Lectionary Reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2012
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may kn0w that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13
Remember the famous Got Milk ad campaign? Created in 1993 by the advertising firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners, it is one of the most successful brand recognition campaigns ever launched. Featuring an array of celebrities and cartoon characters sporting milk mustaches, the highly successful campaign claims over 90% awareness in the United States (gotmilk.com). The church would do well to craft an evangelism campaign even half as successful as this one.
It’s not like we don’t have an amazing story or a recognizable personality; we even have a three-in-one and one-in-three eternal superhero. If that doesn’t trump Spiderman, I don’t know what will. Sure, the Holy Trinity is a little difficult to pin down, but we have Jesus as the walking around embodiment of God on earth. Plus, we have a host of witnesses to the real life effects of a lasting relationship with God and the reality of life abundant.
John writes that “whoever has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12a). So, having Jesus means we have life–life here and now, life abundant, and life eternal. Furthermore, according to John, we have the testimony in our very hearts (5:10). It is written inside of us, deeply embedded in our DNA and in every fiber of our being.
But that’s not all; it gets even better. Not only do we have real life, we have real love, too. This is wondrous love, amazing love, and grace-full love. This kind of life and love is a potent combination when expressed fully in the life of disciples. The thing is that you can’t have real love without God, and you can’t have God without experiencing and expressing love in a new and complete way.
In his introduction to John’s three letters, Eugene Peterson writes, “If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way. If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated” (p. 1799, The Message//Remix, NavPress, 2003). A person can’t really have one without the other; they are, in effect, a package deal, a two-for-one spiritual special. Surely we who have experienced the love of God and the gift of grace offered in Christ ought to be able to share this story in a way that draws others to the discipleship life.
How can it be that we have yet to find a way to effectively communicate this life-giving message in our 21st century pluralistic society? Do we lack confidence? Are we using tired, stale marketing models? Maybe it’s time to take another lesson from the business world and the writing of Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide of Ideas Company Saatchi & Saatchi. In his wonderful book Lovemarks, Roberts identifies mystery (great stories; past, present, and future; taps into dreams; myths and icons; inspiration) sensuality (sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste), and intimacy (commitment, empathy, and passion) as the three defining aspects of a great love (77). For a product to transcend brand and become a “lovemark,” these three aspects are needed. Do you see any parallels between how we present the “greatest story ever told” and how one creates a “lovemark”? I sure do!
As you step into that classroom or step before the congregation to lead worship and preach, remember that we have the greatest love and the truest “lovemark” of all in the Lord of the universe. Our world is desperately in need of something and someone to cling to that is real and that won’t let them down. Got life? Got love? Then you have God. Spread the word so all may “get a life.”
Pass out large paper hearts with the words “I have Life!” written on them, along with 1 John 5:12. As people enter the worship space, have digital cameras ready to snap their photos holding the hearts. If you have someone who is tech savvy and have a screen, have that person download the pictures into a slide show to accompany the hymn of the day. Choose a hymn that proclaims this theme.
Work on a “branding campaign” for your youth group focusing on the theme “Got God?” or “Got Life?” Using a video camera and whatever simple props the youth want to use (signs, hearts, crosses, etc.) invite them to create a video or PowerPoint presentation about what it means to have God in their lives. If possible find a way to share the finished product with the congregation. Youth are amazingly creative, so ground them in scripture, cover them in prayer, and let their spirits soar with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You may just be amazed at the results.
Remind children about the importance of prayer. Tell them that lots of people pray for them–their parents, grandparents, baptismal sponsors, members of the congregation, pastor, Sunday school teachers. Tell them that Jesus prays for them, too. Jesus prays for all his disciples, and we have a record of that prayer in today’s gospel lesson. Jesus prays for their protection and for their walk as disciples, as children of the heavenly father. Consider singing “Jesus Loves Me” as a reminder of that wondrous love.