Acts 16:9-15

John 14:23-29

Make It Real

Easter 6

May 1 2016

            For years advertisers have known this important truth: Emotion sells products. Back in 1921, Palmolive asked women the question “Would your husband marry you again?” With this ad they were tapping into a fear of isolation and loneliness. The hidden message was: Use Palmolive, and don’t be all alone. More recent examples of this are the ads for Axe personal hygiene products and soaps which tap into a desire by many men to be irresistible to women.  Beer ads make a connection with our longing for world peace, and who can forget the ad campaign by Coke that had people from all around the world “singing in perfect harmony” with the implication that Coke will promote peace around the world.  Yes, emotion sells products.

            When we take a step back and think about these ads, we realize that we are being manipulated. Some have called this a “stick-on” emotion. This is a good expression because it communicates how thin and artificial the emotion is. Take some fear of isolation, stick it on Palmolive soap, and you have women buying Palmolive. Take some sexual desire, and stick it on Axe products, and you have men buying Axe products. Take some longing for world peace, stick it on a brand of beer or a bottle of Coke, and you have people drinking that beer or drinking Coke.

            Sometimes we encounter “stick on” emotion in everyday life.  Even our attempts to show love to others is not exempt from the “stick on” emotion.  Sometimes we show love to others, but is a superficial kind of love where we might attempt to show people we care simply because we feel we have to do it, and they usually can see right through this “stick on” love.

It might be a good idea if we could find ways to replace “stick-on love” with real love. That is exactly what Jesus is calling us to do in our Gospel passage for today, John 14:23-29.  Jesus doesn’t want us to practice “stick-on love”, an emotion that is only a word to be slapped on something or used to get what we want. He wants us to replace this fake and manipulative emotion with a real one. He wants us to go deep and show our love in actions by really keeping His word.

            Jesus says to His disciples:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

There is an unmistakable connection here between loving Jesus and keeping His word. This is the exact opposite of “stick-on love”.  This is an emotion that is grounded in deeds.

            I am glad to be able to say that there are some companies today that are using real emotion in their advertising instead of “stick-on” sentiments. These companies can teach us a few lessons about what it means to put love into action.  

         The Toms Shoes Company has a simple approach to selling its footwear. For every pair of shoes that is purchased, the company sends one to a child who needs a pair. In one recent year, the company sent about 300,000 pairs of shoes to children in third world countries. That’s real love, not “stick-on” love. Toms Shoes has a passion for helping needy children, and because of this real emotion, they sell a lot of shoes by word of mouth. They spend far less money on advertising than other shoe companies because they don’t have to advertise how great they are.

The Newman’s Own Salad Dressings started as a way for Paul Newman to show off his salad dressing recipes, but it has grown into a powerful brand that generates more than $100 million in revenue every year. All of the company’s profits have always gone to charity.  More than a quarter-billion dollars to date. People buy Newman’s Own Salad Dressing because it tastes good and because they like what the brand stands for.  It stands for real love and putting love into action, not a “stick-on” emotion.

            But Jesus knows that good deeds and actions, by themselves, only go so far. Eventually we are going to lose our way or burn out, unless we receive some help. Here in   John 14, Jesus goes on to tell His disciples:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”

Jesus promises us that the Holy Spirit has been sent to help us recall what Jesus said. The Spirit can keep us faithful and strong, and remind us that our relationship with Jesus is strong and secure.

One way the power of the Holy Spirit is felt most strongly is in the power of community, especially in groups that meet together for support and prayer and acts of service. In Fairfax, Virginia, the Midlife Men on a Mission is a group of guys who have been traveling to Honduras together since 2004. There is authentic love in this group, love that has been deepened by talking and laughing and working together over a series of weeklong mission trips. This is a love that now includes their partners in Honduras. These men have an Advocate in the Holy Spirit, a power that reminds them of all that Jesus has said. The Spirit binds them together in a project that probably would have run its course if it were based only on human effort. But with the help of the Spirit, they remain faithful and strong, connected to Jesus and each other and committed to the work Jesus has called them to do.

There are many ways that small groups of people can make a big difference if they are guided by and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in their community and in the world. . Even here at Edgewood the ladies who sew dresses and send them to those in need make a big difference and show real love, Christ’s love, to those they will never meet. There are other ways we can work together to show God’s love in real, authentic ways.  We just have to pray for a vision and look for them.      

Paul and the small group of people he traveled with showed the real, authentic love of God to the folks they touched as God called them to take His love throughout that part of the world, and our Acts passage for today tells of the impact they made in the lives of so many people.  

Although small groups are valuable, they are not a quick fix for the problems we face each day. This is why Jesus says here in John 14 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”

His peace is unlike the world’s peace, for when He says:

 “I do not give to you as the world gives”

He isn’t promising peace from trouble but peace in the midst of trouble.

I heard about an art gallery that ran a competition for painters, offering a prize for the best painting on the subject of peace. The prize-winner was a real surprise. It showed the ocean in a violent storm, with lightning in the sky and waves crashing into cliffs by the shore. So where was the peace? You had to look carefully. Halfway up a cliff was a bird’s nest tucked into a hollow of a rock, and there a mother bird was sitting on the nest with her little babies safely underneath her. That was peace.  It was peace that came from safety in the middle of the storm.

            When Jesus says

“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid,”

He is predicting that we are going to encounter storms in life, traumatic circumstances that may test our faith and our resolve. But He promises to come to us and give us real peace, not a superficial “stick-on” emotion.

            Jesus concludes John 14:23-29 in the same way that He started it, by talking about love.   

“If you loved me,” He says, “you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.”

Once again, He is not talking about a shallow “stick-on” love, but about a deep and real love.  Maybe Jesus is wondering:

Can my disciples set aside their own personal preferences so that when I go to God the Father, greater things can be accomplished?

            We face the very same questions today. We don’t have Jesus sitting beside us in human form. But we do have the promise that when we love Jesus and keep His word, He will come to us and make His home with us. Jesus visits us through the Holy Spirit, a force that teaches us everything Jesus wants us to know, and gives us a powerful peace in the midst of trouble.

Is this something we can accept? And if so, will we let God use us and do powerful things for His glory through us in our community and in the world?

Each of us is challenged to accept Jesus’ gift of deep, authentic, and real love.  Palmolive soap will never cure our isolation and loneliness.  Instead, the power of the Holy Spirit does it as it works in and through us. And a brand of beer or a Coke won’t bring us a sense of peace, despite its inspiring commercials about our global community. Instead, Christ will give us true peace, in the middle of the troubles of each day.

            Our challenge is to peel off the “stick-on” emotions we see all around us and replace them with real and authentic love. We can do this as we band together and experience the power of the Holy Spirit as we meet, worship and serve God together. We can commit ourselves to keeping Christ’s word, showing His love and sharing His peace with our community and the world. We can do this as we pray for God to show us real and authentic ways to show His love to those around us.  We can do this as we do what God calls us to do and go where God calls us to go, whether it be in our community or other places, just as Paul and those he traveled with did as they heeded God’s call and ventured into Macedonia with the real, authentic love of God. 

Jesus does not want us to simply slap our faith on the world. Instead, He call us to go deep and be authentic and real with His love that we show to others.  He call us to put His love into action.

He calls us to make it real. Amen.