May 24,  6th Easter “Jesus Our Game Changer” Series Acts 1:1-11 Monopoly

So today we come to the end of the "Jesus Our Game Changer" series. Each week we've looked at a popular board game that represents a negative aspect of life: SORRY- represented guilt, CRANIUM -represented doubts, CANDYLAND - represented unrealistic expectations, CONNECT 4- represented unrealistic plans and TROUBLE — represented…well, trouble!! 

We've looked at all these games, and then we've seen how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes the game. The game for today is MONOPOLY. How many have played this game? One of the things about this game, is it's so well known that they've come out with thousands of different versions. There's Monopoly for most colleges, for most sports teams ... for a lot of TV shows & movies. There's Horse Lovers' Monopoly, Cat Lovers' Monopoly, Bass Fishing Monopoly, QVC Monopoly, World of Warcraft Monopoly!

But whatever Monopoly you're playing, the object of the game is always to make money. It's to build an empire of properties with rents so high that you drive the other players into bankruptcy and take all their money. To win at Monopoly you have to look out for #1. You have to be tough, aggressive, and ruthless. You have to decide from the outset that making money is your number one goal.

And you know who's really good at this? My older sister. When we were a young, we'd play between my older brother, myself and my younger sister, she’d win.  We’d have friends come over and play Monopoly — she'd win. One time my older brother and I said, "Let's team up secretly and stop her from winning—always help each other, never help her" — and you know what? She still won.

Monopoly is about making money and accumulating possessions. So, imagine that you're playing Monopoly and you're just about to win:  You've got Boardwalk and Park Place, both with hotels.  You've got all the orange and all the blue and all the yellow properties, and you've got hotels on all of them.  You've got all four railroads and both utilities.  And finally, the last person goes bankrupt and you win!

But then something happens. The game is over. And all of a sudden, all your possessions don't matter anymore. As John Ortberg says, “When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.” All your houses — back in the box. All your hotels — back in the box. All your property — Boardwalk and Park Place, the railroads, the utilities — back in the box. All your monev, that you worked so hard to get — every last dollar goes back in the box.  Even the board itself, where you lived and died and built your empire, is folded up and put away. When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

And that's how it is in real life. Someday the game that is your life will be over. And if you spend your whole life focused on yourself -- if your number one goal has been making money and acquiring possessions -- then you're going to realize that you've invested your life in things that don't last—things that, in the end, don't matter. When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.

But what if there was a way to invest your life in things that matter? What if you could make your life count? What if you could put your energy into something that will outlive you — things that don't go back in the box? What if, instead of playing a real-life game of Monopoly, you could play a much more satisfying game called, Mission.

In Acts 1, the disciples of Jesus are playing a version of Monopoly. They're not necessarily after money, but they are in pursuit of something selfish.  Verse 6: “So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"  In other words, "Now are you gonna give us power? Are you gonna put us on top? Are you gonna make us kings?" These guys are still in a selfish pursuit of power. They're still playing Monopoly.

But Jesus says, "Let's play a different game." Verse 7:  He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. "

Now that's a game worth playing that's a purpose worth living for: To join Jesus in his world-wide mission: To make disciples, To be a witness, To invest your life in something that matters. To invest your life in something that will outlive you, something that doesn't go back in the box when the game is over. Instead of playing Monopoly, let's play a much more satisfying game called “Mission.”

And here's the thing: Unlike Monopoly, this is a game everybody can play!  Now you say, "Pastor Mike, what do you mean? I can't be a missionary! I can't go to Nicaragua like Chris Kondas does, or Honduras like Mike Witmer does, or go to China like Madison Taylor did" And maybe not but you can be a witness!  You might say, "But I'm afraid, I'm scared — I'm no good at talking about my faith!" Well, how about being a witness by finding a way to show people God's love? St. Francis of Assisi had an answer for that fear. He said "Always proclaim the Gospel...if necessary... use words!!"  Meaning its almost always more important to proclaim the gospel through your life's deeds than your mouth's words!

