Adress for Radio Scotland -Palm Sunday 2012

It’s funny, but a lot of people say that the best things in life are free. It’s true enough that you can’t put a price on courage or freedom or love. But there is another kind of cost involved in these things and they can turn out to be very expensive commodities indeed that demand not our wealth but the expense of our hearts, and even sometimes the cost of our very lives.
Love can be very expensive – the pain of childbirth – letting your children go as they grow – facing up to the loss of a loved one. If we had never loved life might never have hurt us so. But in the rose there is always the thorn. Loving and caring can be very costly indeed. But what kind of life would it be if we hardened our hearts, insulated ourselves from the ache of life?
CS Lewis once reflected on this:
“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable”.
Jesus removed his outer garment, the protection and status of a robe that might have distinguished him as a leader and teacher and he wrapped a towel round his waist, stooped down and washed his disciples’ feet. For love of his friends he is prepared to humble himself, serve them and remove the things that protect him and guarantee his status.
That vulnerability was seen again and again in Jesus’ life. He reveals the expense of love – that love comes at a price – not a financial one of course, but at the cost of status, security and power.
In Jesus’ day lepers were considered unclean, deemed to be contaminated. Jesus shared the contamination of the leper’s soul by reaching out and touching him and in doing so he healed and restored him. When he met the loathed tax gatherer Zacchaeus, he risked being as unpopular as Zacchaeus was by going for dinner in his home.
And then, in that most magnificent of defeats, he gave up his life for his friends. And the odd, foolish message of the Cross makes sense to us: in giving his all, in spending his life, in giving his life, he found it. Before granting us life – life in all its fullness, it seems that God demands our lives – ourselves – our wills and even our wealth and security.
Of course we all like to cling on to power, security and even money. I heard a story recently from the great Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He once said that “when the white man arrived in Africa, we Africans had all the land and the white man had the Bible. The white man told us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened them, the white man had all the land and we had the Bible”.
It is so true that we don’t want to give anything up that we cling on to the scaffolding that we think will give us security, but it is a bogus security. Christ’s people in the world are challenged to reflect the manner of Christ’s presence in the world – a presence of un-calculating love, not boasting or bullying or intimidating, not using henchmen to enforce a line or a doctrinal position but being a vulnerable presence in the world, being prepared to have our hearts broken so that we might love and bring life to others and even to ourselves.


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