Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bucket List

The season of Advent begins today, a season when we reflect on what’s to come. Young folks, and some of us older folks, are anxiously waiting for that day when we’ll finally get to open the brightly wrapped packages with our names on them. You know, the ones sitting under someone’s Christmas tree.

Friends, you know that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about that time everyone’s eagerly waiting for, the return of Jesus.

We’ve heard the scriptures tell us what Jesus said about his return. He told his disciples to be ready for his return. No one knows the date or the time when he’ll come. Only God the Father knows the exact time. Jesus just said we should be ready.

But we aren’t to just bide our time sitting around waiting. Last Sunday’s lesson was about separating the sheep from the goats, sorting out those who had been taking care of the sick, the widowed, the poor, or those in prison from those who’d been focused only on taking care of themselves.

That sounded like we should be looking after those who struggle with living life. That sounded like it’s not all about us but about those we don’t see as we bustle around filling our shopping carts with gifts for our kids, our grandchildren, our friends, and other family members.

Today, on the right page of your bulletin, there are a couple paragraphs asking us to think about what we’d do if we knew we only had a month left to live.

What would we do? Would we quickly sit down and make up our bucket list, after we’d finished lamenting the fact that we didn’t have enough time left. And then would we rush around trying to accomplish all those things we’d been postponing ‘til later? What would we do?

So, let’s pretend that today is that day. We don’t have much time left. What will our list look like? Would the fact that we’re in the season of Advent make any difference? Would the fact that as we contemplate this we’re sitting together worshipping God make any difference? What would our list look like?

Or, would there be any change at all in our lives? You know it’s a very personal question that I’m asking. The only one who can answer this question is the one whose reflection we see in the mirror every morning.

Maybe it would help if we checked the gospels to see what Jesus told the disciples to do until that time. In Matthew 24 beginning with verse 42 Jesus said they should keep watch. And he said that when he returns the question asked will be, “Were you a good and faithful servant?” Those the master finds doing so will be rewarded but those who haven’t been taking care of things will lose out on their reward.

Paul said that the Corinthians had been given everything they needed; they had been enriched in every way. They didn’t lack any spiritual gift. He also reminded them to stand firm until Jesus returned. He said, “Don’t fret. God is faithful.”

Paul put his hope in the promises of Jesus. That was enough for him and so he kept doing what God had called him to do, building churches among the Gentiles. And right up to the end that’s what Paul did even though he was kept a prisoner by the Romans. His hope was that God would be faithful. And so he wrote letters to all those churches while he waited.

It was important to Paul and the apostles that the Good News was told to every nation. And while that was being done the poor, homeless, sick and imprisoned were to be cared for. They didn’t just share the Good News of Jesus with them but they looked after their needs.

I’m sure it looked like an insurmountable task but that didn’t matter. All he asked was that they use the gifts they’d been given to serve those around them. And that’s all he’s asked us to do.

So, when you go home today to write your bucket list maybe it’ll look a little different that it might have yesterday. Or maybe it’ll be the same.

Good friends, none of us knows how much time we do have left so we should take an assessment of our lives. Are we taking care of the things Jesus asked us to?

Jesus is coming again. It could be today. It could be tomorrow or Jesus may not come for a long time yet. We don’t know but Jesus said we should be watchful as we wait. He also used the word “good and faithful servant.” To me that means we should be serving each other and those on the fringes.

As we wait, as we prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth, let’s not forget those Jesus has called us to serve. God hasn’t asked us to do anything we haven’t been equipped to do. Every person who crosses our path is an opportunity for us to serve the Lord. It might be just giving directions to the bakery or directions to the food pantry, or it could be giving them the directions to eternal life.

Friends, remember God loves us and has given each of us the gifts and skills necessary to do his good work. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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