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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

The Blessing of the Animals – Year C

The goodness of God is all around us this morning.
The energy of dogs, the nervousness of cats, the laughter of children, the pride of parents…it is all around us. The breezes of the air, the stir of the trees, the incredible plumes of the clouds…we are surrounded by life, life that is so complex and beautiful that you could easily spend a day in its contemplation.
The goodness of God is all around us.

Indeed, for centuries men and women have dedicated time to the contemplation of creation. They have spent years, in fact, listening and watching the earth and all of its wonders unfolding. In the writings of mystics like Julian of Norwich, Evelyn Underhill and Francis of Assisi we find that through the living elements of nature they came to know God more deeply. Their joys, their hopes, their wisdom were shaped by the life of the earth around them. No different than we, the world surrounding these mystics was pregnant with the presence of God. They simply stopped to notice.

Today, we honor one such mystic. As the story goes, Francesco di Bernardone had once been one of the wealthiest young men in Assisi, with a large family and many friends. But Francesco, who we now call St. Francis, left his home to claim community with the environment after having been called by our Lord to draw closer to him. Francis left the things of this world and took on poverty, trusting, literally, that God would provide for all that he needed. Living the glorious wisdom of Matthew 6, which Chris read for us, Francis learned to lived fully in each blessed moment, and saw each moment for its blessed fullness.
And God took care of the rest.
Francis made the dome of the sky his cathedral ceiling and his congregation the animals of the land and the birds of the air.

Now there are many legends about dear Francis, and one is credited with leading to the millions of concrete castes of him we see in people’s backyards and his close association with the blessing of our animals. Supposedly, Francis was so stilled in silent awe of the world, that the animals mistook him for a statue and settled around him, a bird upon his shoulder, a kitten at his feet. For so many weeks did he sit in awe of God in the world around him that even when he finally moved, the animals had grown used to him and stayed at his side.

While we do not know if that actually happened, we do know from Francis’s writings that in opening his eyes to the goodness of the world, Francis met God. When he looked upon a stand of trees he did not see them for the money they might make him cut down, but for the years of rain and days of sun that had crafted them. When he saw a bird, he did not first think of its taste were he able to kill it, but for the wonder of its flight and God’s care in feeding it. And when he saw another human being he saw the years of labor and love with which God had made that person and for that Francis could not help but love every human being he met.

Now whether we depend on God’s creatures for our livelihoods as cattleman or horsepeople do, or are fed by the fish of the sea or the fowl of the air, or even if we weened our children on the nutritious milk of cows we have been offered glimpses of God.

If we first understood death by the passing of a pet or were struck silent by the profound beauty of a soaring osprey over the bay. If our very first friend who taught us to laugh and to play also had floppy ears and a wagging tail we have been offered glimpses of God.
The goodness of God is all around us.
While certainly not all of us are called to mimic Francis’s incredible life of poverty, we can certainly learn from it. We can experience more of God’s goodness by spending time in the pristine beauty of God’s creation. We can give thanks to the animals for the lives they give us in the farms they populate, the food we eat, and the joy they provide us and our children.

We can ask that God reveal himself to us in the created world, and we can pay attention when he does. We can wake each morning as if it is our first morning, ever, allowing ourselves the precious moments to see the new way the light is caste from the sky, the sounds of the birds as they call to one and other, and jewel tones of the dew upon the grass.
This morning is a really special day as we are blessing the animals which we love. And our blessing, thanks to Francis, means 2 things. Our blessings are first a thanksgiving for the lives of these wonderful animals that we have been given and the way they teach us about God.
And our blessings of these animals are also a blessing of God. In blessing the goodness of God that is all around us we are saying “God we bless you. We bless your presence in every animal of land and air and sea. We bless you in the air we breath, the water we drink and the earth that sustains your creation, and, God, we bless our knowing you through them.”

The goodness of God is all around us.
Therefore let us, truly, bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

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