Our elevator speech

Quite a few years ago, had a job helping with marketing for a large national architectural design firm. The point was for me to come up with ways for us to convince people, prospective clients, to hire us. Words were very important. We used to talk a lot about our “elevator speech”.

The elevator speech was a sales pitch that was supposed to take no more than two and three minutes. You were supposed to be able to give it in an elevator while traveling between floors. It was to be no more than 60 words and was supposed to get someone to think about the possibilities.

By this I mean, because you didn’t have enough time to tell someone all about you, the idea was to tell them enough to make them want to know more. So, as an example, a car salesperson would say something like they were in the business of moving people, which would encourage the response, “what does that mean?” A builder might say that they created artificial environments for people to love”. Again, you would say, “what does that mean?”

A good elevator speech was supposed to attract someone, engage someone and make someone want to know more. Once you had their attention, once they wanted to know more, you had a license to talk their ear off. Afterall they were the one that asked the question, “what does that mean?’

While this may see a bit disconnected, this was the first thing that came into my mind when I read today’s Gospel.

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Remember, this came after the miracle of the loves and fishes and as an answer to the question of “who do people say that I am?”. Not exactly the same as, “so what do you do for a living?” but sort of.
If you look at His response, it is less than 60 words long, it definitely encourages conversation. And “what does that mean?” was probably the first question asked.

“So let me get this straight. In order for me to follow you I have to die? Hmmmmm, that would be a no.”

There are two specific times during Jesus’ ministry where the Gospel says that people turned their backs on him. The time in John 6, where he said, “them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink.” And then there was this one where he told His followers that they would have to die in order to follow Him.

The first one went against the cultural norms of the times. It was “unclean” and “unholy” for a devout jew to come in contact with blood in any form or in any circumstance. And here Jesus was saying that they would have to drink blood, not to mention His blood. And this second one goes against the cultural norms of just about any time. We are not awfully fond of dying at any time for anyone.

But there it is, and right now … today … on the first day of Lent. This reading is setting the tone for the next 6 weeks. It is an elevator speech for the next 40 something days (not including Sundays) and we have to be left wondering “what does that mean?”

While we may not like it, the reading really does speak for itself, it really does set the tone for our coming Lent. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself.” Remember, just a few days ago we heard in Matthew 5 that we are called to be perfect, “even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
What? We are being told that we are supposed to “take up our cross”, supposed to “lose our life”, and we are supposed to “be perfect”? No wonder His followers started to turn their backs on Him. Talk about the worst Elevator speech ever!

Unless we think of how the Father in Heaven is perfect. He is perfect in His Love. Think of how we are to take up or cross, it is so hard to love the way that God loves. It is hard to love those that don’t love us, or those that hurt us or say evil things about us but that is where we are called to take up our cross, bear that burden, give up a little bit of our selves.

If we do not do anything else for the whole of Lent then just try to love perfectly as our Father does we will have done enough. And yes, it will be hard, and yes, we will have to deny ourselves and of course we will have to take up our cross in order to even try to give thar much love but …
Remember, “whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

After all, “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

LK 9:22-29

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”

February 23, 2022

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