Blessing the Animals

In its first Statement to the Nation in 1977,
the Uniting Church affirms that we are concerned with
the basic human rights of future generations and will urge the wise use of energy,
the protection of the environment
and the replenishment of the earth’s resources for their use and enjoyment

Why?   Because our faith does not place US at the centre.
As I have noted a number of times in our looking at matters of scripture and faith:
“It’s not all about you”    Our faith takes us OUT of the centre of life.
Out of the focus of attention.
And whether this is about demonstrating a concern and care for future generations
or whether it is about demonstrating a concern and care for other nations
or whether it is about demonstrating a concern and care for other creatures,
it is  all part of God’s direction to us to think and love beyond ourselves.

Of course, we aren’t alone in this.
We join with people of many denominations and many faiths who understand
that the way we consider the world around us is fundamental to our faith.

In Proverbs it reminds us that “A righteous person has regard for the life of their beasts”

The more we understand and appreciate natural sciences,
the more that we can appreciate that the world doesn’t revolve around humanity
and we aren’t necessarily the pinnacle of all creation – or the end point of evolution.
We are to care for other humans and we are to care for other species.

But even more than that, just as we can discern the face of God in other people –
in any other person that we are inclined to look to.
We can also learn more of the characteristics of God
as we relate to other elements of creation.

The scripture is filled with images of animals,
and often use those images to help us picture God
Just like in the song that we sang just before the reading:
She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters, 
hovering on the chaos of the world’s first day …
for she is the Spirit – one with God in essence …

But it is also true with other animals – who didn’t quite make the grade to scripture.
Imagine the faithfulness of a dog –
the warmth and the friendliness that comes with a Labrador,
the world’s worst watch dog –
A picture of the warm faithfulness of God

And with a cat –
well maybe in the way that a cat is a bit uncontrollable and goes where the cat wants,
we see an image of the God who is not just in our back pocket, just for our sake.
Though I must admit it is a little difficult to see tooooo much of the image of God in a cat

It is good for our ego to picture God in ways other than human centric

That’s why, as people of faith, we are concerned – or at least we need to be concerned –
about the ways that our actions impact on other creatures.
That’s why we are concerned, or at least we need to be concerned,
about destroying the habitat of species, just for our sake
That’s why we are concerned, or at least we need to be concerned,
about the reality of climate change, and the havoc it will wreak on thousands of species.

In one of the early stories about animals in scripture
it is mentioned that humans were given the role of naming the animals.
Now there is probably some human-centric part to that story,
but there is also something that is really significant about naming animals
When you give something a name, it puts you in some sort of relationship with them.
Caring for “Paddy” at our home, is different from caring for “that random dog”
Caring for “orangutans” is different from caring for “those hairy things in trees”

We become invested.   We are more connected.    It is some sign of care.

I have even heard lots of stories of people on farms who have raised lambs
sometimes by hand for one reason or another
and once the lamb is given a name, it puts it in a different place.
It makes it somehow harder to deal with
in the way that some of the other lambs may end up being dealt with!

Truly, the wise person, the righteous person, has regard for the life of their beast.
It is a way of honouring God and a way of experiencing more in life

You are probably aware of some of the stories about St Francis of Assisi.
Preaching to the birds and the wolves, relating to the fullness of God’s creation. 

Long before St Francis, in 4th Century Egypt,
there was a person in the church called “Theonas”

Theonas is said to have been regularly surrounded
by people who were looking for a blessing
and he would gather with them, and bless them, and pray for them.

It is also said that at night, he would head out
and make sure that the wild beasts
were given the freshest of water from his water fountain
And the drawings of St Theonas have him surrounded by
buffaloes, goats, donkeys and others, almost as a guard of honour.
Theonas knew the wisdom, the godliness of caring for humanity and animals.

May we too know that same wisdom
and care for, and be cared for, all creatures great and small

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