Summary: The title is slightly tongue in cheek, but essentially this is an all-age talk given at a Baptism service where we had an extra 100 guests, many of whom were seekers, sceptics, and not-yet-Christians. The point of the talk was to tell people that being a
If we were going to start up a new business selling sweets, cakes and chocolates – really yummy, tasty, delicious chocolates and sweets; and if there were no advertising rules – what would we do to get people to buy them? What would we say? What colours would we use for the wrapper? What video adverts would we produce? Which actors would we employ?
Help me out here! Tell me all the good things about your favourite sweets, chocolates and cakes so that we can start to construct our advertising campaign – maybe we could make a video for ChristChurchTV – the Parable of the ‘Sweet Shop’ (Candy Store).
(Note to the reader – I will take a roving microphone around the congregation asking them to describe their favourite cakes, sweets or chocolates and why them love them, how often they eat them, and how we can best advertise our imaginary business – great fun!)
(The object of this is to get the congregation focusing only on the positive-spin, the good things, the tastes, the smells, the look, the feel, the flavour etc.)
(Next I showed a short film I made with the 5 members of our family. In it we each explain about our favourite sweets and chocolates – all a bit tongue in cheek, but all very positive with comments like: “I love the milky goodness of milk chocolate”, and, “I love the fruity flavour of my favourite chewy sweets.”)
Who wants to buy some of our sweets? They’re free!
(Hoping that lots of people will put their hands up!)
Free sweets, wonderful flavour, great to chew on, a comfort when you’re feeling down, something to get you’re teeth in to when you’re hungry deep inside; and it’s all free. (Then, when there is lots of laughter and fun from free sweets being passed around …)
I’ve just been told we’ve only told you half the story.
There are some dangers, toils and snares associated with our favourite sweets, chocolates and cakes – even though they’re free. Your teeth could get rotten. You might have issues with collesterol or diabetes. You might find yourself gaining several pounds – oh that sounds good doesn’t it – there is a silky-smooth message of prosperity associated with our free sweets. They won’t cost you anything, and you might gain a few pounds – even several pounds (sorry, I know this doesn’t translate for the US congregation, but it is a very British illustration!). The only thing is I’m not talking about your wallet – but you knew that really. They’re full of ‘E’ numbers; oh yes, and if you get one stuck it could be the last boiled sweet you ever eat.
Two very different ways of presenting just some of the facts about something that tastes good; but something that can also damage your health.
Forget the sweets for a moment, as tasty as they are! The point is that advertisers and sellers only want you to hear and experience everything good about their product. I was talking to someone recently and he said there is a danger of Vicars and Preachers doing the same thing with the message of Jesus Christ; and I had to agree with him.
Knowing Jesus is wonderful. Experiencing the forgiveness of sins is wonderfully releasing. Being able to forgive others just as we ourselves have been forgiven by God helps us to know peace of mind. Being part of the family of the Church is great. I love it. Walking the way of Christ as a Christian is the best thing I ever decided to. I would love for each one of you to know the reality of the presence of Jesus in your lives and for you to follow him in all you do. Knowing Jesus is wonderful …
…but there is a cost that we must not ignore.
St Peter was writing to Christians and was acknowledging the pain, suffering and insults that were coming their way; and this was in the 1st century, not many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He said to them, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering” (4:12). Christians were being persecuted, just as many Christians throughout the world are today, especially in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afganistan and the Maldives, where being or becoming a Christian can result in loss of rights, loss of employment, loss of family, loss of freedom, and sometimes loss of life.
How often do Vicars and Preachers say that being a Christian, being a follower of Christ, following the way of Christ could cost you your life? The way of Christ took him to the cross.
St. Peter also says, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ you are blessed” (4:14). Blessed!