Leap of Faith (John 8:12)

By | February 8, 2015

Superbowl Sundays #3 in Series


     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 any of these commercials I am not endorsing any of these products. And the opinion expressed is strictly mine. The first thing I want to do is look at a passage of Scripture, actually one verse. John 8:12

     [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.”

     I think that’s an important passage because one of our purposes as Disciples is to continue to walk in the light of Christ.

     People ask me all time why I do this particular sermon? Why do I use the Super Bowl commercials? I do it for couple reasons. First, it’s kind of fun and challenging.

     Second, I’m a United Methodist steeped long in Wesleyan theology. I believe fully in God’s Prevenient or Nudging Grace. I believe God is trying to get our attention by every means possible. I believe God is always reaching out to express His love for us. Sometimes God does that through the most unlikely sources possible. You might hear it in a movie that has absolutely nothing to do with God but right in the middle comes this beauty soliloquy about forgiveness or love or honor that you know could only have come from God. It makes sense to me that God even uses the Super Bowl commercials to reach out to us.

     And Third, Advertisers and Marketing will do and say almost anything to get you to buy their product. When you buy their product, they make money. And if enough of us buy their product, they’ll make lots of money. That’s their end goal. They may want to bring you the best product possible but they also want to make as much money off that product as possible.

     I want everyone to be aware of marketing techniques. I want everyone to look beyond the surface message to what is being said underneath the main massage and beyond.

     You may not think those commercials have much effect on you but the truth is they have an incredible amount of influence on our buying habits. That’s why companies are willing to spend $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time. I think we need be aware of what’s going on as they subtly try to influence our buying habits.

     Jesus told us in Matthew 10:16 (NRSV) “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

     Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15 (NRSV) “Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise.”

     One of the goals of advertising is to attract new customers but another goal is “to ensure that the target audience remains familiar with the brand.” One of the most successful campaigns of all times was of a 67 year old breakfast cereal sold in Canada and the UK, Shreddies.

     They did absolutely nothing to change the product. And yet the ad campaign caused an immediate 18% increase in sales in the first month alone. WATCH

     The Campaign was so successful they followed it up with taste tests, which one tasted better, the diamond or the square. There was an apology because of letters of complaint that the boxes of Shreddies Diamonds also contained Squares which they didn’t pay for or want. There was a poll of which did people prefer. And they started selling a combo box which contained both. 

     The Shreddies ad campaign won a Clio and is being used in Marketing Degree programs as a case study of how important the visual aspect of advertising is. Suddenly, everyone was talking about shredded wheat and 18% more people were eating it for breakfast. That’s the power of Advertising. However, sometimes it doesn’t work. WATCH

     I personally thought the McDonalds “Pay With Lovin” would increase their sales significantly but they actually lost 9-12% of millennials. What’s surprising is that a panel of Kellogg MBA students evaluated the Super Bowl ads against rigorous, business-focused criteria to determine which ads were the most effective in building the brand. McDonalds was one of the top 5 and yet it lost 9% of its target audience with an ad that everyone thought was a homerun.

     Let’s look at some of the rest of the ads. All in all, I have to say the level of creativity wasn’t as high as in some years but the subject matter was much more poignant and hit closer to home. There was a deeper sense of respect and a feeling of restraint. Which I think makes my job this morning more difficult because it’s easier to point out shortcomings than it is to see the subtleties of building someone or something up.

     I have to commend both Dove for Men and Nissan for their very positive portrayal of the responsibility and powerful role of Fathers in the lives of their children. In the past decade or so there seemed to be a tearing down and dumbing down of Fathers by advertising but this year was very positive. WATCH.

     That Harry Chapin song as the music underlay for that last piece was perfect. If you know the song, it ends with father and son never quite finding the time together. But both of these commercials address the need for strong Dads. And the Nissan commercial makes it clear that life doesn’t have to end like the song. I think they both illustrate Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV) “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”

     There we also a couple of commercials about being the real you which I thought Illustrated the Biblical idea of being created in the Image of God and living up to that image the best way possible. WATCH

     You’re not you when you’re hungry and you’re only sort of you unless you have esurance. I really don’t think a Snickers Bar or the brand of insurance you have is going to change who we really are. But knowing our True Identity is an important concept because what we believe about ourselves determines how we act and how we treat others. Being truly human means living up to our full potential as children of God.

     In 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NRSV) Paul writes “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.”

     And in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV) he writes, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

     Our identity is influenced by parents and friends and our life circumstances. However, we only come to know our True Identity through Christ who reminds us that we are created in the very Image of God. And to be more human is not about what we wear, what we eat, where we work or how much we earn. Being more human is simply living who God has created us to be. And in Christ we find out that God created us to be His children, brothers and sisters with Christ, heirs of God’s Kingdom; sons and daughters of God, that’s our True Identity.

     I think the main Coca Cola ad was very reminiscent of the 1971 series of commercials, “Buy the world a Coke” which featured the song, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by the Hillside Singers, which portrayed a positive message of hope and love, sung by a multicultural collection of teenagers on the top of a hill. This ad has the same sort of feel “The world is what we make it. Make it happy.” While I don’t think we can make the world happy simply by offering it a some Coca Cola, I do think this ad is a great interpretation of what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)

     “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” WATCH

     My two favorite commercial was the Lost Dog or Best Buds commercial and we’ll talk about why in a minute.

     But in my mind the most powerful commercial was produced by the advocacy group No More with the National Football League donating its internal ad team and the airtime (valued at around $9 million) It’s a powerful, chilling ad in which a woman calls 911 under the guise of ordering a pizza because her attacker is in the room with her. According to Ad Week, it’s based on a real 911 call.

     It’s a very sobering ad that deals with a subject we don’t like to talk about, abuse. But here’s the thing, we need to talk about it because both the victim and the perpetrator to help and healing.

     My only critique of the commercial is that the NFL did too little. In the light of the Ray Rice debacle and the way Roger Goodell and the NFL botched everything about it, they should have run that ad at least a dozen more times and followed up another 30 seconds devoted to apologizing for their lack of compassion and poor behavior.

     Now for the best commercial of all, in my opinion and that’s the Budweiser Best Buds commercial. WATCH

     The reason I like that commercial so much isn’t just because the puppy is so cute or that the puppy and the Clydesdale become best friends. Rather, it’s because I think it represents the ideal of what the church and community are all about. In Romans 12:5 (NRSV) Paul says, “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 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

     In the Church, we have a herd who stands with us through the good times, the bad times, the times of trial and the times of triumph.. Unfortunately, in our fallen state, we don’t always live like that. But when we do, when we do live as one body, we bring glory to Christ.


     I think this year’s batch of Super Bowl commercials actually left us with a hopeful feeling; the sense that God IS with us, the sense that God CAN and IS breaking in and reminding us of God’s love for us.

     Our task is, “to let our light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.” That’s what Jesus did and we’re called to be like Jesus. So, let your light shine. Let others see the presence of God’s love in your life so you can experience the grace of God and be a tool of God’s Grace in the world today.

     And when you watch commercials, “be wise as serpents” so you get past all the snake oil. ”And innocent as doves,” so you can hear the voice of God and the message God has for us.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.