When I think of people in mission, people proclaiming God's love in Christ,I don't necessarily think of great preachers, or talented theologians.  I think of the people who serve at Three C’s food bank over in North Lima, our members who helped with The Banquet of Salem last Monday and served over 230 meals.  I think of folks at worship last week who took the sewing kits home and made face masks that will be shared with hospitals and such to deal with this Coronavirus.  I think of the folks who showed up an hour early for service today to make sure everything was set to go, sound system, bulletins, fellowship items like cookies and drinks.  I think of Donna Harbin, Vicki Elwood and several others of our members who spend time writing cards of well wishes for birthdays and anniversaries and share cards of caring during a loss or health crisis. Lots and lots of you like serving our community. I think about many of you, who have said, "l want to a difference for Christ. I want my life to count for Christ."

Instead of Monopoly, you're playing a much more satisfying game called "Mission."  Now, how do you play the game of Mission? (And you understand, it's not really a game, I'm just using it as an analogy.) How do you play the game of mission?  First of all, the game piece, the little thing that moves around the board, is YOU. And one thing I do like about Monopoly, is that every piece is unique: There's the thimble and the wheelbarrow.  There’s the hat and the little dog,  and the tiny race car. All different — all unique — and that's how it is with you. 

God has made you with a specific set of gifts, talents, abilities, and opportunities. And God has a mission for YOU. So, the game piece is you — the hand that moves the game piece is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you...(Acts 1:8a).”  The Holy Spirit is the power and presence of God working in your life. And before you go out in mission, you need the Holy Spirit to fill you, motivate you, guide you, and empower you. So the game piece is you, the hand that moves the piece is the Holy Spirit — and then the game board is the entire world. 

Jesus says, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1 :8b). " Jerusalem — that would be local missions like Three C’s, The Banquet of Salem, Vacation Bible School.  Judea and Samaria — that would be regional and national missions like Camp Frederick in Rogers OH, or Teen Challenge that provides Christ focues 12 step recovery for folks dealing with Addication that has centers in Youngstown and Akron.  It includes our support of Sophia’s Women Center, that serves not only women in Salem but Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties.  The ends of the earth — that would be international missions, like Lutheran Disaster Relief taht responds to distasters all over the globe, or our support of Samaritan’s Purse which proclaims the gospel through deeds of love and mercy across our planet.  Or it might be supporting Compassion International which makes global ministry individual ministry by linking individual children in poverty with individual prayerful financial sponsors.  It's supporting Voice of the Martyrs which prayerfully and financially assists persecuted Christian throughout our planet.  When it comes to international missions, there's those who go, and there's those who support, and both are crucial.  It's not a competition where one or the other is more important.  No Both are critically needed.  And for both those that go and those that stay its crucial they stay connected.  So that the one that has the ability to go has the where with all to go because of the connection with the prayerful financial support of those that stay.

But here's the thing: Whether you go or stay, whether you're young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy, there is something you can do. There is some way you can contribute to the world-wide mission of God. Because Mission is a game that everybody can play!  And God has set it up so that Mission is a game everyone can win. 

I recall the story that made the news a few years back.  It was a story of an elderly woman who was on a mission.  Myrtie Howell was her name and she had lived so long she had outlived her husband, and outlived her son.  Now she was old, fragile, poor, stuck in a nursing home.  She had found herself lonely and depressed. But one day, she decided to play the game of Mission. She said, "Lord, I'm still here.  So, here I am, give me something to do." And she heard God say, in that still small voice "Write to prisoners."  So, she sent a letter to the Georgia State Penitentiary. And asked that it be posted on a bulletin board. The letter said, "Dear Inmate: I am willing to be a friend. If you'd like to hear from me, write me. I will answer every letter you write.  Signed: Grandmother Howell. "

Immediately she received the names of 8 prisoners who wanted to write her. Before long she was corresponding regularly with over 40 inmates. Then she started getting letters from prisoners' wives, prisoners' children, prisoners' family members, all pouring out their hearts and requesting prayer. Myrtie answered every letter, and before she would write the letter, she would pray, "Lord, you know what this person needs, now say it through me." And Myrtie said, "You would be surprised at the letters God writes!"

And you know what else she said? She said that now that she had found a mission, these twilight years were the most fulfilling years of her life.  Unlike Monopoly, Mission is a game that everybody can play. Whether you're young or old, rich or poor, healthy or fragile, there is something you can do to make a difference. If you will place the unique game piece that is you into the hands of the Holy Spirit, then God will move you where you need to go. 

So let me ask you: What game are you playing? What's the real goal of your life? Is it the selfish pursuit of more? Or is it to find your place in the worldwide mission of God? Its a question you should ask yourself.  Its a question you NEED to ask yourself.