Summary: To win at the "Game of Life" board game one must amass a fortune. But to win in God’s game of life we must lose our worldliness.
Being A Loser at the Game of Life
NOTE: The general concept for this sermon was adapted from a children’s sermon idea found at sermons4kids.com
In 1860, Milton Bradley created his first game. The game, originally called The Checkered Game of Life, was basically a modified checker board with the purpose of earning points by landing on “good” squares as the players moved from infancy (in the bottom left corner) to “Happy Old Age” in the upper right corner. The game sold 45,000 copies in its first year!
In 1960 (on the original game’s 100th anniversary) the Milton Bradley company re-introduced the “Game of Life.” And now, after many variations and updates, the game can be found in family game closets around the world. The board no longer resembles a checker board, but the basic premise is the same – land on good spaces, earn money (instead of points) and by the end of the game, earn a place in “millionaire estates” rather than “countryside acres retirement home”. Through the decisions made by the players (from choosing a career to risking money in the stock market to having the opportunity to give to good causes) the game attempts to model the ups and downs of life. With one spin of the spinner, you can lose everything or double your worth.
In the mid-1980’s Milton Bradley adopted the advertizing slogan: Be a Winner at the Game of Life! The commercials promoted what many in the world think it means to be a “winner” at life. One commercial showed a family playing Life together with the tag, Be a winner at the game of Life playing in the background as the announcer says… get a job – And the little boy says “I’ll be a doctor”. Have a family – and another family member says, “I have twins”. Be a winner at the game of Life… I won the lottery. Be a winner at the Game of Life… I’m a millionaire!
Unfortunately too many people think that to be a winner at life a person must accomplish what it takes to win at the board game of life. The world tells us that winners are people with status and clout. Winners are people with healthy, normal (whatever that is) families. Winners are people with money, people with no problems, people who are lucky enough to win the lottery. Isn’t that what we really want in this world - to be considered a winner at the game of life?
We want others to look at us and see people who have it all together. We don’t want others to see our struggles. We don’t want people to think that perhaps we don’t have as much stuff as our neighbors. We don’t want people to think we’re losers! We want to end up in “Millionaire Estates” with all the other winners, not at the “Countryside Acres” with the other losers!
But real life is not a board game. The decisions we make in life don’t go away after an hour of play. Choices of careers and families and how we spend our money can and do have long-term effects for us and for those around us. And yet, many will say that the winners in life are the Bill Gates, the Oprah Winfreys, the Donald Trumps, the rich, the powerful. Those are the ones who will retire happily, while the rest of us just bide our time.
The scriptures turn this concept of winning and losing on its head!
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus begins talking about ideas that aren’t what others are expecting. The scriptures tell us that Jesus speaks plainly (no parables or tricky sayings) as he teaches about the suffering that the he must endure. He tells his followers that he will be rejected by the Temple leaders. That he will be killed. That he will suffer, die and on the third day be raised from the dead. And all of this is too much for Peter. Peter, has just proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah, the chosen One who will redeem the people of Israel. But this Jesus is not talking like the Messiah that Peter is expecting.
Peter is expecting what many of the Israelites were expecting – a Savior who will come with great military power to overthrow the Romans. All this talk of suffering and dying and rejection is not at all what Peter thinks Israel needs. In his mind Israel needs a “winner” at the game of life. They need someone who can stand up to the opposition and then put them in their place. He wants the Messiah to have power and wealth – not death on a cross. So, he pulls Jesus aside and tries to talk some sense into him. Peter rebukes Jesus – he begins to tell Jesus everything that is wrong. He tries to convince Jesus what the people need is a winner who triumphs over the enemy, not a loser who is rejected and put to death.