Sunday, October 9, 2011
Sermon for the Blessing of the Animals
Today we gather to bless the animals and to share communion.
There is one thing I know for certain about animals:
They don’t care for long sermons.
We bless animals on this day to honor creation
and to remember one of the saints of God--
Francis of Assisi.
Much has been written by many,
including Francis himself, about his life.
When Francis was a young man, he loved to party.
But even in that party time of his life,
he was not unaware of the world around him.
One night he left a party and looked up at the stars above Assisi.
He stood there just looking at the stars for a long long time.
He was truly in awe of what he saw.
He said, “If these are the creatures,
what must the Creator be like?”
I say that to you today--
if these are the creatures--this amazing assortment of animals--
what must the Creator be like?
I’d say the Creator is creative--imaginative--visionary--
and has a pretty great sense of humor.
I’d also say the Creator has an enormous heart
capable of immense love.
We don’t just love the creatures that look like us--
our hearts can also fill with love
at the sight of certain faces with whiskers
or at the wag of a tail.
St. Francis always felt that nature--the created world that surrounds us all--
was his first Bible.
That is an interesting concept.
according to an article I read by Richard Rohr this week,
the created world has about a 14.5 billion year head start
on the Bible.
God is a creative imaginative God
who uses anything and everything to get our attention.
But St. Francis was much more than a warm and fuzzy guy who loved animals.
He had a steadfast faith and a heart that overflowed with love.
To everyone. Truly to everyone.
At times in his ministry he was beaten, put in chains and suffered greatly.
He still tried to respect the dignity of every human being he met.
He lived in a time of religious extremists--
his goal was to be an extremist for love, for grace. To all.
He had a great love for the created world--for all things and all people.
We honor St. Francis not just today with the Blessing of the Animals,
but have made him a part of our Episcopal tradition,
by including a prayer attributed to Francis
in our Book of Common Prayer.
You can find it on page 833 if you want to look for it some time.
Here is the prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us show love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord,faith:
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.