No, we didn't have a camel at the Blessing of the Animals at St. John's this year, but isn't this a wonderful, joy-filled photograph? It's one of my favorites. We did have a lovely service out in the courtyard that Saturday evening. Felt like the perfect autumn evening to gather and give thanks for all God's critters and creation.
Here's the sermon. Blessing of the Animals always a short sermon. I have learned that animals don't have much tolerance for long sermons.
Glorify the Lord O Creatures Great and Small
The official feast day of St. Francis
was actually on Thursday--October 4th.
But today we gather to give thanks--
to give thanks to God and to bless
those creatures that look so very different
than us human beings--
who wear fur, feathers or fins--
those amazing created beings
that make our hearts fill with inexplicable love!
We gather to bless animals to honor St. Francis
who is known in our Christian tradition for his love
and respect for all creatures.
I recently read that there are over 62 million pet cats in the United States.
There are estimated to be over 78 pet million dogs in America.
I couldn’t find statistics for ducks, fish, gerbils, ferrets, hamsters or snakes.
but I think it is safe to say that most human beings
love animals. Even if they don’t have a pet,
most people really love animals.
There was something about animals
that made Francis feel closer to God.
Perhaps that is true for us as well.
why do those of us who love animals
VOLUNTARILY add to our responsibilities and
expenses by having a pet?
Aren’t our lives already hectic enough?
Yet here is something about animals.
They make us happy.
Yes, sometimes they make us want to tear out our hair
even a photograph of a sleeping puppy
can bring a smile to our face
or an “Awwww...!” to our lips.
I read an article in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY
that said that we humans are pack animals
and part of being a pack animal
is a desire to make others happy.
This article said the desire to make others happy
is literally hard-wired into us.
Those of us who are religious
would say it is “God-wired” into us.
The truth is,
it is far easier to make an animal happy
than to make a human being happy.
Our human happiness is complicated, complex.
A little food, a favorite toy, a scratch behind the ears--
God created us to love other creatures--
and fortunately God created other creatures
to have the capacity to love us!
Animals bring us joy.
Some--like our pets--we love up close.
Others--lions, tigers and bears come to mind--
we love and admire and respect from afar.
St. Francis was all about joy.
He would have fit in well here at St. John’s.
Francis teaches us that every creature is important to God.
Our Genesis story speaks well to this.
God creates the living creatures
and God says it is good.
Later in the Genesis story we will hear another story--
when the world was destined for destruction
by a flood,
God saved both human beings and animals.
Sometimes when we are having trouble seeing the GOOD
in the world,
animals can open our eyes to God’s goodness.
The love we give to animals
can draw us more deeply into a larger circle of life
and into a larger circle of relationship
with our Creator God.
All things bright and beautiful
all creatures great and small
all things wise and wonderful
the Lord God made them all.