There is an ad campaign underway. On Palm Avenue and I-5, there are white billboards that say, B E L I E V E. Each letter is displayed inside a white ball, the last one in a red ball. This got my attention because as a priest I’m in the business of “believe”. I’ve seen the same BELIEVE motto displayed on construction site barrier walls; in between the boards are images of Neil Armstrong standing on the moon looking at the American flag, protesters sitting atop the Berlin Wall, and women marching for voting rights.
The content of the billboards has changed over the past couple of weeks. One, easily visible from the J Street exit from the 5, says something about participating in Earth Day with the same white background and bold dark letters. And finally, I caught the end of a TV commercial in which thousands of white balls fall from the sky and bounce on a downtown street. The spot ends with the tag line, “Believe in something bigger.”
I started thinking that perhaps a church had started an aggressive advertising campaign. Obviously, I am not very serious about that; this wasn’t a worshiping body inviting folks to a closer walk with God.
This campaign is about a lottery in California. On the way home from Saint John’s on Sunday, I heard a brief report on NPR about this new lottery. A spokesperson from the organization said that lotteries are typically frequented by folks in the lowest economic rungs. This campaign is designed to attract middle class consumers by addressing things that are important to that group.
Does it upset you as much as me? To some extent all advertising is about manipulation but for some reason I feel particularly manipulated this time.
Last Sunday, we heard from John’s Gospel a story of Thomas. He said he wouldn’t believe in the resurrection unless he touched Jesus’ wounds. The following week, we learned the disciples were worshipping in a locked room and Jesus appeared to the group. He took Thomas’s hand and said, “Put your finger here …do not doubt but believe.”
We walk toward Christ with the belief and hope that he has an abundant life for us, both on this world and in the Kingdom to come. It’s not a 1:175,000,000 chance. And, God’s abundant love is not a lottery where you are the lucky winner of God’s grace and everyone else loses. Rather, there is a 1:1 chance that God loves you. Jesus came for everyone. The Holy Spirit gives everyone grace upon grace. No lottery; no winning numbers – God’s wheel always comes up on love and it’s for you.
May we keep focused on the prize of God’s
love that has already been awarded to us and to our