given on Sunday, November 22, 2015
- Psalm 118:21-25
- I Timothy 2:1-3
- Matthew 6:25-33
- Psalm 126
Growing up, playing cards was a huge part of our recreation. The game my maternal grandparents played was Pitch while my dad and his cousins played Pinochle. Then during the college years the weekends were filled with games of Spades, especially using Bates House rules (rotating trumps).
Playing cards provided a great social setting, lots of laughter and usually some tasty snacks, too. Seldom did any ill will surface or rules get broken, etc. No one ever cheated, at least seriously because there were those silly attempts to win a hand in a sneaky way or another.
Playing cards or any other game such as Scrabble, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Old Maid, even, are part of the social climate in which I grew up. The family gatherings, church socials, or casual evenings just with our immediate family were often filled with cards or board games of all kinds. One of the more traditional ones I enjoy is the Life game.
In fact, the board game Life became a teaching tool in class. We played the game but had to record each move, decide whether the choices were good ones or bad ones. Even playing Life, there are opportunities to skip some spaces on the board or opportunities to go in different directions. The game became a simulation of our real lives.
Living in this 21st century is challenging. It is different than when the Pilgrims landed or when Jesus was spreading the Good News. Yet one thing never changes: life has tough days; we are handed lemons as the cliché states. The difference, though, for Christians is that we have a wild card. We have life with God.
The scriptures today are filled with words of thanksgiving and promises. There is no denying that life is tough, but with faith in God, we can make lemonade from those lemons. God is our wild card.
The gospel of Matthew tells us that we do not have to worry with God on our side.
- Psalm 118—I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. . .
- I Timothy 2–. . . Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. . .
- Matthew 6:25—Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life; what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. . . .
- Psalm 126—It seemed like a dream, too good to be true. . . God was wonderful to us. . .
The words are given to us to encourage us, to use when we need a reminder of God’s love.
If you need more proof, stop and consider how the board game plays out. What if you are losing? What if you land on one of those squares that spells out a new tribulation? How do you handle it? Do you get mad, throw a tantrum, or laugh and continue the game? Games often have wild cards or a free tile as in Scrabble or the Joker in cards.
Stop and think about all the people in your life. Which ones seem to handle bad events better than others? Have you ever looked at them and wished you could manage as well as they do? Maybe you see that the way they handle troubles seems so nonchalant. I would not be surprised if they are the very ones in the community who attend church each week, read the Bible, and pray.
God is the Christian wild card in managing life’s ups and downs. We know that whatever happens in our lives, God is with us. We take confidence that no earthly trial or tribulation will overwhelm us to the point that we lose our relationship with God. We know that earthly life is temporary. God’s promise is life eternal.
The scriptures throughout the Bible, not just in the New Testament, tell stories of how life challenges humans. Beginning with the story of Adam and Eve, we know that temptation can interrupt our loyalty to God.
God chose the Jewish people as his favorites, but that did not protect them from difficulties. These tribes lived in difficult environments, were taken into slavery, had to flee, and had to live in foreign countries among pagans.
The psalms are filled with frustrations and emotions, yet repeatedly the words in the psalms shift from pleas to thanks. This is one of the best features of the psalms. God is open to our pain, our anger, and our disappointment, but once we yell and scream, we know that God will never leave us.
When we leave God that is when trouble can destroy us. It is rather like trying to cheat in a card game or make a sneaky move playing a board game. God is grace. When we make the wrong move, he is aware. He waits and watches for us to return. He listens to our prayers waiting to see if we are ready to play our wild card: we call out to God and ask for his grace and guidance.
Today, take confidence that with God as our wild card, we can and we do manage the tough days in our lives. We can celebrate and offer thanksgiving for all the blessings we receive during the year.
Thanksgiving has always been part of our faith practice but this week there is an extra dose of thanks. With the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded that the trials and tribulations that lead to the founding our nation continue even today. The key, though, to manage these difficulties is our wild card—God.
Living by God’s rule, the trials and tribulations will fade away in our memories. Living life among others works when we love one another. God handed us the wild card and it never wears out. Therefore, while playing this game of life on earth, remember that the rule is simple and you always have a wild card that is activated by prayer.
Thank you for all the wonders of this earth.
Thank you for all the beauty surrounding us.
Thank you for all the melodies we hear around us.
Thank you for the softness we feel brushing our skin.
Thank you for the tastes of the fruits of this earth.
Most importantly, though, thank you for the gift of your son.
May we never forget how he died for our sins.
May we offer thanksgivings by sharing our wild card.
May others recognize your grace through our lives.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.