Are you a man or a mouse?
Coming out of ancient India there is a fable of a fearful mouse. Living in continual terror of the cat, the mouse asked a magician to change him. With a wave of his wand the magician turned the mouse into a cat. Unfortunately, the “cat” realised it was now afraid of the dog. The magician once again intervened, and the cat became a dog. Not more than a day had gone before the dog approached the magician and confessed to his newfound fear of tigers. With a sigh, the reluctant magician once again transformed the dog, this time into a tiger. Of course, now the tiger lived in dread of human hunters. The magician had had enough. His final words were “Be a mouse again. I cannot help you, for you have the heart of a mouse”.
In the Gospel lesson we see a boatload of men with fearful hearts. Many of them had been fishermen, but they left their boats to follow the all-powerful Lord of life, Jesus Christ. Since their call to be disciples, they have seen many great and mighty wonders and heard the message of love from the Messiah. Peter had witnessed the healing of his own mother-in-law, but is still seen here with a fearful heart. The disciples have seen Jesus heal lepers and cast out evil spirits, but are still here with fearful hearts. One after another, the sick sought out the Saviour. One after another, they were healed and sent home. By the power of God’s love, the sick were made sound, the troubled transformed and given peace. Yet the disciple’s having seen all this are still fearful when without warning, a storm sweeps down on them. Confronted by the whistling wind and waves they are fearful and floundering as they call out to a sleeping Saviour, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Note that they don’t cry out for help to the all-powerful Creator. They do not summons him with the title of a respectful “Lord” or “Master”, but as teacher-and a seemingly uncaring one at that.
Their words, “Teacher, don’t you care”, what a dagger that must have been in Jesus’ heart that night. Not care? Caring is what made Jesus tick. It was caring that caused his Father to offer a promise of salvation to sinful Adam and Eve in the Garden. It was caring that caused Jesus to be born in a Bethlehem stable. It was caring that called Jesus away from a comfortable life as a carpenter in Nazareth. It was caring that made him leave mother, brothers, and sisters. It was caring that made him heal the hurting. It was caring that led him to raise the dead. And it was God’s great caring that would someday have a beaten Jesus stand before a Roman governor. Unjustly accused by his own priest and people, forsaken by both government and justice, Jesus would lay down his life for helpless humanity. A caring Jesus lived, died, and rose for this frightened world. Jesus not care? Could anything be more from the truth?
You will remember the poem of the two sets of footsteps in the sand along the beach. A lady is talking to Jesus as the scenes of her life flashed before her eyes and in each scene she noticed that sometimes there were two sets of footprints and other times there were only one set of footprints. This bothered her because during the low periods of her life, when she was suffering in anguish, sorrow or defeat she could only see the one set of footprints. So she said to the Lord, “You promised me that if I followed you, you would walk with me always, yet when I needed you most there is only the one set of footprints. Why when I needed you most you were not there for me?” To which the Lord replied “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints is when I was carrying you”.
Our lives are real, we laugh and we cry, we know joy and we know pain and everything in the middle. Yet our earthly lives are held together by two great bookends. That before our lives, Christ walked to the cross and that in him we are given eternal life. Though our lives can seem like being on a rollercoaster that change and confuse, these two facts remain immovable.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing because it allows us to see more than snippets but whole events and in hindsight, when we look back at those times when the waves were crashing over the boat we can see our Lord present and caring. Present through His gift of faith to get through it, and present in those he sent before us, that they comfort us, be with us and help us grow in it and through it. We all have or will have these experiences in our lives-and when we do, they show the love of God then and give us strength in the knowledge of His love in the future.
Those bookends of forgiveness and eternal life and our Lord’s presence with us now don’t take away our live trials and tribulations, but let us face them and overcome them. That analogy about whether the glass is half full or half empty is about whether we see things as a pessimist or as an optimist. Being if you see the glass as half empty you are a pessimist and half full an optimist. While as a general statement that’s all well and good, but throughout our lives our perceptions can change due to circumstance. Where seeing the glass half empty of carrot juice is as an optimist but only half full of beer as a pessimist.
Our perceptions change. When a certain well known footballer won the Brownlow medal and a couple of premierships playing Aussie Rules Football for his club. He had plenty of talent but the thing that elevated him to a place of awe was his physical work ethic-it seemed unending. Then his public fall to drug addiction and the resultant sacking by his club and even banning from playing in the AFL. To some from hero to zero. How our perceptions can change in an instant. From media reports it seems that he is still struggling in this area, and because so, on talk back radio he is regularly admonished. That he should have learnt his lesson, that he’s selfish and so on. Then there’s reality, his perception where when going through rehabilitation he proudly stated that without the need and shield of any substance abuse, he had posted a letter at the post office.
Our perception of others, of ourselves and even of God can change due to circumstance-but His of us doesn’t. In moments of great happiness Jesus walks with us, and in moments of great sorrow he carries us.
Nineteen years ago I heard this poem read out at the Catacomb church in Coober Pedy. It was written by Nadine Stair, an 85 year old lady from Louisville in Kentucky U.S.A. She talks in the in the past tense, but in Knowing of the Love of our Lord, whether we have one year or many years to live, in knowing our Lord we see the freedom and beautifulness of our lives with and in Christ.
“If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I have this time. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would take more trips. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and eat less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I am one of those people who live sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh I’ve had my moments and if I had to do it all over again I’d have more of them. In fact I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to live my life over, I would stand bare-foot earlier in the Spring, and I would stay that way later in Autumn. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry go rounds, I would pick more daisies”.
Jesus once said to a group of people listening to him, that “the truth will set you free”.
Whether old or young-the time we have on earth is a gift from God. Times to work and times to play, times to grieve and times to laugh-live in every moment of your life, live it knowing that he is there, and knowing that in His every moment, you are His beloved child, because the truth, His love has indeed set you free Amen.