Animal Sunday

I find it significant that two of the most striking passages that deal with the complexity of human life, concerns and suffering end up as passages that guide into contemplations about creation.
Or maybe to spin it around, passages that guide us into contemplations about creation end up being some of the most significant about concerns, worry and suffering.

When Job has been agonising over his life and his suffering his protestations that life is simply not fair and after his friends have all had their go at explaining, or blaming,
God drops into the conversation with a series of questions about animals

 
Who provides food for the raven
Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? 
 Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Who let the wild donkey go free?
Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness
Do you give the horse its strength
Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom

In Luke, when Jesus’ followers are getting stressed about the practicalities of life and where all their necessities would come from, Jesus tells them to consider the ravens and consider the lilies.

Not to look at them, or listen to them, or stop and smell the roses, but to consider them

 It’s as if the creation around us, the animals, the birds, the smallest and the greatest
can jolt us into a better perspective – a more true to God perspective – of ourselves.

This is not to suggest that all the things that go on in our lives are small or insignificant
but we are invited into being more reflective and gaining perspective

For some people this deeper perspective becomes a life changing experience
that directs them into a career, or a new way of living

Roger Tory Peterson, author of Field Guide to the Birds, the birder’s Bible,
describes the experience that changed his life and set him on the course he was to follow.
One Saturday when he was a boy, he was taking a walk with a friend.
They came upon a flicker in a tree .
Thinking the bird was dead, he poked at it, gingerly.  But the bird was not dead, it was just asleep
When he touched it, its eyes flew open, and it flew away.
“This inert bunch of feathers suddenly sprang to life.”
What struck him was the contrast between what he thought was dead, but in actuality was very much alive.
“Almost like resurrection . . . Ever since then birds seemed to me the most vivid expression of life.”

 For others, like Job, the call to stop and pay attention to a world beyond himself
creates a sense of deep acceptance of life and a way of relating that is hope filled
 In the encounter with the wonders of creation, Job the questioner becomes Job the questioned.
Job has been spending his time gazing into a mirror and wondering about himself.
As the mirror is removed, Job has the capacity to see the wondrous creation of which he is one part.   Important, but certainly not central.
In knowing his place, Job has the chance to know himself.

Have you stood at the foot of a great mountain?
We don’t have any great mountains in Australia, so it’s hard.
Or have you stood in the middle of the outback – even the Hay Plains not too far from here –
where you couldn’t see anything breaking the horizon in any direction?
Have you stopped and watched the birds jumping from flower to flower
Have you considered the way that your pets move?
Have you carefully watched a guide dog with its owner?

I think possibly the most significant element of the two passages I’ve referred to is not that the disciples or Job end up understanding the sparrows, or the donkey, or the horse.
But actually that they don’t understand.   They are not asked to understand.
They are asked to consider, to stop and wonder and in the wondering, to learn of God.

When we celebrate new life in baptism,
one of the things that we do is say together the words of the Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth

There is a link – a direct link – between our faith in God and the affirmation that God is creator

One philosopher – Wendell Berry – has said that what we need to do is learn to experience our dependency on other things with gratitude. To accept with thanks that we are not independent, but that we are all interwoven in this creation.
Berry says “we are living from mystery
– from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend”

Creatures of joy.   
Creatures of wonder.  
Creatures of companionship. 
Creatures of mystery.

Consider these creatures.   Ponder their wonder.   Celebrate their companionship.
And live together in the greatness of God’s mystery of which we are all part.

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