New and Improved!

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9th Sunday After Pentecost

New and Improved!

Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Father, His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

        If you watch television for more than 15 minutes, you will see a commercial. If you watch television for an additional 3 minutes you will see between 3 to five commercials. Of those commercials at least one of them will be for food or drink. Usually the advertising is for some sort of what is termed ‘fast-food’ but other food products are advertised regularly as well.

        It’s funny how the mind works. We see something and it starts a recall of memories. It works with all of our faculties, sight, smell, hearing, etc. Advertising specialists have developed quite a profitable science of enticing us to buy products based on our mental responses to the senses. They have become so good at this process that they can even persuade us to purchase things we don’t need or even want.

        Throughout my life I have had different jobs, some of them in retail. In a grocery store we were told to turn the product’s labels to face the aisle so as to attract the eye. If you have ever wondered why the sugared cereals are on lower shelves rather than at the eye level of an adult, it is because the targets for those cereals are children. In a retail store, we were told to ‘romance’ a product by putting items of similar purpose next to each other. For instance, next to a section of cooking utensils, you might find a cookbook. The idea is to buy more than for what you were seeking.

        Marketing experts have even done great research on the words that we see on these products; “New!”, “Better”, “Guaranteed”, “Improved”, “Powerful”, and the ever popular, “Free!” In print, radio and on television, we are constantly bombarded with products which claim to be better than their competitors.

        Yes, it is a competition. It is a competition for your loyalty, your consumption and for your money. Restaurants build bigger and brighter signs to grab your attention. They use branding, colors and jingles to stick in your mind so that when you do see their logo, it dredges up the memories of attraction to their type of food. Every time I am in San Francisco and see a trolley car or hear the clang of its bell, the advertising jingle for ‘Rice-a-Roni’ springs into my head.

        As a child, I used to shudder when a commercial for some kind of vegetable I didn’t like came on T.V. I knew that if my mother saw the picture or heard the announcer extolling the benefits of cauliflower, that we would be seeing that on our table the next night.

        Yet in all of this consumerism, even if a manufacturer or producer of food items says it is ‘Free!’ it never is. What is the old saying? ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch.’ Nothing is ever free. In some way or another, we pay for what we want.

        This may be why people are suspicious of one another if one person is offering something that is ‘too good to be true’. Since the first deception from the greatest deceiver of all time in the Garden of Eden, we have looked to our fellow brothers and sisters, not with the selflessness of God’s love, but with the selfishness of our desires.

        Genesis chapter 3, verses 1 through 5 we read:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

        The devil certainly sounds like an advertising man promoting his merchandise. He begins with promoting doubt in the mind of Eve. “Did God say that? Are you sure? Did you really hear him correctly?

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [Gen 3:1-5]

        It is here where Satan entices us into sin with the manipulation of our senses. ‘Eat of this fruit, it is new and improved. It is better than the other fruit. You deserve it. More importantly, your family deserves it. Don’t you want to provide them the best of this world? Eat this fruit and you will become a better person, you will be like God, I guarantee it!’

        We would like to think that we learned our lesson. We would like to think that we would never fall for such a ruse again, but we still do. We still fall for the false advertising and the false promises of sin.

        We see the promotion of sin in every aspect of our lives. You want to go to the ball game? Lie, call in sick, the boss will never know. You don’t think your company pays you what you’re worth? Steal from them, you deserve it. You don’t want to have this baby? Murder it, it’s not really a human being; 4 out of 5 doctors said so.

        Inundated with so much sin, we struggle to believe the truth. Our lives have become so corrupt that we reject what is good for us and seek out what kills us, not only now but for eternity. Yes, like sheep being led to the slaughter, we are being killed all the day long.

        It is because of the misleading, deceitful advertising of the devil that we must go to great lengths for the truth to be heard. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 9:1 “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—“

        Now why would he have to say that? Why do we need to give a defensive qualifying statement before we speak the truth? Because everyone in sin is suspicious of one another. We are not going to be fooled again. We know that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

        But we are hungry. We hunger for the truth. We have learned to be selfish and suspicious, but our hunger for the truth and the love of God, was ours since God created us from the dust of this earth.

        We constantly compare the lies of our lives with the truth of Christ. Like the comparison of two cleansing products, we compare the truth with the lie and we ask ourselves, ‘Does this one really have 20% more cleaning action?’ We seek God and compare him to the wisdom of man and we ask ourselves, ‘With Jesus, am I completely cleansed of sin? Does God really guarantee complete righteousness and satisfaction through His Son?’

        Yes, we are hungry for the truth, the truth that is Jesus Christ. We want the salvation Christ gives to us through his death on the cross. We want our children to have their sins washed away by their baptism into the resurrection of the living truth, Jesus Christ. We want the guarantee of eternal life with our Father in heaven given to us by His Son’s victory over sin, death and the devil. We are starving for this bread of life.

        But we have a problem. We have no way to purchase this bread. Our only currency is sin, and this is not accepted in the kingdom of God. We are destined to go hungry; we are certainly going to starve to death. There is nothing we can do to purchase our salvation. We have no means to barter.

        It is as if we have filled our shopping carts with everything we need and want, but when we arrive at the checkout counter, we suddenly realize we have no money. The clerk is certainly not going to let us take our bounty home with our promise to pay for it later. We cannot write an I.O.U. with the pledge to balance the books in the future.

        God sees us in our state of want. He did not create us as his children only to inherit eternal death by the slow starvation of our souls. God sent his only Son into the world to feed us. Jesus Christ came into our sin filled lives, not to condemn but to raise up.

        His father gave him the authority to heal the sick, to feed the hungry and to forgive the sinner. In the Gospel we see Christ’s compassion to heal the sick. We see Christ feeding over 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. With the authority and power of his Father, Jesus broke that first law of thermodynamics by creating something out of nothing. Jesus gave all the people, Jew and Gentile alike, a free lunch.

        He did this because he is the truth, the life and the way. He did this with no expectation of payment from us. In Isaiah 55:1 God the Father gives us the promise that God the Son fulfills:

“Come, everyone who thirsts,

Come to the waters;

And you who have no money,

Come, buy and eat.

Yes, come, buy wine and milk

Without money and without price. [Is 55:1]

God wrote us a blank check long ago. Our money is no good here. Through Christ we are forgiven. Through His body and blood we are fed the forgiveness of our sin. Through our baptism our thirst for salvation is slaked. We are never to go hungry again.

        I am speaking the truth in Christ – I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit. Our salvation by the mercy and grace of God is true and right. It is not ‘New!’ it has no need to be ‘Improved’ This offer is not for a limited time only. Call on Jesus anytime day or night; He is standing by with His truly free gift.