A few years back Hollywood discovered a sure-fire formula for a big box-office payoff: Caste a couple of aging mega-stars as seniors who put together a “do-before-you-die” list of outrageous escapades. Then have them carry-on like out-of-control adolescents… while they drain the bottomless well of old-age jokes. The premise is valid if you view this life as all there is. In that light, I suppose, it makes perfect sense to put together your own “bucket-list” and live it up while you can. Get it all in. Get it all done… next stop, oblivion. But God doesn’t see it that way.
He’s got his own list for us. We are here for a purpose – his purpose. And that purpose is certainly not to check-off a list of comic high-jinx before we kick the bucket. We know that this life is not all there is. We are not a random collection of egos on the make. We are God’s beloved… here to return his love in this world and be happy with him in the next. We are only visitors here, just briefly passing through, following Jesus on our way home to the Father.
In last week’s gospel we began our study of the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. This week we continue with a revelation of why we are here. What is our purpose? What is God’s to-do list for us? Jesus tells us: You are the light of the world. That certainly is a glorious way to express God’s favor. But it comes with an enormous obligation. We must: Let our light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. That is the only reason why we are here… to love God and through us to extend his love to others. That’s a very short to-do list, but it will take a lifetime to fulfill.
God’s to-do list is not a list of suggestions. It is the will of God. Jesus tells us: You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste…it is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. We receive the gift of grace for a reason. Christ is calling us to discipleship. His grace is ours to be shared. The purpose of our discipleship is to create more disciples… leading family, friends, neighbors, colleagues closer to God’s love.
We horde or waste his grace at our peril. Our loving God is a just God. He is not to be trifled with. His priorities must be our priorities. His will is not something we can get around to when we find the time. Thy will be done: is a constant refrain of our prayer. It must be the constant focus of our lives.
The Sermon on the Mount is so powerfully succinct and comprehensive that one can be tempted to look on its well-plowed precincts as the be-all and end-all of the new covenant and benignly ignore all that has come before. But Jesus is quick to warn us off such a lazy approach to our faith. Christianity is not a rejection of Judaism. Jesus tells us: I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill. So add another item to God’s to-do list for us: We must know God, if we are to love God. And the more we know, the more we love. That is why we devote our lives to the study of scripture… both Old and New Testament. It is our window into the wonder of God. It is the pillar of our faith.
The reason Christians don’t have a bucket-list is because we don’t kick the bucket. Rather, we have a to-do list of God’s purposes and God’s gifts. We never check them off. We just keep sharing them all the way home.
The Reverend David Sellery, Author, Resource Creator and Retreat Leader. Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, I serve as an Episcopal priest who seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, congregational development and community outreach, while continually engaging our wider culture with dynamism and hope.