"That Church"

How the Animals Helped God

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Scripture:  Genesis 1: 26
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
November 12, 2017 

Late one night, a burglar broke into a house he thought was empty.

He tiptoed through the living room but suddenly he froze in his tracks when he heard a loud voice say: “Jesus is watching you!”

Silence returned to the house, so the burglar crept forward again.

“Jesus is watching you,” the voice boomed again.

The burglar stopped dead again. He was frightened. Frantically, he looked all around. In a dark corner, he spotted a bird cage and in the cage was a parrot.

He asked the parrot: “Was that you who said Jesus is watching me?”

“Yes,” said the parrot.

The burglar breathed a sigh of relief, and asked the parrot: “What’s your name?”

“Moses,” said the bird.

“That’s a dumb name for a parrot,” sneered the burglar. “What idiot named you Moses?”

The parrot said, “The same idiot who named their Rottweiller Jesus.”

Do we have any pets among us named Moses or Jesus? Are there any pets among us with religious or spiritual names? I have shared with you in a former pet blessing sermon that I have always given spiritual names to my pets. These pets are not just animal companions, but spiritual companions for me. Over the years, I named my cats Sacred, Spirit, Freedom, Justice, and Blessing. I named my tortoises Patience and Perseverance. I named my dogs Amen and Alleluia.

Unfortunately, none of those pets are with me physically any longer. The last one to cross the Rainbow Bridge was Amen. He died a little over a year ago. For those of you who have lost pets, you know it is a devastating experience. These creatures are our family members. And the death of a pet leaves a big hole in our hearts and our homes feel empty. Even with a teenager and a toddler running around the house – the house still felt like it was missing something. We all felt it – even Daniella, who was 2 years old at the time.

So, 7 months after Amen died, Daniella said one morning to Mommy Karen, “Let’s go to the Animal Shelter.” Karen hadn’t planned on going to the animal shelter that day, but Daniella was insistent. “The animal shelter, the animal shelter, the animal shelter,” she persisted. So, Karen and Daniella went to the Redlands Animal Shelter. And there they found a black cocker spaniel puppy. Karen had had a black cocker spaniel years ago. She had loved that dog and so when Karen saw this dog, her heart melted. They took the dog to the play area and he was so good with Daniella – who being 2 years old at the time – was not the most gentle with the canine. But he was so patient and tolerant with Daniella and the two fell wildly in love with each other. It was a match made in Heaven!

Now the question was, “What shall we name him?” The name he came with at the shelter was “Hank”. But my brother’s name is Hank and we thought it may be a bit confusing to have two Hanks’ in the family. Of course, I wanted to give him a spiritual name like I always had in the past – Joy, Hope, Love, Moses, Jesus. Karen said, “No – he needed a dog name.”

So we settled on Ace. He is our ace of spades. The black ace is the high card of the deck. And we most certainly got lucky with our Ace.

Although I will always miss Amen, our home feels full again – full of love, full of joy, full of life, full of laughter and play. Kathy Blanchard, our church’s resident vet, says that maybe…just maybe…Amen sent Ace to us.  I love that – the pets we have now were to sent to us from our beloved pets who have crossed over the Rainbow bridge – I believe there is some truth there!

In our scripture passage this morning, after God had created the mountains, oceans, trees, plants, birds of the air, fish of the sea, and the beasts of the field, we read, “And God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our own image.’” Did you catch that? Let Us make humankind in Our own image. If there are no human beings yet, who is God referring to when God says, “Let Us make humankind in Our own image”?

In seminary, we were taught that the “us” and “our” referred to the Trinity – the Creator, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit who were here from the beginning of time. And then there are some far out theologians who say that the “us” and “our” refer to God and God’s spouse. Yes, they say – God was married!  But I have become increasingly convinced that the “us” and “our” refer to God AND the animals.

According to the children’s book, How Did the Animals Help God (N. Swartz), God said, “Let Us make humans in Our image, after our likeness.”

“Are you speaking to us?” asked the animals.

“Yes,” said God. “I am speaking to all that I have created.

And so the animals gave their advice.

“Make them brave,” said the tiger.

“Make them gentle,” said the lamb.

“Make them loud,” said the lion,

“Make them quiet,” said the clam.

“Make them small,” said the ant.

“Make them large,” called the whale.

“Make them fast,” snapped the cheetah.

“Make…them…slow,” drawled the snail.

One after another, all the animals shared their ideas of what people should be like.

“Let them swim,” said the fish.

“Let them sing,” sang the lark.

“Make them playful,” laughed the dolphin.

“With good appetites,” gulped the shark.

God thanked all of creation for their gifts and wise words. And in the image of God and in the image of nature, God created us. And God saw that it was very good.

These animal companions, these spiritual companions continue to create us, shape us, form us into loving, compassionate, playful, joyful creatures. They teach us the value of kindness, the power of mercy, the strength of gentleness. We are better human beings because of our spiritual animal companions. But of course I am not telling you anything that you do not already know.

It is a joy to bless these precious animals for they have blessed us so much more.

Let me ask.

Do you receive your pet as a precious gift from God? (I do)

Will you love and protect your pet so long as your pet lives? (I will)

Will you be faithful and kind to your pet whatever the future may bring? (I will)

I now invite you to bring your pets forward for the blessing of the animals.