This reflection was presented at the Blessing of the Animals Service for the St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville, VA, on September 24, 2017.
There are some services that are quite important to the life of a congregation and a community. For example, there would be an uproar if there was no Christmas Eve or Easter Vigil in some congregations. Can you imagine the outrage that would commence if there was no Pentecost?
Well, I have learned that the St. Francis of Assisi service, otherwise known as “The Blessing of the Animals Service” is as important to the life of the community, even if we don’t know realize it. In case you didn’t know, St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment, and, as the Old Testament reading reminds us, God created humans to have “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Many times, I am convinced, we think that dominion over all the earth, and all the creatures that inhabit it, means that we have free reign to do whatever we want to do, regardless of outcome. That, my friends, is not so.
While dominion and authority indicates supreme control over animals and the earth, there is a second component to having control over something – a requirement to ensure care of and maintenance of. For example, the government, in most cases, has dominion over roadways, they are required to take care of and maintain them so that they are navigable. Now whether the government does that well is another issue, they are still required to do so.
Another example I thought of is that of an absentee landlord. You know the kind – purchases a property, rents it out, yet neglects to take care of it. The landlord enjoys the income they derive from the property, yet does nothing to maintain its wellbeing.
Unfortunately, in some instances, we humans have become absentee landlords. We love all of the benefits we derive from the earth and animals, yet we have failed to take care of them adequately. We are required to care for the animals that God has given US dominion over, and we are required to care for the EARTH as well. In case you have missed it, there are indications that we have not done such a good job of the “taking care of and maintaining” part of dominion. We’ve pretty much mastered the “absolute control” over, but if we are honest, we need to do a better job of taking care of and maintaining.
If you don’t believe me, there are far too many animals being mistreated. We are not taking care of and maintaining the animals we have dominion over. There are far too many animals in shelters or homeless. We are not taking care of and maintaining the animals we have dominion over. Our earth is telling us that we are not taking care of her, and she is telling us through the weather. We are not taking care of the earth we have dominion over. We must do a better job.
This is not to say that we are totally absent in our care. Those of us here this morning KNOW that we have a responsibility for caring for the animals that are in our care. Those of us here KNOW that we have a responsibility for being good stewards of the earth. Those of us here KNOW that we must exercise responsible dominion over the earth, and everything on and in it.
So, this morning, let us be thankful for the animals that we have in our lives, and remember that God made us in God’s image to do take care of and love them. What an honorable assignment to have – loving and blessing animals.