May 10, 2020:  Easter 5 “Jesus Our Game Changer” series 

“Candyland” Luke 24:36-48

Join me in a quick prayer:  O Lord may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight our rock and redeemer.  We’re in a series called “Jesus, our game changer!”  Each week we’re looking at a different board game that represents one of the struggles of life.  And then we’re examining how the resurrection of Jesus can change that game. The game for today is CANDYLAND. It’s a very simple game that you can play with very young children.  All you have to do is draw a card with a color on it and then you move to the next space of that color.

So, as some of you who’ve been with us during this series know, the game we look at represents a struggle in life, a difficulty, a negative that Jesus helps turn around and change for the positive.  So, what’s wrong with CANDYLAND?  Its fun, simple, innocent, just about any age can play it, and it’s not very challenging.

That last part is the problem, “not very challenging” the ease of the game is its downfall.  Have you ever played this game more than twice in a row? Its SO syrupy sweet and boring! It’s a game for immature people who can’t handle challenges that want life to be all gum drops and sweets.  I’m saying this game represents us when we want life to treat us like perennial preschoolers.

I think there’s a part inside all of us that has yet to grow up.  We want our lives to be a stress-free journey from Cupcake Commons to the Candy Castle.  We want our life to be a pleasurable adventure through the candy cane forest, where we hang out on the Gum Drop Mountain on our way to the sweet ending at the Candy Castle. When we don’t get that, we have a meltdown! 

You see, we know life can be sweet.  We know God can reign down blessings upon us that are like the frosting of faith on life’s Christian cake. But when we start to demand it be must that way all the time, every time we can’t find peace. We’ve tasted the sweetness of life and we expect God to make it that way all day, every day and when its not we get mad at God. We get stressed out, we have no joy, no peace, we meltdown.

As you are well aware during this Coronavirus pandemic, life is not a cake walk. Perhaps you’ve known life isn’t Candyland long before this outbreak ever started.  Whether it was a long time go or just recently you experienced this disappointing realization stealing of your sugary joy and  robbing of your sweet peace.  I have good news Jesus can change the game. 

But first I have to set the record straight.  Too many Christians have been sold a lie that when God is in your life, when you accept Jesus as your Risen Lord and Savior, life gets easier, it’s a cake walk, its CANDYLAND all over again.  That’s what Satan wants you to believe but its not what God’s offers in Christ. 

Yes, the resurrected Jesus can restore your joy and give you peace.  But its not the sugary sweet empty calorie joy and peace Satan wants us to long for.  You know what I’m talking about.  There are so many foods out there that taste great and have no nutritional value.  You can eat an entire bag of family sized chips and still be hungry because your body knows its needs something more than that! It needs something nutritious, something of substance, something that has value. That’s what Jesus offers nutrition for your soul, substantive joy, and valuable peace of mind.  Satan offers sugary joy and syrupy peace that are gone in an instant.

Luke 24 (p. 6 bulletin)- Peace first thing he says- not everything is wonderful now- doesn’t give empty promises or fake realities.  Offers them peace in the midst of trouble doesn’t change world into Candyland but he does bring peace.

Catherine Marshall shared the story of a King given task of choosing best picture of peace. Advisors narrowed it down to two paintings- one of serene mountain lake, another somewhat opposite crags darkened sky foaming roaring waterfall Bird in nest during storm.  Chose the latter, because peace does not mean there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.  True peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

Jesus told us in Matthew 11:30 “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Many people wrongly think Jesus was saying “life for my followers is CANDYLAND.”  My YOKE is easy… didn’t say there wouldn’t be work to do.  A yoke is put on when there’s work to do.  But he did say it would be easy because the yoke is designed for who you are.  Instead of ill-fitting and chaffing, it fits well and that makes it easier.  There is still work to do but with a well fitted yoke, you can find joy in the work rather than pure drudgery. 

Jesus says my “Burden is light.”  That is not “my burdens are nonexistent!”  There is still a load to carry when following Christ, in fact its cross shaped, Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me” but here’s the thing. Christ helps us carry it. That’s what makes Christ’s burdens light.  Christ is in our lives and in our souls helping us to work through the burdens in life. And you know what comes with that, when Jesus is beside us to befriend us, above us to watch over us, behind us to encourage us… we find peace.  Peace because we don’t face life’s challenging games all by ourselves.  You don’t have to pretend life’s challenges are just Candyland challenges of rainbows and unicorns to have peace.  You can have peace when you share your Life’s challenges with Christ… because then those untasty challenges aren’t all on you or all about you. Now instead of trying to turn life’s challenges into some pretend CANDYLAND, you can share them with Christ.  Those challenges will still be real but when you share them with Christ you find his presence and his peace is also real.  “Never leave you or forsake you”- peace that you are not alone.

