By Vicar Jamie
This past weekend’s “Blessing of the Animals” got me to thinking about all the wonderful things that animals can teach us about God and faith. Allow me to share with you some fun animal facts I discovered.
Squirrels can drive us totally nuts by digging up our gardens and flower beds. They uproot flower bulbs and either eat them or rebury the red tulip bulbs in the yellow tulip section of the flower bed! Or they bury acorns or other nuts where we don’t want them. But consider this...because squirrels bury nuts by simply doing what squirrels do, millions of new trees grow every year! As disciples of Christ, when we share our faith through our actions (and sometimes even with words), we plant seeds of faith in others. Just as God created tiny acorns that can grow into tall and majestic oak trees, God nurtures and grows the seeds of faith that we often unknowingly plant in others.
Sea Otters hold onto each other’s paws when they sleep so they don’t drift apart. We can learn a lot from sea otters! Imagine what the world would look like if we all held onto each other so that those on the fringes of society were not in danger of drifting away, alone. Imagine that by holding on to them, we showed them they are part of the community and welcome! God holds us close in this way. God won’t ever let us drift so far away that we are outside of God’s reach.
Elephants show great empathy for others, even for different species. An elephant will respond to another elephant’s distress by acting the same exact way. Researchers have witnessed elephants moving to stand beside a distressed elephant and touching it with their trunk in order to provide comfort. Human beings have, to an extent, become numb to the suffering of others. We have only to turn on the nightly news to hear story after story of violence, death and destruction. We hear it and see it so frequently that it often doesn’t faze us – it’s more of the same of what we heard the day before, and the day before that, and so on. But what if, instead of tuning it out, we took action and stood shoulder to shoulder with those that are suffering? Standing strong beside one another, hand in hand (or trunk to trunk!), we work towards ending violence, we hold up those affected by violence until they are once again strong enough to join the fight?
It’s easy to simply look at the many creatures of God’s creation that we share the planet with and enjoy their beauty or uniqueness. It takes more intentional effort to get to know more about those different creatures. In the same way, it’s easy to judge those around us simply by what we see – the car in their driveway, the color or style of their hair, the clothes that they wear, the job they have – or don’t have, the political signs in their yard. But to really know about an animal or our neighbor, we have to know what lies beneath the visual trappings. We have to take the time to get to know them for who they are. On the surface, polar bears are beautiful to look at and make for a cute, cuddly stuffed animal, but when you learn more about them, you’ll find out that they are the only animal that will stalk a human being for miles and eat them. Not so cute and cuddly after all! Elephants, while incredibly empathetic, are also easily agitated. With their incredible size and the ability to simply trample whatever is agitating them, this makes them very dangerous. Not quite the gentle giant portrayed by the character Dumbo! Like the old adage says, you can’t judge a book by its cover – or an animal by its cuteness, or our neighbor by their appearance. We must first open the book and get to know them. Now, more than ever it seems, this is so important.
Prayer: God of creation, we give you thanks for all creatures, great and small. Open our eyes and our hearts to, not only the beauty of your creation, but to the wonderful things your creation can teach us about you, others, and ourselves. Help us to plant seeds of faith in others; to hold on to each other so that no one drifts apart from the community, especially those most vulnerable; to stand in empathy and strength beside our distressed neighbors. Help us to always remember to really get to know our neighbors and not to come to conclusions based on that which we can only see on the surface. All these things we ask in your Holy Name, Amen.