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Playing for Keeps

Theme: What does it profit if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul? 2nd Sunday in Lent
Object: A bag of marbles
Scripture: Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Mark 8:34-36

When I was a child, one of my favorite games was the game of marbles. I don't see children playing marbles any more. Some of you may not even know how to play marbles. Let me explain how we used to play marbles when I was a child.

First, you draw a big ring in the dirt. Then each player puts the same number of his own marbles into the ring. The players then take turns shooting a marble, like this, (demonstrate) trying to knock the other marbles out of the ring. When a shooter knocks a marble out of the ring, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. If his shooting marble stays inside the ring, he was allowed to keep shooting. If not, the next shooter takes his turn. When all the marbles have been knocked out of the ring, they are counted and the one with the most marbles is the winner.

Before a game of marbles begins, one player will sometimes ask the other players, "Are we playing for fun, or are we playing for keeps?" If you just play for fun, when the game is over, the winner gives the marbles back. But if you play for keeps, the winner gets to keep all of the marbles he has won.

Some people live their life as if it were a game of marbles. They spend their whole life trying to be the one with the most marbles. They think that the one with the biggest house, the fanciest car, and the most money in the bank is the winner. They think they are playing "for keeps," but when they come to the end of their life, do you know how many of their marbles they get to take with them? None of them! They spend their whole life trying to win all of the marbles, but in the end, they are left with nothing!

Jesus said that if we want to be real winners we must be willing to give up everything and follow him. When we follow Jesus, we may not have a lot of the things that some people think are important. We may not live in a big house or drive a fancy car, but we will have something that is much better than that, we will have treasures laid up for us in heaven. When we get to heaven, there will be a mansion waiting for us to move in and we will walk around on streets of gold. Best of all, we will have everlasting life with Jesus. You see, when we give our lives to Jesus, HE "plays for keeps."

Some people will give anything to get more marbles, but Jesus asked "What good will it do them if they gain the whole world, but lose their soul?"

Dear Father, help us to realize that the only life that lasts is a life lived for you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

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An alternate lesson based on Mark 8:31-38: "The Game of Life"
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