“In love, God made them all” - September 30
Sermon - Robin Wardlaw
Pentecost 18, Year B
Readings: Genesis 1:20-22, 24-25; Psalm 104:24-35; Luke 12:22-31
Today is exciting. Many of us have our pets with us in a place we normally think of as a people place. This church is a bit different, though. There are pets in attendance most weeks, although generally they don’t worship with us. They just wait patiently at the back for owners to finish their complicated worship.
Do pets worship? Animals don’t need to worship. At least, not in the way we do. They don’t get themselves into complicated relationships with each other or the rest of creation like people do. People need worship times to remember their place in creation and get reminders about behaviour that contributes to the well being of the universe instead of taking away from it. Pets don’t gossip, they don’t burn fossil fuels, they don’t make weapons of mass destruction. Although the owners of kittens and puppies do wonder about the amazing destructive power of those little claws and those brand new teeth. Animals worship their creator just by being themselves.
What pets do for people is well known now. They lower our blood pressure and help us cope with our lives. They make our children healthier because they bring germs into the home, germs we need to encounter is our early years to our bodies get used to our environment. They bring much joy to hospitals and seniors’ residences. They let us love them. We’re social animals, too: we need to hang out with other creatures, human or otherwise, and love them.
So far we have been talking about animals. It’s time to talk to them. The first thing we have to say to you is, We’re sorry. It’s people who are killing the coral reefs by changing the acidity of the ocean, wiping out whole fisheries, cutting down the forest homes of all manner of birds, animals and insects. When people got to this continent twelve or fourteen thousand years ago, there were species of giant animals–cats, bison, mammoths, antelope and camel-type creatures, a giant beaver, a giant condor–that are now gone. Then Europeans arrived five hundred years ago with their guns and other technology, and posed new threats to creatures and whole species. We have to wake up to the damage we are doing.
People may say they honour the bible, but we don’t take it seriously. We haven’t really listened to the story of creation where it keeps saying God pronounces each new stage of creation good. It’s a beautiful story, revealing that everything is holy. And what God calls good, people who follow the bible might respect much more than we do. You animals, by contrast, seem to coexist with plants and other creatures. Now there are more rabbits and now there are more foxes feeding on rabbits, but it’s never all rabbits or all foxes. Somehow you balance it out. We humans have so much to learn, from our scriptures, from scientists, and from you in order to figure out a sustainable relationship with creation.
A person who contemplated nature and what could be learned from it was Jesus. He spent a good deal of his ministry outdoors, it seems, moving about the country, and also teaching and healing on hillsides and in village squares. In the story we heard from Luke’s gospel, he’s at it again. This time he’s talking about worry and why it isn’t necessary. He tells people to look at birds. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.” (Luke 12:22-23) So in this story it’s ravens.
Another time it was sparrows. The people who are here may know that story. We don’t hear Jesus talking about pets, exactly, but there is this one story. A few weeks ago we heard the story about how dogs get scraps, crumbs that fall from the children’s table, so it seems there were dogs hanging around the house. Sounds like you dogs haven’t changed much in two thousand years, either–still checking under the table for something tasty.
Have we changed, we humans, I mean? Some of us think we can leave Jesus’ teaching behind now that we’re so modern with our cell phones and other gadgets. But we still worry. We still squabble. We still think too little of ourselves sometimes. Or too much. We need to contemplate you animals even more now, in the twenty-first century.
You animals remind us all that the blessing in the beginning wasn’t just for us, for humans. Everything, everyone, is made in love. “O God, how manifold are your works!,” says the psalmist. “In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” (Psalm 104:24) How hard is that to remember? We are made in wisdom. All of us. The earth is full of the creatures of the Holy One. Why would we worry, or squabble, or wreck the only planet we have?
So pets and their humans: the goal is to make all our relationships as profound and satisfying and enduring as the relationship you have with each other. You pay attention to each other. You love each other. You take care of each other. Time to make that the model for all our relationships. So many things can divide us if we let them. Love can bring us together. So many things can bring us down. Love can bring us back. So many things can hurt us. Love can heal us, and all creation. And when we have love, we want to sing and rejoice and bless.
Let’s give the last word to the psalmist: “I will sing to God as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to God,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
Bless the Creator, O my soul.” (Psalm 104:33, 35)