I imagine that most of you will not be able to look at another haggis for quite a time. Many of you have probably been invited to one Burns supper after another. Is not it interesting the impact that Burns has had not only in Scotland, but around the world - so much so that 25 January has become one of the most important dates in our diaries?
Here is a trivial pursuit question for you. What other man's life has been celebrated on 25 January for centuries? A man who - dare I say it - has had a greater impact on Scotland and the world than even the great Burns. A man whose life and teaching lie behind the rise of democracy, the elevating of social justice, the spread of education and even the growth of many charities. The name of this man is Saul of Tarsus. You may know him as the apostle, Paul. His Christian birthday is celebrated on 25 January.
What explains the impact of a man who seems to have spent much of his life on the run, who was executed by Roman authorities, and whose list of publications can all fit into one very small paperback? Part of the answer can be found in something that he wrote in his great epistle to the Romans:
"God has done what the law could not do. By sending his own Son ... for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
Those are timely words for us as we seek to be leaders in modern Scotland - in politics, education or in the church - particularly when many of us feel the strains and fragmentation of our society. Some urge more education; others urge more politics and law. The problem is that, as Paul says, education, politics and more law cannot transform the heart. I think that it was Churchill who said that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Laws, rules, education, governments, politics - they all have their place, and we should be profoundly grateful for them. However, there is something that they cannot do. Those keys are not the right shape to unlock the human heart.
To his surprise, Paul discovered the key when Christ met him on the Damascus road. Through Jesus Christ, God did what nothing else could do for Paul and transformed him from being a violent man and a blasphemer into a man full of grace and full of Christ.
In many ways I can say the same thing about myself. I look back 20 years and more to my boyhood in Easterhouse, in Glasgow. I am glad that it is possible for a boy in Scotland to have that background and end up with a university degree and be a Presbyterian minister. However, I think that it would be a mistake to attribute all that to my early education, because I disdained it, or to attribute it to the Government's efforts to maintain law and order, in which I had all too little interest as a youngster. No, the key was Christ and his gospel.
Actually, that has always been the key, I believe, to any greatness that our nation has enjoyed. We surely need that key more than ever today. Let us not lose it or, worse, throw it away—either as leaders of our people or as individuals.