You might be a bit surprised by the reading I chose for today, because it might seem a bit out of place for early August. But since my mother is a lover of Christmas, and since everyday really should be celebrated as Christ's day, today's reading from the first chapter of Matthew's gospel seems like a good way to begin. (READ MATTHEW 1:18-25)
Last night my sleep was interrupted, not by an angle or by some crazy dream...but by a car alarm. This was completely unexpected thing to happen in the middle of nowhere, disrupting not only my sleep but the peace of mind I was enjoying be out here in the woods in Georgia.
But God has a way of coming into our world, and disrupting what we got going on. You'd think a career in ministry and a career in advertising would prepare me for divine surprises, yet I am often pleasantly caught off guard.
As a copywriter in the advertising it was my job to write the slogans and words. What I learned was that sometimes these words didn’t always translate so well in other languages. You might remember the Dairy Association's successful campaign "Got Milk?" When they expanded it to Mexico, the Spanish translation read "Are you lactating?"
Sometimes it wasn't just the words but the image. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same famous packaging with the cute baby on it. They quickly learned that African companies put pictures on the labels to show what's inside, since many people can't read. Think about that for a moment. What was meant to disrupt consumers thinking and buying habits, only disrupted the status quo of the way advertising functions.
A few years ago, the word "Disrupt" became on of those buzzwords ad agencies loved to use to describe their unique position in the marketplace. I always heard it more as a cliché than anything else. But from a theological point of view, it's the perfect word to describe the Kingdom of God
in that it shakes up the way we see or think about God, and God's love for us.
Like faith, the word both a noun and a verb. To “Disrupt” or to be a “disruptor” is to be a person or a brand that rocks the boat. The one who mixes things up and break the rules,...whose unique innovation throws the status quo into a tizzy. Can you think of a biblical character who does that? Perhaps someone who wandered the streets of First Century Jerusalem.
I believe some disruptions help us to ask better questions, keeps us thinking, and progressing. And if nothing else it keeps us on our toes. From the church's point of view God, of course, is the original disruptor....thinking outside the box long before that phrase was a cliché.
God has been mixing things up since the beginning. Before his light burst through the vast darkness God had already thought about alternate times and dimensions, of new worlds and universes,
each one seamlessly integrated with the other. In comparison to the planets in our solar system, Earth is a perfect creation born out of true visionary thinking.
Of course the incarnation was a true game changer. It overturned all assumptions about the beginning of life. Matthew's gospel reveals how through Jesus Christ, God challenged the conventional wisdom; not just in the way Jesus was conceived through the Virgin Mary, but also in the way he showed us how to live in a radically new way: through service, forgiveness, and submission.
And of course we cannot not forget the resurrection...another perfectly executed disruption, that redefined both the way we think about life and the way we experience death. I don't think the greatest writer could have ever penned such a beautiful tag line as Paul wrote about faith in Christ Jesus,…we must die in order to live.
I'm sure we all have at least one story of God disrupting our life.
For me, it was a sudden and unexpected head on collision with cancer. For my wife, it was a slow and sorrowful walk toward the death of her beloved father. For you it might have been overcoming an addiction, or suffering through a failed relationship, dealing with unexpected news, like winning the Mega Millions jackpot...a disruption I wouldn't mind happening to me.
While we were driving to the lake yesterday, we witnessed an amazing accident on the road.
Someone's bad decision to exit unexpectedly forced a cement truck to swerve out of the way...
causing another car to slam into the dividing wall. We watched in horror as her car flew into the air...narrowly missing the truck. I would come to find out she was on her way to a bridal shower. Her day was disrupted, but her life would be forever changed by this event.
We like to tell ourselves that these things happen to us in life because God has a purpose. But that seems a little crazy to me, that a loving God would willingly put us through hardships. Yet is this the only way we can explain why all this crap happens to us or why our world has turned upside down?
Maybe it's just God's way of waking us from our sleep. Maybe these are car alarms in life we need to both protect and to serve us. After all, even the most faithful of us forget to lean on the One who said, "Come, follow me."
When Jesus says this he is disrupting our way of life. But he says it, so we must listen, and do what he did, and live and love as as he taught. Jesus calls us to follow his way...and give over ever so faithfully so we can live fully and freely! In such a paradox of life we find our hope, our peace, even if it's cluttered with crap that disrupts us from truly embracing this gift.
Again, perhaps God disrupts our lives so we might wake up and engage our faith in new and scary ways. We know that we often grow through our struggles and find, through our weakest moments, the strength that lies within us. Through the trials and tribulations of life, we discover that what we are truly capable of is actually more than we ever believed possible. Disruption helps us to see the depth of our faith and the boundless love of God...so that we can live in God's righteousness...and not our own brokenness.
To quote Lee Clow, one of the most visionary thinkers in advertising history, “You can’t preach disruption unless you are willing to live by it.” Jesus, more than anyone else, understood this. And so he calls us to do the same. that is to say, put our faith into practice.
The gospel of Matthew ends as profoundly as it begins. Before his ascention, Jesus commissions his followers to go out to every corner of the world and disrupt the status quo by proclaiming the Good News...through our words and deeds.
In advertising terms he tells these new disruptors to “Reach Out and Touch Someone.” Go forth and “Teach the World to sing in perfect harmony.” Oh, and don’t worry about facing the obstacles of life, because “You’re in Good Hands,” when you have “A Piece of the Rock.”
Jesus has made it our mission to confront injustice, care for the sick, feed the hungry, stand up for the poor, and forgive one another and to love so that we may live peacefully as God intended since the beginning.
It's through this we shake up and wake up the world, so that the world might see and know that the kingdom of God has come already. May it always be alive in us...After all, We - Are – Christ-ians, bum-de-bum-bum-bah.
Let us go now and disrupt life as if Jesus meant what he said.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”