Community Good Friday Service
April 22, 2011
Oxford Presbyterian Church
“It is Finished”
A few years ago a movie came out with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman called “The Bucket List.” Nicholson and Freeman are cancer patients who’ve been given 6 months to live. They put together a list of things they’d like to do before they “kick the bucket” and start off on an adventure of “extreme experiences”: jumping out of airplanes, riding a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, driving racecars, eating caviar – before reconciling with family and spending time at home. The critics didn’t like it much but it was a box office success and it inspired a bucket-list industry on Google. You can now find websites with bucket lists from all kinds of people, as well as post your own.
Even without seeing the movie (I haven’t, although I’ve heard it’s good) – many of us have a “dream list” - even if it's only in our heads - of things we’d like to do or see in our lifetime. Our lists may be less spectacular and less expensive than the Freeman-Nicholson one, but probably no less interesting. Ones I’ve read online include: read Pride & Prejudice, go ice fishing, visit the 7 continents, lose weight, get married, buy a beach house, have 2 children, learn to spin yarn, teach Sunday School and grow in Christ. Our lists may look like shopping lists or travel itineraries; they may include spiritual disciplines or self-improvement regimes. The goals may be altruistic or hedonistic, they may be faith-oriented. relationship-oriented, money-oriented, or all of the above. But no matter how different our “life lists” they all have something in common. But no matter how different, reflect the belief that a life well-lived is one where we’ve fulfilled our potential or used our gifts (more or less); achieved goals; followed our dreams and had many experiences. The bucket list vision of a well lived life recognizes our time is limited and precious, and that we should make the most of it. It requires a degree of freedom and wealth. It’s a vision – I think – most of us in our culture hold, even if the particulars are very different.
According to John, the last words of Jesus were, “It is finished” or “It is accomplished.” As you’re heard the other preachers say, in John Jesus is in control when he goes to the cross, and he’s in control when he dies. He didn’t struggle for a last breath: he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. He knew his hour had come – he had nothing left on any list. His life was a perfect life, but it was a quiet one by our standards. Yes, he raised Lazarus from the dead, made a blind man see and a lame man walk, fed five thousand with a few loaves and fish and walked on water. But he spent most of his time in conversation: with a woman at a well, with other rabbis in the temple, with his disciples before he washed their feet. As far as we know, he never traveled outside of Palestine, He never married, or planned a wedding – although he provided wine for one. He never had children. He might have been a carpenter, although John doesn’t say so, only Mark. He knew scripture but probably didn’t go to school and had no degrees. He would have had a monotonous diet, probably didn't play sports, and owned very few possessions. His life was simply to do the will of the one who sent him, completing the work he was given. And when it was finished, it was finished.
As we survey the cross, we see the life we’re called to lead. It’s not to see all there is to see, although travel may be a gift we enjoy. It’s not to seek after new and rich experiences, although God may lead us to unexpected places. It’s not to acquire money or possessions, nor is it to see how little we can live on in a quest for purity. It’s not even to have a family, make friends, or volunteer in a soup kitchen, even though we may do those things as we grow in love. Goal setting has its place, but there’s only one thing that needs to be on our bucket list: to do the will of the one who loves us. To do the will of the one who died for us, the one who was raised for us, the one who reigns in power for us and the one who prays for us. May we learn to seek only that.