Debbie and I spent a couple of days over the weekend at a resort in Napa, close enough to not have to worry about anything in case of an emergency, far enough away to be , you know, not at home. Caitlyn was away on a trip and we thought it might be nice to have someone else take care of the irritating things for us.
Like cleaning up the room, making the beds, emptying the trash, all of the things that they take care of for you when you are traveling. From what I understand that is what it is like to be wealthy. I don’t mean rich, I mean wealthy in the way that Oprah is rich, the guy who writes Oprah’s paycheck is wealthy. I imagine, and I can only imagine, never having to pick up after yourself, having servants. All of these things are limited to the very wealthy these days, the rest of us cannot aspire to them.
But there is still that itch, that desire to live that way, to drop your clothes off onto the floor on your way to the shower and never see them again until they are returned to your drawer, laundered and folded and pressed. There is still the lure of eating like you do in a restaurant, as if there was nothing to be done about the dishes, they simply go away when you are finished with them, cleaned somewhere out of sight and then returned to you, holding new and more exciting delicacies.
There is an urge to have a party and never have to clean up after it. to live a life without costs, without repercussions, without penalties or downsides of any kind. Like you were a college student again and your parents were paying the bills. Well maybe yours were, Student loans paid mine, which means that eventually, I paid them, plus interest.
When the early Americans looked west they saw seemingly endless forests, trees beyond counting and so there was never any thought to how many you cut down, seemingly endless became effectively endless in their minds and for a hundred years it seemed like they were right. When oil and coal became the energy sources of the world, it seemed like the sky was an endless blue, too big to be affected by something as small as a little fire, or even a big one. They can detect the peculiar chemical makeup of coal smoke from China in the air hovering over Los Angeles these days.
The simple human truth is that nothing is free. There is a cost. You may get wealthy enough to not have to consider that cost, but the cost remains nonetheless. I explained it to someone this way once. The hundred thousand dollars you make in a year is roughly what Bill gates has to make from the time his eyes open in the morning until his feet hit the ground next to his bed to pay the electrical bill on his enterprises that day. There’s a cost, he can just pay it.
For the rest of us, though, it is different. The cost of things is all too clear most of the time. We have to decide between vacations and a new car. We have to make the trade between this summer camp and that one, since we cannot seem to afford both of them. Costs are weighed, benefits factored in, decisions are arrived at eventually, but the cost, the repercussions, the comeuppance is always right there at the forefront.
Except when it isn’t. When the resource is clearly finite, when the cost is clearly very high and still we behave as if we could just drop our towels on the floor and have the mad come and clean them up.
We are truly gifted at this kind of behavior. Humanity is seemingly cursed with vision that does not extend beyond our fingertips, leaving the bill, the cost just out of sight for so much of what we do.
Its easier that way. We can continue on without having to spend a whole lot of time thinking about consequences and other such unpleasant topics, we can just skip and jump without a care in the world.
But there’s a cost. Sure we avoid the cost by passing it on to generations unseen, those not yet born, but the day when the cost will have to be paid is coming soon enough. economically, environmentally, socially, we spend a lot of time and treasure that is not ours, and the bill for it will come some day, unless we come to grips with it, and soon.
Someone asked me what was so good about Good Friday and I gave some theologically appropriate answer I am certain, but then I looked at the palms, drying out and getting all crackly on the floor and I thought about the shouts of Hosanna and the strewing of cloaks and palm branches and it occurred to me that Good Friday, that represents the cost.
The party was Palm Sunday, the shouts and the cries and then the screams and the betrayal. No thought for tomorrow or tomorrow or the next day.
Someone else to rule instead of the Romans!! Hooray!
Yikes, scary Romans coming over!! Booooo! Crucify Him!
The party is the rigidity of the law that blinds us to the people surrounding us. clinging to that rigidity instead of loving one another which is our true calling as the children of God. Singing psalms of praise and thanksgiving while after stepping over the bodies of the fallen and then feasting to celebrate our righteousness.
The party is getting comfortable at the top of the hill without noticing how many are below you, holding you up, paying the cost.
Paying the cost, suffering for the sake of our comfort. It is almost impossible to live a life these days without oppressing someone. Without being a part in a machine somewhere in the world that holds someone down. Sneakers are the obvious target, we’ve all seen the reports about the factories and sweatshops. iPhones are another easy one. But how about Salad Bars? Baby corn is supplanting food crops in some parts of the world and people who once fed themselves are being impoverished because they have been convinced to plant luxury crops for the rest of the world, and the money is not enough to buy the imported food that they now need because they are no longer feeding themselves.
Like I said, the cost is being borne somewhere and it is darned near impossible to avoid the notion that we are not paying it.
Today we are reminded that while our salvation is a gift, pure untainted grace from God and the sincerest wish of Christ for us, there was a cost. Nobody gets off that easy, there is always a cost and simply because it was borne by someone else, someone whose love was so pure, so powerful that even His own death could not deter Him, doesn’t mean that we should glide through life without any notion of what had to happen, what the cost was, and consequently, how great the debt.
Everything. Everything you ever did, thought of doing, conceived of, dreamt of. All the nasty thoughts, not much individually, a little spite here and there, but all of it wiped away?
And not with spite, and not with money, and not with false promises. With love.
For the sake of the love of God for you, this dark and terrible day is Good. This is Good Friday because it is good to know how great the debt. It is good for us to be reminded every now and then that we are culpable for the things we do and for the things in which we participate and it is good to know that guilt and condemnation are not our end, not the last page in our story.
There is hope because of the cross. There is life because of the death on the cross. There is eternity awaiting each of us because of a single day that lead to the death of Christ on the cross.
A dark day, but the key to a bright tomorrow. Today is a good day, and honest day. Good Friday.