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A little scratch behind the ear

For the last few years, we’ve had a Blessing of the Animals service around the end of September, beginning of October. (October 4 is St. Francis of Assisi Day and he’s the patron saint of animals.) We welcome any animals, pets or working animals, livestock – all the beasts of the field, birds of the air and fish in the sea. And people, too.

All of the animals that have come to this service are clearly very much loved. That is probably the best example of how our relationship with creation can be what God intended. When animals are treated with dignity, respect and love, whether they are raised as pets or companions or for a specific purpose, the relationship is right. Not just for them, but for us, as well.

But you know, if you have a pet or care for animals on a farm, that there are moments when those creatures can behave in a way that’s more than a little trying. Annoying sometimes. Infuriating even. Then, a short while later, you’ll be giving them an affectionate little scratch behind the ear and a smile like everything’s fine and all is forgiven.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to give that much grace to people? Wouldn’t it be great if, the next time you saw someone on the street that you didn’t like much or that you’d been having a disagreement with, wouldn’t it be great if you just walked up to them and gave them a little scratch behind the ear. Metaphorically, of course.

I know, you want to say “but it’s not that simple for us. We’re much more complicated and sophisticated than animals.” Sure we are. Mostly. But why can’t we be that simple – not simplistic – or that childlike – not childish – about it? That’s the kind of simple grace God has for us. And the kind of grace God would like us to have for each other, for all creatures and for the earth itself. It’s the grace Jesus showed everyone, every creature.

God’s blessing rests on all creation. Sharing that sense of blessing with each other, the other creatures who share this earth, and the earth itself, connects us. As Seattle suggested in 1854: “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. We do not weave this web of life. We are merely a strand of it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

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