Speaking of sharing in our lives rather than pretending for our lives.  Go back to bulletin page 6, Luke 24 I want you to notice something about this Jesus brings peace through community. In all but one post resurrection appearance Jesus shows up when the disciples have gathered together.  They experience the risen Christ in Community.  Christian theologian Walter Wink puts it this way “the resurrection is not a fact to be believed but an experience to be shared.” 

So many have expressed its so good to know I’m part of a community. Watching a service on TV in lonely living room by myself not the same as being beside my church family even it is… parking spot by parking spot rather than pew by pew. A worship service with no community is simply ritual.  There’s something comfortable in ritual and it has its place. But worship in community is relationship.  There is something much richer and rewarding when we worship God in relationship. Jesus brings that richness and fullness of peace by gathering us in community, by making us family. Do you feel it here today?

So we can find valuable peace by coming into the Risen Christ’s presence, we can substantive joy by being in relationship with Christ and his community. How do you know this fact that Christ is Risen? How do you experience this revelation that Christ is Risen? Unless you examine and wrestle with God’s word.  Jesus then opened their minds to understand the scripture Luke 24:45. What that says is in the midst of life’s troubles we can find peace in God’s word.

Luke 24:46-47 What does God word say there?  That repentance and forgiveness of sin be proclaimed in his name to all nations.  Jesus bring peace through his presence, through his people in community but maybe first and foremost through his forgiveness.  Forgiveness of sins is the primary benefit of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This is why he did it so that you can stand before God clean, fresh, forgiven.  Jesus died on the cross to bring you peace with God.  Peace with God is most important because it lasts forever, nothing can take that away from you.  If you’re looking for peace that can exist even in the storms of life, that lasts beyond the sweet moments of life then make peace with God.  Confess your sins, receive forgiveness drop your guilt, grab hold of Christ’s future.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things to you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble BUT do not fear I have overcome the world”- Female pastor did an entire message at youth gathering on “Jesus has a beautiful butt”  It’s a big butt and it’s a beautiful butt.  Stare at that butt, not your trouble… so you can move on with Jesus and with him become an overcomer.  Jesus overcomes the world by defeating its most feared weapon, death. Christ resurrection assures us when the game’s over we’re all winners because anyone that holds him in their heart has the keys to heaven.

Today’s Mother’s Day and I want to say a word of thanks and appreciation to the mom’s out there.  (can I get an Amen! Honk) Too many women have been sold a bill of goods that says motherhood is CANDYLAND.  It’s supposed to be all butterflies, rainbows, and unicorns. It’s a land of beautiful babies that grow up to be brilliant well-adjusted wonder women and handsome intelligent Ironmen. Motherhood is beautiful BUT it’s also a butt load of work. Motherhood is full of fragrant fulfilment but it’s also full of smelly dirty laundry.  It’s full of bruised knees, bruised egos and broken relationships.  However, similar to the beautiful but of Jesus that transforms trouble to peace, there’s a beautiful but of motherhood that transforms is from burden to blessing. 

What makes is that but?  What makes it more than just a plain hot mess?  Love!  Just as the love of God in Christ Jesus can transform life’s moments into a place of sweet peace, (whether they’re candyland or crappyland) a mother’s love can transform a child’s moments into a place of sweet peace (crappyland or candyland). Love makes the difference.  Mom’s thank you for your love.  Thank you for making a difference.  You’re not just a life giver, you are a game changer.

Speaking of game changers, Jesus is our game changer.  Because of Jesus defeat of death, we don’t have to pretend life is a perfectly simply syrupy Candyland to possess true peace.  Because of Jesus’ steadfast love we can have enduring joy. Because of Jesus’ Amazing Grace and forgiveness, we have a future that’s more than a pretend candy castle it’s the halls of heaven.  I thank God that life isn’t candyland because I know, I’ve experienced Christ is Risen!  (He is risen indeed).  In the midst of COVID 19 and a host of other untasty conflicts and sour struggles in life I don’t need Candyland.  I have Christ in my life. He’s my game changer.  Is he yours?  (honk) Amen.