It is common at this time of year for people to make a New Year’s resolution. This year, my wife asked me instead to draw up a “bucket list.” The difference between a New Year’s resolution and a bucket list is that if you fail to keep your resolution this year, you always have next year (one hopes) to try again. But it’s not so with a “bucket list.” The point of such a list is to remind us that you only live once, and that if you don’t do those few things that you really want to do now, while you have the chance, there may not be another opportunity to do them, and certainly not once you “kick the bucket.”
John Henry Newman, perhaps the greatest theologian of the 19th century, once gave a sermon in which he admonished the congregation to come to church often. Learn to love to pray and praise the Lord and be devoted to the Holy Eucharist, he said, because, God willing, should you die and be admitted to the heavenly banquet where the praise of God is never-ending, heaven is going to be a kind of hell for those who constantly complain that the sermon and the services are too long! So, I guess that if we were serious about it, we would all have the same New Year’s resolution, and we’d all have at the top of our bucket list the same items: Pray more often, come to church on Sundays, and do everything to honor God—certainly nothing knowingly of which God disapproves. The first priority for each us must be to live for God’s approval and do something good everyday so that by the time we go to sleep at night God may be proud of us, or at least not ashamed of us; as He undoubtedly is much of the time—for neglecting Him!
There’s an important truth in what I just said, but generally speaking, a bucket list is not meant to be that serious. The point of a bucket list is to think of those few things that you would most enjoy doing in this world before it’s too late and then mustering the initiative to do them. In other words, a bucket list is not for twenty–year olds. A bucket list is for those who reasonably assume they may only have twenty years to go; so if they don’t get going doing those things they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t, they may run out of time.
With that as the premise, I made a bucket list. There was nothing extraordinary on the list, everything on it I could do with a little effort. I have a book of poems I’d like to publish, a play I’d like to write and produce; and three more theology books I’m writing. My other goals involve travel. I’d like to make a pilgrimage to Fatima, Portugal, where the great “miracle of the sun” happened Oct. 13, 1917. I’d like to visit the cathedral at Lourdes, France, where the Virgin Mary appeared to young Bernadette, and drink from the waters in which so many have found healing. And I’d like to visit the basilica in Mexico City where the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is preserved.
But the first two items on my list are the ones that really surprised me and challenge me. I said that I’d like to dance at my granddaughter’s wedding. Barbara is now age 5. If she marries at age 25, (it’s possible), I’ll be 86. My Dad attended his granddaughter’s wedding when he was 86, so there’s a chance—provided my knees still work and I can still dance. Obviously, I’d better start taking dance lessons now!
My number one goal is similar. I want to ski with my grandchildren when I’m 80. I went skiing one day with a friend who was 83 at the time. He handled the slopes like a young mountain goat. I said to myself then, “I want to be like him when I grow up!” He was kid at heart who clearly hadn’t grown up; “grown-ups” know better than to slalom down icy mountains at that advanced age. On the other hand my hero, William F. Buckley Jr., when asked on his 80th birthday what the secret of a happy life is replied, “Don’t ever grow up!” So that’s my goal: to never grow up and just keep doing the things that I love most as long as I can do them until that great day when the Lord calls me home (I hope). Then on that day, whether I’ve completed my bucket list or not, I’ll start doing the things I really love most, which is attending Our Lord’s altar and listening to His Word without distraction and along with all my other faithful friends in the communion of saints praying constantly for my family that they will love God and love life always, all the way to the end. Amen.
And speaking of faithful friends, Marion (and Bob) Lawton have remembered St. George’s and St. Matthew’s in their will. Marion’s nephew told us that the Lawton’s have left us a gift of $50,000! We have received many bequests over the years but none come close to this. Say a prayer for Marion and Bob. They loved this church and everyone in it. I hope we will be worthy of their generosity.
Our faithful friend Bishop Jonathan Hart of Liberia has written to tell us that he will, next month, be ordained the Archbishop of West Africa! Jon will have oversight of all the Anglican churches in Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Liberia and several other countries. I will never forget the day Jon was with us. After the service, he asked if he could call his wife, Francis, long distance from the rectory phone. This was in the days before cell phones. He got her on the phone, but she told him that she could not talk because rebel forces were invading their village and she had to run for her life. Their church, she said, had been destroyed. His family and congregation fled to the Ivory Coast where Jon eventually joined them. They lived there for two years before it was safe to return to Liberia. And we think we have problems! I’ve never known a greater or more humble man. Keep Jon, his wife Francis, and their family in your prayers.
Our friend Fr. Bill Dunning will be with us Sunday Jan. 20 and the following Sunday, Jan. 27. I will be off next week with the Baltimore ski club to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, working on my bucket list!
Fr. Jansen String
Dates to Remember
Sunday Jan 20 Holy Eucharist 9am
Sunday Jan 27 Holy Eucharist 9am
Looking ahead: Easter comes very late this year: April 21, which means that Easter Egg making will begin Thursday March 27. That’s only two months from now. Put the dates of March 27–April 3 on your calendar and plan to be here on at least one of those days to lend a hand in this huge project.