Ascension Sunday “Disruption”
Reading: Psalm 1 ; Acts 1:6-11
Just the other day someone asked me what it was like to work in advertising. Let's just say I told her that whenever I used to fill out questionnaires that ask for my race, I put rat.
As a copywriter 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. It was a fun yet taxing career choice.
One of the many things that drove me nuts was trying to keep up with the latest buzzwords. You see Agencies are very competitive. They are always looking for creative ways to describe what makes them stand out from the pack. These words began somewhat straight-forward. But over the years the thesaurus got used a little too much.
For example, it was our task to ”concept” an idea so that our client’s product would be at the top of a consumer’s mind. And so ‘top of mind’ thinking became a buzzword. But then we began to think ‘outside of the box.’ Offering “360 degree integrated solutions.” We were cutting edge, innovators, and renegades. We created infomercials and advertainment, branded entertainment, and contextual content...all so we could claim to be the “game changer.” These words, and hundreds like them, would soon become generic idioms, lost among our language with “plop-plop, fizz, fizz,” and “Where’s the Beef?”
Recently the word “Disruption” has been the big thing. I actually like this one. There is something theological about it. Like faith, it’s 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?
It should be of no surprise that one ad agency actually trademarked the word “disruption.” Listen carefully how they redefined its meaning: “the art of asking better questions, challenging conventional wisdom, and overturning assumptions and prejudices that get in the way of imaging new possibilities and visionary ideas.”
For most people advertising is little more than an unwelcomed interruption. They are perceived as being more invasive than thought provoking. But as the Energizer Bunny reminds us, as long as we keep buying, the ads will keep going and going and going.
While I am not one who likes to interrupt...I do like to disrupt. To borrow from this new definition I believe it helps us to ask better questions, keeps us thinking, and progressing. And if nothing else it keeps us on our toes. Disruption is second nature to me...and I suspect it is to you as well...because we are all made in God’s image. And God, of course, is the original disruptor. God was thinking outside the box long before it was a cliché. 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. The incarnation was a true game changer. It overturned all assumptions. Through Jesus Christ, God challenged the conventional wisdom; calling us to live in a radically new way: through service, forgiveness, and submission.
As the 40 days of the Easter Season comes to an end, we remember the resurrection...another perfectly executed disruption, that redefined both the way we think about life and the way we experience death. Even by today's standards, this concept is still visionary and thought provoking…we must die in order to live.
Is it safe to say, 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 a violation of your person or property. Maybe God is disrupting your life right now. Perhaps you are coping with Alzheimer’s or emphysema or heart disease. Maybe you are in the midst of losing your retirement savings or home, or you are having the life of someone you love taken from you.
Whether it is sudden or expected, I believe God disrupts our lives with a purpose...To give us the opportunity to engage in our true faith, and to lean on God for support. These disruptions allows us to grow through our struggle... and to 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 our God. To quote 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.
Today around the world, the Christian Church is celebrating the ascension of Jesus to the promised throne of glory. This is a different kind of disruption because it does not involve God coming to us, but instead God is leaving. For the disciples, who were left looking up to the heavens, this is not Good News. After all they had witnessed and learned they still held on to the popular notion that their Messiah would restore Israel by way of violent force.
But God doesn’t take that route. Instead of raising an army, or smiting down the Roman Empire, God peacefully succumbs to their violent ways; sacrificing his only Son so the world will be saved. Once again, God radically changes the game. Of course, no action of Jesus is without weight. His ascension has far more hope than is often realized. Before Jesus is lifted up, he leaves his disciples with the responsibility... to continue the work that he began.
In advertising terms he tells these new disruptors to…"Just Do It.” “Reach Out and Touch Someone;” Go forth and “Teach the World to sing in perfect harmony.” Oh, and don’t worry, “You’re in Good Hands,” you have “A Piece of the Rock.” (Too many slogans?) At our baptism, we received the Spirit of God. And we too are called to disrupt the world around us.
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 so that we may live peacefully as God intended. I’ll admit this seems like an impossible undertaking. But so goes the way of sacrificial love. Of all the slogans ever created, nothing will ever come close to the living words of Jesus Christ who said, “With God, all things are possible.”
Today, as we celebrate our Lord’s ascension into Heaven, we are left with the hope and assurance that God’s Divine story has not come to an end, instead it is just the beginning of something new. We do not know the time or the season when God will come again, to disrupt our lives, for his great glory. And so we must always be on our toes.
As witnesses to God’s grace given to us through the love and peace of Jesus Christ, we must never stop asking ourselves this important question: "What am I called to do to challenge conventional wisdom and overturn prejudices that get in the way of furthering God’s vision for us all?"
After all, We - Are – Christ-ians, bum-de-bum-bum-bah.
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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.”