Blessing the Pets: October 2nd 2016 in the Time after Pentecost
Blessing the Pets: October 2nd 2016: Time after Pentecost
Genesis 2: 18-22 Psalm 104 Matthew 6:25-33
Our Old testament lesson shows how Adam named all the animals and how none was found to be his helper until God formed Eve as flesh from his flesh and bone from his bone. And there Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden with all the animals around them. I argued that people ate meat right from the beginning, but if you read the creation story, you will see that they only ate plants. They were vegetarians. Eating meat came about because of hunting and animal sacrifice. Animals really helped human beings: just think of sheep, cows, poultry, and horses. But mostly dogs and cats helped in becoming companions or pets. Adam named all the animals. When my little brother came home from school one day, he told my mother, “Good thing you call me Semmie, because everybody in school calls me that.” Recently he dished out another insight as well along the same lines, “Birthdays are very healthy: the more you have the longer you live.”
Psalm 104 is beautiful and you should read it. It is also found in early Egyptian literature and either the Psalmist got it from Egypt or both the Psalm and Egyptian poem from an earlier source. The animals are the works of God’s hands and from God’s hands God feeds them all. Jesus in his anxiety-free mindfulness invites us to take animals as our examples. Those converted to become tame, to even become pets, as well as some of them who even have beautiful natures in the wild. Like “the birds of the air neither sow or reap, nor gather into barns and yet the Father in Heaven feeds them.” Jesus says to “first consider the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness and all the things that we need will be added unto us.” When we put those material things first, everything becomes subtracted from us. The Russians, for example, chose prosperity over democracy, and now they have Putin without prosperity or democracy. Our values and ideals have to come first.
Tuesday October 4th we celebrate St. Francis, who in his poems, the Little Flowers, celebrates animals. The birds would gather round and flutter on him. He reconciled a man-eating wolf with a village the wolf was tearing up and filling with fear. St. Francis confronted the wolf with the evil of his ways. Demurely the wolf let St. Francis take him into the village, where they reconciled and the people agreed to feed him so that he would not harm them. Perhaps St. Francis converted the wolf into a dog. How did he communicate with animals? St. Francis would say: “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”
Living the Gospel that way entails blessing animals and anticipating their conversion. I was reading about the reverse, when animals become wild again. Dogs in that case will form themselves into packs. A pack of such dogs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation killed the mother of a student that I was reading about. We know that pet pigs have become feral and there are feral cats as well.
I have heard stories of feral people. A Black woman whose parents were share-croppers down South told me that when they were children and their parents left them by themselves to go out and work in the fields, a wild White man would come out of the forest, break into the house and eat anything he could find, even eating the flour and leaving the kitchen in chaos. When the parents came home they would punish the kids, not believing that a wild man had come in and had eaten everything and left the mess.
When animals convert in the love and care of people, they can well become examples the way Jesus sets them before us. Just think about seeing-eye dogs, service dogs, or comfort dogs that help on children wards in hospitals and bring joy to seniors in assisted living homes.
The love of a dog for its owner is legendary. Some faithful dogs die on their master’s grave. A goat became the seeing eyes for a blind old horse and when the horse died, it too died. A dog took care of a motherless fawn and when it grew up into a mother doe, it continually returned from the forest with its fawns to visit the dog. Did you see that program on TV about inter-species relationships? What family member is half-way as happy to greet you coming in the door as your dog? Jumping up and down, emotionally overwhelmed with your return. Cats, of course act like they don’t care. But just be away a few days and they’ll show how much they miss you.
What I have recently found very interesting is that horses can bring about the conversion of teenagers. A Native American Lutheran church uses horses to bring troubled girls around who have returned from reform school. In their learning to take care of their horse and learning to ride them, the horse ends up healing the wayward soul with its emotionality. They told about one intoxicated Indian who fell off his horse and the horse waited over him until he awoke again. The emotionality of horses and also dogs, for sure, can help heal the wounded emotions of youngsters and the elderly alike.
I receive many, many requests for donations. One request came from an organization named Cal Farley’s in Amarillo, Texas. When I read their material I realized they too were using horses to do therapy on youngsters like the Oglala Indian church in the Dakotas. After a stand-off, a very rebellious and alienated youngster finally started caring for her horse, feeding and brushing it. Then somehow converted into a caring and responsible student, hardly able to leave the horse barn and the care for her horse. Animals that do not block their emotions with their intellect, may have greater emotional intelligence and more intense concern than some of us human beings.
There are wonderful emotions in a well-taken-care-of horse or dog, emotions that can heal our souls when they are wounded and hurt. That’s why we love our pets and they and we are converted by the Gospel. Did you know that even flies respond to our feelings? They sense our hostility if we are bothered and want to kill them. When I get a plastic cup and place it over a fly and slip a sheet of paper under the cup, capturing it, and then take it outside and let it fly away again, it seems to sense friendship. I’ll cup spiders like that and take them outside as well and let them go in a bush. The Dali Lama even allows mosquitos to bite him, but he complained that they don’t seem to appreciate it and thank him. I think that birds even felt that same friendship from St. Francis and they gathered around him for their conversion.
Laboratory animals used for scientific experiments and animals in factory farms are tortured and abused. In slaughter houses animals are dismembered even before they are unconscious and have died. We have to repent of that abuse and cruelty perpetrated on animals, because it spills over among us and around us. It could explain some of the cruelty and murderous pathology that people perpetrate on each other in our society. Let’s make a stand with the love we have for our pets, letting God help us convert to the Gospel life with them, because this little blue planet has become Noah’s ark and what a sorry place it would be and what an impoverishment we would have if we didn’t preserve and care for all God’s animals, God’s creatures, the wonderful works of God’s hands. Amen.
We had many dogs, a parakeet, pictures of cats, turtles, and other pets, all brought forward for blessings: I bless you in Jesus name, so that you come to no harm and walk, run, play, (go fetch in the case of dogs), and live in the Holy Spirit of the Gospel. Amen.
We had no communion on our Sunday for Blessing our Pets, but I noted how often a pet will also provide communion among people, as strangers will bend down to pet the animals and have a conversation about it with the owner, without even being able to help themselves. In that way pets help us relate with each other. Of course, in real communion we receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.
But in the word of Isaiah, “The ox knows it master and the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:3) Thus animals responded to Jesus before people did.