The Conversion of St. Paul
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
All over the world tonight logophiles will be gathering to toast the Scottish Bard. In most places they will read the famous lines from “To A Mouse.”
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain; The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley, An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!
Which, being translated means: the mouse is not alone. The ability to build houses where men do not plow is no guarantee that the houses will not be destroyed. The best-laid schemes of mice and men go awry and leave us nothing but grief and pain where they promised joy.
Burns goes on:
Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me The present only toucheth thee: But, Och! I backward cast my e'e. On prospects drear! An' forward, tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear!
Which is to say the mouse is blessed, for she is free of a conscience that knows regrets and sorrows in the past and free from such memory and experience as would taint all future prospects with fear.
My fellow, earth-born companions, mortal men, why was Burns afraid? What so haunted him that he would count a mouse newly evicted from her winter home, with no grass or stubble at hand, as more blessed than he? The mouse was startled at his plow, but Burns was the timid beast, full of sadness and regret, who thought that God must remain unknown, who thought that no plans could be so well laid that they would not go awry and end in grief and pain.
Perhaps Burns would have been correct, if it were not that Jesus Christ has became a Man and laid a plan so well that it has endured these thousands of years and will never, never end. More blessed than a mouse or an honest man or a working dog, is the man who knows Jesus Christ as Lord, who sees upon Zion’s cruel scaffolds a God who plans well to rescue man, to make atonement for all his wrongs, to pronounce peace and good will on men by Divine and perfect love. This love is far greater than a red, red rose, newly sprung in June. For the sea will go dry. The rocks will melt with the sun. But this Love will endure forever, and this Love will move men from the place where plans of mice and men run awry to the place where God’s perfect grace orders all things and mice and men, lambs and wolves lie down together without regrets or fears or animosity.
Thus it was for St. Paul, that one-timer hater of God. He laid his plans for Damascus but by God’s grace they went awry. He was recruited from the darkness to the light. He changed sides. He found that his pursuer was not a killing, angry God, tearing up the earth with a vengeful plow, but the bleeding, providing, nurturing Savior who only wanted to forgive and love him. Paul was baptized. He believed that Jesus was the Christ and found peace that passes all understanding. Thus was he prepared in the Roman jail to face death without fear or regret, for he knew that the God known in Jesus Christ would ever be good to him, and even give to him a throne and a crown.
Herein lies the chief difference between Burns and Paul: Paul had hope.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Pastor David Petersen