Sermon Pentecost 20 – Blessing the Animals October 2, 2016
Genesis 2:18-20a Psalm 65 Matthew 6:25-34
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
In these troubled times it is easy for us to worry too much. We worry about the economy and its implications, from the 1% to the homeless, to opportunities for youth, to our pensions, to beginning-of-life and to end-of-life issues. We worry about what is going on from ISIS and the Middle East especially Syria, we worry about China, Africa and Russia. We worry about global warming, droughts, floods, rising sea levels, and the melting glaciers and the polar ice caps. We even worry about the elections in the USA, because we are vulnerable and can be smothered by the giant next door.
We worry about each other and how things are going to turn out but if we truly listen to the Scriptures today, especially Jesus, we need not worry God is in charge. Every one of us has had worrisome things in our lives but when we look at the span of our past the majority of things have turned out well. Yes there have been upsets, sickness and death but those are unfortunately a part of life in a fallen world. We live in a dangerous world with weather, machinery, bacteria, viruses and germs. By living with the latter we overcome them, our immunities, our natural defences carry us through, there is a balance, some bacteria are beneficial. Accidents teach us lessons about our future behaviour, there is a balance there too. We have been given what we need to survive for as long and as well as possible – if we use our God-given intelligence. We will always have challenges to meet for they too are a part of life so we need to learn and adjust to meet our environment.
The rest of nature does that, so should we. Plants have adapted to heat, cold, drought and drenching, to thin soil and rich. Animals have adapted too – there is a long record of animal, bird, fish and insect evolution by which they have survived, some creatures’ ancestry goes back billions of years, because of their adaptability. We have not changed so much, we have done the opposite, we have changed our environment instead. We make homes and clothes, we cook our food, we have taken the environment and bent it to our will, often without much success and often with unpredicted and unfavourable consequences. Rather than having dominion over Creation we have dominated it and we are living the consequences now.
We have a lesson to learn from the plants and animals and we at last may be getting it. They have all adapted. They often migrate when crops run short or water runs out, when oceans get warmer or when winds turn chill – indeed some of us do go to more temperate climes like them (we know who you are) but most of us tough-it-out. The flora and fauna have changed to survive in the world’s environment but we have protected ourselves from the need to change by building permanent homes, heated and cooled as we need, we eat foods out of season (often out of a can) we have mechanised our world and live insulated from its extremes, we wear light or insulated clothing as needed. It is not that we should run around naked, eat nothing but raw food and not light fires to keep warm, but there has to be a happy medium where we can exist with Nature as intended. Our animals do exist with Nature they mate at the ‘right’ time, shed their coats at the ‘right’ time, for the most part sleep when it is dark and wake with first light, left to themselves they do not overeat and left to themselves they exercise enough. They organise social structures, where every one of them has a responsibility and gets a reward; ants, bees, birds, lions and tigers are good examples of that. Why are we so different from them ? Well one thing is as Genesis explains animals are intended to be our companions. They are not intended to be superior to us. They are different and less able to change the world – that in itself is a blessing.
So if we want mentors for living, our animals come pretty close. We find that in those who live close to us, they too seek companionship. The lions and the tigers teach us that we should respect danger, and with all of them we need to respect their role in life. Flies and vultures eat carrion so the world is not overtaken by disease. Predators, like the big cats and alligators, make sure that no species overpopulates the world (something we must be coming close to doing). For the most part plants and animals live cooperatively supplying each other’s needs, and they live cooperatively with us too. Now it is our turn not to exploit them but to live cooperatively with them.
So we bring them here today to receive a blessing, which is the right thing to do, for God created them for us, and they bless us in so many ways. Some creatures are not necessarily lovable. Some are downright ugly – I am thinking about the ugliest dog and cat competitions – but if we were honest they too have their own charm. It’s a pity we do not extend that same standard to our fellow human beings, even the ugliest humans have something about them that is lovable. Again the animal world can offer us a lesson and a blessing. They look at us ugly human beings, even the ugliest of us, and somehow find something that is lovable in us, a warm lap or a friendly pat, which allows them to come close to us, when even we would shy away from us.
Animals are our companions and helpers, and as such need our respect, and we should worry about how they are treated. They should not be subject to experimentation, even though we excuse such abuse as being for the Common Good but the Common Good has no morality only utility and efficiency that is not the foundation on which to build companionship and trust. Animals provide service to us, they indeed help us in many ways, they have become a source of food and other products for us, some would argue – insist – that that is wrong but the least we can do is not subject them to cruelty as they serve us in these ways. The animals you have brought here today are the lucky ones. Many are spoilt rotten, but most have become trusted friends and companions. Rejoice in them ! They are a gift from God, and deserve the honour and blessing we give them. May you be blessed too as their guardians. Amen.