Being the Product (Part IV)
For Sale: Our Witness
This is the fourth week of this sermon series. For the last three weeks we talked about what product we are selling. We looked at those people around us, the over 5,000 people who live one mile away from Trinity. Then we looked at what we are already doing to sell our product and we asked the question can we do more. Today we talk about being the product or embodying the product. This is essential in sales because, if you haven’t caught on to one key factor in sales, it is all about relationships. The art of sales is all about building relationships with the customers and if the customer trusts you then they will trust what you are selling.
We can spot the salesperson that isn’t genuine a mile away. They are usually the one in the plaid spots coat, the comb over, bad breath, smiling while telling you bad news, in the used car lot commercial guy. They are too concentrated on selling the product that they don’t understand the needs of their customers and how their product and those needs intertwine. Yet for the really good salesperson they do more listening than talking, more understanding than pitching. And that is exactly what we are called to do as Christians.
In the last couple of verses in the Emmaus story, the two travelers have just sat down and broken bread with Jesus. During this meal their eyes were opened and their hearts were set on fire to see who had taken this journey with them. Jesus had talked with them, listened to them, open the scriptures up to them on their journey. Now they knew that the resurrection was real, that Jesus was the Son of God, and that he truly was the Messiah. They were so excited that they ran back to find the eleven disciples and tell them about what had happened. They had stopped for the night because it was getting late but once they realized it was Jesus they didn’t care and they took the 7 mile journey back to Jerusalem. They were that excited, that transformed, that invigorated.
Do we have that type of passion about our product? Are we so excited about our God that we are willing to share it with others that we meet? Are our hearts burning so brightly that people can see we love and live out our product all the time? Is anything I have said and that God has laid on our hearts over these weeks settled in and changed how we interact with those outside these walls?
The truth is Jesus came to church over the last couple weeks. He called the church looking for help with their power bill. He left a message with a phone number but I erased it because it was the seventh time he called. He came to church last week and was reading the Bible on the sidewalk while the kids from GHR had fun at their last night. No one talked to him, scared because he might be out to get their kids, but many talked about him. He felt unwelcomed so he left. He came again as a mother who hadn’t been here in a really long time and when she came the whispers were too loud and the looks were too harsh so she left feeling rejected, unwanted, and unloved.
These aren’t made up stories. These are not illustrations I thought up to drive my point home. These are actual events that happened the last couple of weeks here, at Trinity, and it made me ask myself, are we listening? Am I listening to what I am preaching? Are we really making any progress on being more open to those who are in the deepest need? Now I said Jesus came to church because of what we learn in Matthew 25. There he says “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
[A moment of silence]
Whether we like it or not because we come to church, because people know that we are here worshiping God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we represent God to them. We are the people that the unchurched look at to see what God is all about. We don’t get to choose it, it is placed upon us. It is link the professional athlete who doesn’t want to be a role model. Because he is a professional athlete automatically makes him a role model in children’s eyes because they want to grow up to be like him. We represent God to those out there because they know we are here right now. We may not like it but it is true. When people think about the product we are selling they don’t think of the man in the white beard sitting on a cloud, they think about you, they think about me, they think about the 15% of the people in our city that go to church weekly. How we conduct ourselves, how we interact with the unchurched, give them the picture of our product.
It is a hard reality to look at but that is the truth. After Jesus has washed the disciples feet the night before his death he looks at them and says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If we want to really be a true picture of the product we are selling then we need to love one another. We need to build relationships that match the love that God has for us. We need to be Christ for the world. We need to be God’s love. We need to be the ones feeding the hungry and thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and greeting the stranger.
Gandhi said, “to those who are hungry, God is bread.” When we speak to the basic needs of people we share God with them. We only have a couple of weeks in our 90 in 90 challenge. Thank you to all those you who took 90 minutes from your busy lives and gave it to help those in our community. A couple of people asked me if they really needed to write down what they had done and I am encouraging you to do so. Not because we are looking to be prideful or to feed our egos but to be an encouragement to others to step out and make a difference too. I am not looking to hoist anyone up on top of a pedestal, what I hope is that as people hear what others have done, they get the courage and the excitement to step out into the world and be God’s love for God’s children.
You all have seen this video before but let me remind you of what our denomination is attempting to do.
“What if church was more of an out of church experience, an opportunity to prove what we say we believe with our lives, then perhaps Sunday could be a day of rest and reflection on all we had accomplished Monday through Saturday. What if we rethink church not in terms of what it is but what it could be, and what if we could convince the world to do the same.” That is being our product. That is embodying our product. That is what Jesus Christ commands us to do. We need to tell the world about God by being God for the world.
Before we meet back here next week the United Methodist Churches will have come together to Impact our Community. On Saturday we are reaching out to the least of these, the children of our city, the 90% who go to school and who live in poverty. I hope you will come out and join us for this event. Melissa and Tommy are registering volunteers after worship. I am in charge of site logistics and we need help setting up, starting at 7:00 am, and we need even more help cleaning up, starting at 2:00. I hope you can help make a difference this week.
The truth is we have an opportunity to be the love of God every day and it is usually found in the small ways we live our lives. The way we greet a stranger in the grocery store or who walks through these doors. The way we interact with Jesus on a daily basis in the lives of those we come in contact with. If we are going to being our product in order to sell our witness, we always have to be ready to be God’s love for God’s children. We have to see the world through eyes that have been open through the breaking of bread with Jesus. We have to have our burning hearts turn into loving action.
And all God’s people said…AMEN.