“Games People Play – Sorry – Sermon 2”
Luke 19:1-10, Isaiah 58:3-8
Sermon delivered by Pastor Daniel Mejia
St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church
March 1, 2015
Today we are going to play another game, its name is “Sorry.” “Sorry is a board game where players try to travel around the board with their pieces faster than any other player. The game title comes from the many ways in which a player can negate the progress of another, while issuing an apologetic “Sorry!” The objective is to be the first player to get all your color pawns in the Home space or finish line. The pawns are normally moved in a clockwise direction, but can be moved backward if directed. Movement of the pawns is directed by the drawing of a card.” (Wikipedia) It is a fun game because you win by advancing and by sending your opponents all the way back to the starting point. Let me warn you. Although Sorry is a board game, things can get so intense during the game that it can very easily turn into a contact sport. Because if you want to win, you need not be afraid of winning by hurting the other players. Some people don’t like losing. But that’s how you win. You win by being heartless. The only time the word “sorry” is said it is with a sarcastic tone because the reality is that you don’t mean it. You say sorry that you bumped them from their advanced position on the board all the way to the beginning but you will do it again in order to advance and eventually win. You say sorry but you really don’t mean it.
What if I tell you that many times we live our lives like a game of Sorry? A game in which we play to win no matter the consequences. We play the game of life to win and if in the process of making decisions we hurt others, we may say “sorry” but we really don’t mean it. Because we will do it again. And sometimes we play this game so much that eventually we get desensitized to the pain we cause in others because all we care about is us. The word sorry then becomes an empty word, a repetitious apology with no real meaning, especially when there are no changes on our part. Think with me for a moment. What happens when we live like this as a society? What happens when we multiply this attitude of doing what we want and not caring about the consequences of our actions? What happens when we are never sorry enough to change how we live?
Now, here’s how we play the game sorry in real life. Just like in the game sorry, you get a board called life. You also get pawns, they are called choices. These are the choices you will make with your life. Now, remember, your choices not only have a direct effect on you but on other people. These choices that turn into decisions are given to us every day. As soon as you wake up, the game begins. So the first choice/decision of the day is, Am I going to spend some time thanking God for the day or not? If you do, no need to use the sorry card to keep advancing but if you don’t then you use the sorry card for God. “God sorry I didn’t say thank you, but I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then, your day keeps moving as you get ready to go to school, work, both or, if you are retired, the many things you have planned for the day. Now you have another choice/decision to make, am I going to be kind with the people that I will interact throughout the day? Am I going to be kind to my teachers, co-workers, siblings, parents, friends, family? This one is difficult because sometimes all these people are not kind to us. But still you and I have a choice, to be kind or not? You may decide to not be kind because they don’t deserve it; and so you stick it to them. And you keep advancing on your board. The game keeps moving, more choices are presented to us, what are we going to do with the choices we have? At the end of the day, we need to look at our board and ask ourselves, when I hurt somebody, was I truly sorry and apologize? When I made the decisions of the day, did I stop to think how my decisions would hurt others? Did I even care?
I want you to meet Zacchaeus this morning. Zacchaeus is the perfect example of someone who started his life playing the game sorry but at some point he so got tired, so lonely that he decided it was time to change to a new game, the game of true repentance for his actions.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a Jew who collected taxes from other Jews for the Roman Empire. To the Jews – he was considered a despicable traitor, an outcast. Most tax collectors got their terrible reputation because they would collect more taxes than needed and skim some money off the top. Although we don’t get the full story of Zacchaeus’ tax collecting wheeling’s and dealings, we do know that he was the “chief tax collector,” that the reputation of tax collectors was not unfounded, and that the higher you go in the system the more complicit you typically become.
Combine Zacchaeus’ ambition with the fact that he lived in Jericho and what you get is a match made in heaven. Jericho was a very wealthy and important town. It’s in the Jordan Valley and it controlled the route to Jerusalem and the crossing of the river to get to the lands east of Jordan. The great historian Josephus called Jericho ‘a divine region’, ‘the fattest in Palestine’. All of this made Jericho one of the greatest taxation centers in Palestine. In other words, Jericho was a tax paradise for those in the shameless profession of tax collecting. (Barclay)
We can safely assume that in the exercise of his profession, Zacchaeus made plenty of people unhappy. We can safely assume too that Zacchaeus was not liked or respected by those who knew him. But for some reason he decided that it was a good idea to go and see Jesus who was coming into town. This trip into the city to see Jesus was most likely not without incident. According to Scottish Bible commentator William Barclay, Zacchaeus desire to see Jesus “was a courageous thing to do, for many would take the chance to get a nudge, or kick, or push at the little tax-collector. It was an opportunity not to be missed. Zacchaeus would be black and blue with bruises that day.” But he didn’t care. Jesus may have something for him and he was willing to risk it. He was willing to risk it because he was tired of playing sorry and not really meaning it. He was willing to risk seeing Jesus because he was ready to play the new game of genuine repentance that Jesus fully endorses for him and for all of us. And here’s how he plays the game.
“Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” (Luke 19:9)
Zaccheaus’ game changer was not just his desire to be accepted by those he had hurt; but the fact that Jesus was showing him a new way of life. Saying sorry was not enough. Zaccheaus realized that if he wanted to be a follower of Jesus, he needed to play a different game. The game of not only saying sorry with his words but also with his actions.
What does God expect from us when we hurt others? Repentance, the Greek word is metanoia, meaning to turn around and go in a different direction.
William Barclay tells the story about a meeting he attended at church where several women were giving their testimony. One woman was very quiet during the meeting. She was asked to share her testimony but refused. She was asked why and she answered, ‘Four of these women who have just given their testimony owe me money, and I and my family are half-starved because we cannot buy food.’ A testimony is utterly worthless unless it is backed by deeds which guarantee its sincerity. It is not a mere change of words which Jesus Christ demands, but a change of life.
The whole point of the board game, Sorry, is to get ahead at the expense of others. And for some time that was Zacchaeus’ story; yet a miracle happened in his life, he changed his ways. Zacchaeus went so far as to be willing to make a fool of himself for Christ by climbing up into that tree. He righted his wrongs to the fullest extent of the Law (Lev. 6:5) thus bearing fruits worthy of repentance, genuine repentance. Zacchaeus wasn’t just saying the words ‘I’m sorry’ he followed up with his actions. He said sorry for real.
This morning we have the chance to gather around the table and receive Jesus. We have the opportunity to be welcomed with open arms around the table of God. We have the opportunity to work through those things that are keeping us from Jesus. The good news is that Jesus does receive our sorrys and helps us to move beyond our mistakes. That’s what this table is all about.
Lord Jesus Christ,
watch over those who are leaders in your Church.
Keep them faithful to their vocation
and to the proclamation of your message.
Teach them to recognize and interpret the signs of the times.
Strengthen them with the gifts of the Spirit,
and help them to serve their subjects,
especially the poor and lowly.
Give them a vivid sense of your presence in the world
and a knowledge of how to show it to others.