam or make you more popular and grant your every wish. Unfortunately those promises are empty promises which leave us unfulfilled, empty and stuck with a 36 to 60 month car payment.

1 John 2:15-17 (NRSV)
[15] Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world;
[16] for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.
[17] And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

     John’s not saying that these things are evil because they’re not. But if we become obsessed with buying and having these things then we will become distracted from our true purpose of loving & serving God and making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

     B. Not all car commercials had a negative connotation there were a couple which I thought had really good and even Biblical Messages. WATCH (Hyundai & Jeep)

     I found both of those commercials to be very moving because they both represent our belief that we are in this together and that no matter what happens if we work together we can be whole again and we can conquer. Romans 12:4-5 (NRSV) the Apostle Paul writes:
[4] For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,
[5] so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.

     And in 1 Corinthians 12:26-27 (NRSV) he writes:
[26] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

 [27] Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 


     A. Most of the commercials have some element of Temptation because that’s what one of the foundation stones upon which the advertising business has been built, tempting us into buying a certain product or service. WATCH (Doritos Fashionista & Mercedes Benz)

     B. I knew exactly what the Mercedes Benz commercial was all about by the very first bongo riff. If you are a Rolling Stones fan or grew up in the 60’s then you know that tune is Sympathy for the Devil from the 1968 Beggar’s Banquet album.

     Temptation is very real and it’s not something to be trifled with or taken lightly. And most of the time it’s not over big things like cars or something so big we’d sell our soul. Sometimes temptation is in the little things, the little white lies, gossip, cheating on our income tax, taking credit for something we didn’t do, pornography, spending beyond our means, taking something that doesn’t belong to us. Those little things build up. But the author of Hebrews 4:15 (NRSV) reminds us that  [15] 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.

     If we call on Christ in those moments of temptation we can overcome. But even better, if we spend time in prayer and Scripture we will be given the tools to strengthen us from being tempted.


     A. There are a couple I really liked that we really don’t have time to show. I liked the Doritos Goat just because of the twist at the end. Same goes for the Tide Joe Montana stain on the Jersey, especially the wife in her Ravens jersey going “Go Ravens.” I liked the Rock going for milk for his kids and being the hero for them and not everyone else. I loved the Oreo Whisper fight in Library.

     In my opinion, though, there were three commercials which exhibited distinctly Christian values or a Christian message: the first was this: WATCH. (Clydesdale)

     B. Budweiser titled this one Brotherhood. I actually thought of two passages when I saw this. The first was: Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV) [6] Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NRSV) [8] It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

     C. The one which got the most comments on Facebook and by email was this one: (God made a FarmerWATCH

     Why was that so moving? Well, it took us back to a time when life seemed simpler. When most issues seemed black and white. It focused on family, it mentioned God, it lifted up family values and hard work. It spoke to the heart. If you had any connection to the land at all, whether you farmed or it was a grandparent or aunt and uncle, it drew us back to those simpler days.

     This commercial told a story without dumbed-down slapstick comedy or sexualized crudeness. The visuals were simple, beautiful and dignified. Because of that, the message was elevated, and so were the viewers. Another appealing aspect was it didn’t appear to be selling anything, it seemed more of a tribute to farmers and the farm way of life. And yet, just like Volkswagen’s Mini Darth Vader commercial, Dodge Ram has emotionally associated itself to the idea of the “Farmer in Each of Us.” It’s a great commercial. It made me think of Philippians 4:8 (NRSV) [8] Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”


     Is there any conclusion which can be drawn from this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials? I don’t really think so. But the last commercial I want to share does challenge us. WATCH

     The challenge we face IS to look at the world a little differently. We’re called to look at it through the eyes of Christ who died not just for us but for the sins of the whole world. We don’t have to adapt and do everything Gangnam Style or whatever the next craze is. But we need to know what is going on around us so we can speak in the language of the current culture.

     I really liked what Amy Lovell wrote in her comments to me about this commercial. She said, It embodies a couple of things she believes deeply: which I agree with fully

     1. Technology can more often times be used for GOOD if we’ll put our minds to it.

     2. Good/beautiful things happen every day if we’ll just open our eyes and SEE them.

     Those good and beautiful things are God breaking into our world and letting us know God is there. Wesley called this the Prevenient Grace of God. I call it the Nudging Grace of God, God moving us closer and closer to a relationship with God through Christ. It’s God using the ordinary to point to the extraordinary love and grace of God which is offered to everyone. That grace changes how we look at the world and how we look at and treat one another.

     Our challenge is to be like Christ and walk in the light. Let me close with something the author of Hebrews wrote. Hebrews 13:16 (NRSV) [16] Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” When we do good to others, even those we don’t know, we are pleasing God.


This is the Word of the Lord for This Day