Summary: Being in jail is not a game
Go directly to Jail
Have you ever played Monopoly? You throw the die to see how many spaces you get to move. And if you are like me you always land on the one you don’t want, then draw a card and it reads “Go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, and it never fails some one else has the get out of jail free card.
I don’t play games much because I hate loosing, I don’t gamble for the same reason, I just hate loosing. I’m not a sore looser I just don’t like it.
I’m going to ask a question but please don’t raise you hand, I don’t want to embarrass anyone. Have you ever been in jail? I have and it’s not fun at all. I won’t say why I was in jail and it isn’t important. But I can sympathize with Paul as we consider today’s text.
It certainly was not fun for Paul, and there was no get out of jail card. This was not the first time Paul had been in jail, but now he was in prison in Rome, awaiting trail for preaching about Jesus Christ. Paul stood to loose his very life for being a Christian.
Being in jail gave Paul time to reflect on all he had done and all he had yet to do. He couldn’t visit the churches so he wrote letters to encourage and to correct any problems that may have existed. These letters give us a look at the problems that the early church faced and we see many of the same problems today. No two people or group of people see every thing exactly the same way. There was a lot of confusion about the method of worship and ideology and Paul attempted to bring every Christian to a common theme. We try to follow these themes in our worship services today, yet there are a lot of different denominations, simply because we cannot agree on every nuance of Christology. Some say I’m right and you have to do it my way or else you are going to hell. There are two things wrong with that approach.
#1 If I have to do it your way and there is no other way, then you have made yourself the Gate Keeper to God’s Kingdom. And I want to know how you are able to know the “omnipotent” mind of God, so surely that there is no possibility of your being wrong.
#2 If I disagree with you and you say you can’t be wrong, then you have placed a stumbling block in my path, a barrier between me and my God.
Does that mean that every body can just do their own thing? No, of course not!
But it does mean that just because I don’t agree with your way of thinking and doing things it isn’t an automatic death sentence.
These are some of the issues or similar issues that Paul tried to address in his many letters to the different churches. Often it was like playing Monopoly, you throw the die and hope you land on Boardwalk, simply a game of chance.
But the early churches recognized Paul, not only as preacher, but as an authority, and his words were well respected. I thank God for all of Paul’s letters. They are significant to us today.
There is one other thing of note in today’s scripture and that is Paul’s statement;” for me to die is gain”. I hear a certain note of depression in these words. Paul is bound to a guard, and no doubt he was very tired of being in jail for so long at a time, waiting for an uncertain future. So as he wrote this epistle he declared that he was ready to depart this life and go be with Jesus. Still he knew his work wasn’t finished, and it wasn’t a choice he could freely make.
I have often wondered, why am I still here? Haven’t you? What purpose do I have in life? All my children are grown, with families of their own. Have I achieved every thing I wanted too? No, and it’s too late in life to worry about it.
But just like Paul, I know it’s not my choice to make. God isn’t through with me yet. So I will go on and try to follow God’s lead, and I truly believe God has called me to bring you the message just as Paul did so long ago. I know I will never achieve the status that Paul had, but if I reach one person, if I can bring one soul to Jesus Christ. Then I am a success. If each of you here today feel as I do and try to reach out to one other person. Then you too are a success. Paul said; if I go on living in the body, it will mean fruitful labor for me.