Have you ever had an animal as a best friend? An animal who stuck with you through hard times, who helped you, who maybe even saved your life? In the Christian tradition, from the time of the early church there have been stories of people who have had extremely close relationships with animals. In fact, sometimes the animals were wild animals. Certain people were so holy that animals were not afraid of them.
Take for example the story of St. Meinrad of Switzerland, who died in 861. Devoting himself to a life of prayer in the mountains, his only companions were two ravens. As an old man, two thieves came to the woods to rob him, hearing that he had many treasures. He welcomed them, and showed them his only treasure, a plain wooden statue. Enraged, they clubbed him to death. The two ravens tried to stop the men, flying at them and pecking them. As they left, the ravens followed them, and persistently harassed them, until they were found and convicted of the murder.
Faithful ravens may be a bit out of the ordinary, but many people we know have faithful friends who are dogs or cats. How are they a gift from God? We are concluding our series on animals this Sunday. We have a special guest for the children’s story; Jane Wright will be introducing a puppy she is training to be a seeing eye dog. I met the puppy today, he is so cute! Just remember, he is a working dog, and you are not supposed to pet him when he is working.
This week’s prayer: Thank you God for the animals who are our friends, who keep us company, who are our faithful companions.
I still remember the first time I saw a bald eagle. I was in New Brunswick, camped at a national park, and an eagle slowly soared over us as we hiked. It was a thrilling experience, something that you thank God for…for creating an animal that majestic, and for letting you see it!
Then a few years ago, I was driving on Victoria Avenue above the escarpment, and I saw a bird flying. It was a pretty big bird, and I thought at first it was a great blue heron. But the more I looked, the more I realized it was something entirely different. I was noticing the powerful strong slow strokes of its flight when I saw the white head. A bald eagle in Niagara! I have lived here all my life, and I saw my first bald eagle in my late 40’s.
Bald eagles are named as a threatened species. They have crawled back from being on the endangered species list several decades ago. This was largely as a result of the use of pesticides, which damaged their ability to lay healthy eggs. Banning certain pesticides allowed the bird to regain its population, and return to Niagara.
God sees the sparrow fall; does God see the eagle fall? Does God care if a type of eagle becomes extinct? Does God rejoice when an eagle species is saved? How does the church relate to animals and the crises they face in our world? What does the Bible say about this? That’s what I’m talking about in this week’s sermon. Hope to see you there!
This week’s prayer: Thank you God for the regalness of bald eagles, their sharp eyesight, their powerful wings, their gracefulness in flight. They reveal your glory, because you created them. Thank you that bald eagles join with us in a song of praise to you.