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.
I’m continuing my series on “All Creatures of our God” by looking at the topic of eating animals. We talk a lot about what we eat, we are very conscious of that. But we rarely spend any time talking about who we eat. Animals aren’t inanimate objects like a potato plant, they are living, breathing creatures; creatures you could, if you chose to, have a relationship with.
In our society today, the vast majority of people don’t give a thought to the animal whose flesh is on the table. Why would we? For most of us, meat comes in styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic and we buy it at the superstore. But perhaps this dissociation from the source of our food leads to callousness, or at least to unthankfulness, about the creatures that sustain us .
In my sermon this week I’m going to be talking about this great divide between the farmyard and our table; and how different Christians negotiate that space. What does the Bible have to say about eating animals? Why would a Christian choose to be a vegetarian? And what is the connection between this week’s topic, and last week’s topic? How does being a community that is concerned about cruelty to animals connect to the food that we put on our tables?
It’s a big topic and there’s a lot at steak…pray for me as I write my sermon!
This week’s prayer: Thank you God for food! Give us wisdom as we think about our food and our relationship to all your creatures.
This Sunday I am going to be preaching on one of the most surprising passages from the Bible…the story of Balaam and his talking donkey, from Numbers 22. I’ve never heard anyone preach about this story. There are a number of themes in it, including obedience to God, and the choice to bless or curse. But the presence of the animal who talks is what intrigues me, because it’s so different than most other stories in the Bible.
In Jewish tradition, in a book that was written around the time of Jesus, it suggests that the souls of animals will be kept alive until the last judgement. The purpose of this is so that they may bring charges, at the judgement, against human beings who have treated them badly! (II Enoch 58:4-6)
What if animals could talk? Would we treat them better? Unfortunately, I am not sure that would make much difference. Human beings can talk, and yet we do all sorts of cruel things to each other. But what if we believed that animals had the ear of God, and could tell their story to their creator? We can be cruel to animals, because they are “just” an animal.
This Sunday we’ll be talking about what it means to be Christian–what it means to have compassion in your heart. Does compassion end at the species boundary, or does it extend to all the world?
This week’s prayer: Lord, thank you for the diversity of life on the planet; teach us how to be reverent and compassionate for your whole creation.
We share the world with other earthlings. Earthlings meaning non-human animals. How do you live with animals?
Some of your minds go immediately to pets we might have living in our houses…dogs, cats, birds, fish, lizards, hamsters. A few of us are farmers, who think of the animals in the barn. Maybe some of us think of animals that are unwanted guests in our homes, like ants or mice or bats..
When I think about living with animals, I look up from my computer here and see my refrigerator, and think about milk and eggs and butter. And then there’s the Styrofoam containers of meat. It’s not exactly living with animals, but more like living from animals, and living from animals dying.
As far as eating goes, I couldn’t have eaten the peach I had for my night snack without the essential help of bees, who pollinated the fruit. Bugs and organisms of all kinds help to make the earth fertile so crops can grow.
So, yes, we all live with animals, but how is this a faith issue? Does it really matter how we treat animals or think about animals? Let me pose a question…if it came to the church’s attention that I had left my dog on a leash in the hot sun without shelter and let him starve to death there, would that jeopardize my ability to be your pastor? Is cruelty to animals incompatible with being a pastor? I have a feeling that a lot of you would have reservations about me if that happened. In choosing your pastor, you want someone who is caring and empathetic…if I could be heartless and cruel to an animal, it would raise questions about my essential character in your minds. Who we are affects how we relate to all living animals.
This Sunday I want to explore what scripture teaches us about animals, and ask some questions about our own relationship with animals. Have you ever heard a sermon about how we should treat animals? I haven’t. Why is that?
This week’s prayer: Help me to see my place in your created world. Help me to see You in this created world.