Have you seen the film ‘The Bucket List’? It’s about two terminally-ill, grumpy guys who create a list of things to do before they kick the bucket, and the knowledge that it’s a limited-time offer focusses their minds. They start off with thrills like riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, but at the end they realise it is people who matter more.
We will make a bucket and put things on our bucket list. You will need a large square of paper or an envelope, a memo pad, and a pen.
If you are using the envelope, draw a bucket on the front. To fold your own bucket, follow these steps:
- Start with a square of paper
- Fold in half diagonally
- Have the fold at the bottom and the open points at the top
- Bring a bottom point to about half way up the opposite side, so that it makes a horizontal line at the top.
- Bring the other bottom point up in the same manner. The two point should lie over each other, like folded arms.
- Take the two flaps at the top and fold them, one backwards and one forwards. The front one locks the ‘arms’ in position. (To make it more secure, you can tuck the front flap inside the front ‘arm’.)
- There is you bucket! The back flap can be folded forwards to close the bucket.
Imagine there was a some disaster – an asteroid about to hit the earth or a global pandemic. You have a few months to fix anything that needs fixing, to accomplish whatever you want to accomplish. What would you want to do with that time?
You are allowed only three things. Choose carefully, then write them on the memo slips and put them in your bucket.
When you get home, put your bucket envelope away somewhere and check every few weeks to see what progress you’re making. Don’t leave it too long.
Picture the scene: a bride wakes early on her wedding day. She yawns, stretches, and gazes, starry-eyed, to the wardrobe door. There, draping delicately from a cream satin hanger made from her grandmother’s wedding dress, is … an old t-shirt and a pair of grubby jeans. Our bride-to-be throws on the clothes, drags a brush through her hair and goes out dress shopping. On the way she texts her friends to invite them to the wedding and pops into the church to see if they’re open today.
What a twit for making no preparations! She should have got that all sorted a lot earlier. Yet we sometimes fail to make preparation for things we know are on their way. Death is the big one. Many people put off making a will until the end. But how ready are we for what comes after the end?
Jesus had some similar stories to our sleepy bride, poking fun at people who leave everything until the very last minute and take no notice of what is clearly coming; the ten bridesmaids with their lamps, the rich fool with his huge barns. In our passage today, folks were expecting Jesus’ return to be very soon and they wanted to know what signs to look out for. These days, it’s not so much in our minds. We have seen the passing of 2000 years, and reckon that Jesus might not be coming back in our lifetimes. But let’s not take that as meaning he’s forgotten about it, as Peter explains, God is giving us time to prepare. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.
So we are living in the time between times, the time of preparation. We are not standing around doing nothing on the off-chance that Jesus is coming back next week, but neither are we so bound up with our lives here and now that we forget about our lives there and then. Jesus warned, “Be careful not to let yourselves become occupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life, or that Day may suddenly catch you like a trap.”
Nether staring at the sky and forgetting we live on earth, nor peering at the earth and turning our backs to the sky. How do we live in this life, ready for the next? In our passage, Jesus talked about fig trees and reading the signs. Today we would say ‘red sky at night.’ Jesus is not encouraging us to scour the heavens for impending signs of his arrival, instead he’s saying, ’you know it’s coming, so make sure you’re ready’. And when should we be ready? Right now! Don’t be like the sleepy bride and leave everything to the very last minute. Be ready now. As Peter wrote, So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this [Jesus’ return], make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:14
And let’s not think we can get away with a deathbed conversion here. I can’t live my life exactly as I want, with no regard for God’s requirements, then do a quick repent just before I breathe my last. I can’t plan to have a change of heart in 5 years or 50 years or whenever (for that is what repent means, not a token saying sorry). I can’t keep God in reserve in case nothing better comes along. He’s not like some keen, but uninteresting guy that I can string along as a reserve date in case the good-looking chap doesn’t ask me. Come the Christmas party, I could find I have no-one to go with.
Jesus might not come back tomorrow, or next week, next year, or in my lifetime, but come he will, and I need to be ready. All of me needs to be ready, not just the ‘Christian’ bits. God is interested in more than just our immortal souls, he wants all of us, the whole of us.
Christianity is not a cosy religious hobby that just gives us something nice to do on a Sunday. God is passionately involved in all aspects of your life and my life, even (especially) in the bits that don’t polish up too well. Being ready doesn’t mean having our Bible reading notes up to date and shaking hands with the minister on a Sunday. It means sorting out all those things that we would want sorted if the world was going to end in five minutes, both with God and with people. Are there bridges that need rebuilding? Are there wrongs that need righting? Are there uncomfortable jobs that need to be tackled?
We’ve got longer than five minutes (I think), but remember the parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12. He spent his life getting ready for what he thought was important, but God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ He prepared alright, but for the wrong life.
As we wait for the day of your coming, in a cloud with great power and glory,
we live in the time between times.
Teach us to use this time wisely, watching and praying,
and to make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with you.
“There will be strange things happening to the sun, the moon, and the stars. On earth whole countries will be in despair, afraid of the roar of the sea and the raging tides. People will faint from fear as they wait for what is coming over the whole earth, for the powers in space will be driven from their courses. Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in a cloud with great power and glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is near.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Think of the fig tree and all the other trees. When you see their leaves beginning to appear, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you will know that the Kingdom of God is about to come.
“Remember that all these things will take place before the people now living have all died. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“Be careful not to let yourselves become occupied with too much feasting and drinking and with the worries of this life, or that Day may suddenly catch you like a trap. For it will come upon all people everywhere on earth. Be on watch and pray always that you will have the strength to go safely through all those things that will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Good News Translation Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society