While attending this summer’s ELCA Rostered Ministers Gathering here in Phoenix, I was met by a group of hounds hanging out at the ELCA Foundation table. Rescues from the local shelter Home Fur Good traveled down the 51 to the Phoenix Convention Center to snuggle with pastors and deacons in-between workshop sessions. As an owner of 3 cats, I am admittedly not a dog person. Yet, as I walked up to the playpen one pup stuck out like a sore thumb. His charm, joy, and energy were contagious. His name was Jimmy.
I went home that night thinking about Jimmy and told Randi I met a dog. She thought I was kidding, later telling me she kept waiting for me to forget about Jimmy. Later that week we went to Montana to visit Randi’s parents and extended family. We celebrated birthdays, took road trips, and watched mountain bike races. All the while I did not forget about Jimmy. Long story short we visited the shelter when we got home and Jimmy stole Randi’s heart too. Jimmy is now Jack, and he is well on his way learning how to be a cat with lessons from Stubbs, Sushi, and Bobbi. What is it about animals that can captivate our hearts, heal our souls, and connect us with creation around us all with a charge to care for all of creation entrusted to us? I mean, just look at these creatures. Oh my gosh!
On October 7th we will have the blessing of the pets at St. Johns, a special time to name the joy our pets bring us and ask for God’s blessings of joy upon them. We do this in October because it corresponds with the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of the environment and animals, on October 4th. This day commemorates his death around midnight on October 3rd, 1226.
But it is not only St. Francis who helps us see God in creation. Closer to home, the modern day “saint” John Muir is known as the “Father of the National Park System”. The writer and explorer often referenced God in his writings when describing the beauty of creation, even so much to write,
“No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty.
Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers,
or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening -
still all is Beauty!”
John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 208.
So, in the spirit of St. Francis and John Muir, I offer this prayer:
May we live each day conscious of our consumption,
so that we give thanks contently for all that God gives us.
May we care are for each another as siblings on one planet Earth,
so that every interaction is rooted in love and justice.
May we use our power, our voices, time, and resources,
in ways that will help sustain the Earth for our next generation.
May we have mercy and patience for all of creation.
For pets, wild animals, fellow humans, and even the creepy things,
appreciating the biodiversity all around us in which God has created.
And may we, at every opportunity and without hesitation,
give treats to good cats and dogs.
In the name of our savior Jesus,
who was born in a feeding trough and rode a donkey into the holy city of Jerusalem,