What Can We Learn from Our Pets?
(Posted September 30, 2021)
“The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”—Mark Twain
I know it’s true for me. If I’m looking for a soul that is compassionate, who knows when I’m hurting and chooses to be with me even when I’m ill, who is never has a bad word to say and never judges me, I don’t have to look any further than my dog or my cat. In a world populated by conniving humans willing to judge people’s every move, the beauty of our pets is that they accept us as we are, for who we are.
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Blessing of the Animals – and Their Humans
In a book that seeks to teach us to be kind, compassionate, loyal and aware of the needs of others, it’s not surprising that animals often are used as examples in the Bible. In fact, there are over 120 species of animals in the Good Book – mammals and fish, birds and reptiles, even bugs.
This coming first Sunday in October traditionally has been a time to honor a man who saw and preached to the creatures of God’s creation – Francis of Assisi. It’s a time that many churches, including ours this Sunday, offer blessings to animals and their humans. Our Sunday service will celebrate the natural world around us, and the Blessing will take place afterward at noon.
Bible Animals That Speak
You know, of the 120 species mentioned in the Bible, God seems to use many of them as examples of the kinds of virtues that humans would do well to emulate. And of all these 120 species, Scripture has only two kinds of animals that actually speak like humans. One is that wily serpent in the Garden of Eden. The other is a donkey that belongs to a man named Balaam. (Much to the snickers and giggles of many a church school child, the donkey is known as Balaam’s Ass.) Balaam was a prophet and a soothsayer. The king of the neighboring kingdom of Moab wanted to hire Balaam to place a curse on Israel. But Balaam could not place such a curse without the permission of God, for whom Balaam worked.
The Donkey’s Wisdom
Nevertheless, Balaam was tempted to pick up a little “cash side business” with that King, and so he set out on his donkey for Moab. On the way to see the king, God sends an angel to block his path. Like many humans Balaam ignores the presence of a divine messenger and sees nothing. But his donkey surely sees the angel, and stops dead in his tracks. Balaam whips the little creature repeatedly until the donkey, having been given the gift of speech by God, turns and asks him why he’s doing this. At that moment Balaam’s eyes are opened. He too sees the angel, and repents. God has him continue to Moab where he issues a blessing over Israel instead of a curse. Balaam is literally saved by the words of a beast of burden that’s smarter and more tuned-in to God than he is.
Jesus’ Animal Metaphors
The truth is, we could learn a lot from the creatures in our life. Jesus often uses them as examples in his parables. We learn not to worry about our needs, because God values and tends to the needs of even a sparrow. When Jesus pauses on the top of the hillside overlooking Jerusalem, he weeps, and likens himself to a mother hen who wants to shelter humanity under her wings, to protect us from our brokenness. And of course, he is the Good Shepherd to those of us wayward lambs.
This weekend we give thanks for the creatures in our lives, especially our pets, that companion us on our own journey, know us so well, and still love us. Come enjoy this special Communion Sunday, and if you can, bring your pet at noon.