Sermon–October 4, 2015


Creation Care Sunday

Blessing of the Pets

October 4, 2015

William Bradbury

Genesis 1:20-25


Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus says: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life….”

On the face of it that is a ridiculous statement! For two reasons: first, the mind doesn’t do negatives well, so when you tell someone not to think of a pink elephant guess what happens?

At the resurrection, however, Jesus puts it in the positive and says, “Peace be with you”.

Second, worry and anxiety are woven into the fabric of human existence. Unlike our pets, we know we are going to die and we know life is, as Hobbes said, “Nasty, brutish, and short.” Or as the Buddhist say, all things are impermanent.

Dogs do worry about somethings, though, like being separated from the pack.

Dogs are social creatures who may experience separation anxiety when left alone during the day when kids are in school and parents are at work.

We also are social creatures, and when we lose our experience of connection with others, with creation, and with our Maker, we come undone and will do anything to make the anxiety go away. But instead of looking to fix this lack of connection, we sometimes imagine our anxiety will be healed if we can get more stuff. It’s not enough to get “our daily bread”. We want bread for the whole week with some in the freezer in case a hurricane comes ashore.

Our anxiety pushes us to secure our future, not by connecting but by accumulating. Even super-rich Nelson Rockefeller when asked how much money would be enough, said, “Just a little bit more.”

This is how we are wired to calm our worry.

Yet, as you know this strategy has significant drawbacks: we imagine there are limited resources, so we must fight others for them. We also have to protect what we already have from the have nots, which means lots of locks on our houses, churches, and hearts. Of course we know these strategies will fail that day we get sick and die…but not to worry, we get gym memberships and tweak our diet, so that won’t happen to us!

Jesus knows it won’t be long before the Romans kill him and he knows life is impermanent. So Jesus offers us another way—actually the only way out of this cycle of anxiety and struggle.

It’s the path of trust.

He says that the birds of the air and the lilies of the field are part of “a luminous web” of relationship created and sustained by God for their health and happiness. Their time is fleeting yet they play and shine, as they trust themselves to this reality. Barbara Brown Taylor has a wonderful book titled The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion

Jesus paints a picture not of scarcity but of abundance in which our heavenly Father knows what we need and provides for us. In such a world our task is to trust the Creator and follow Christ as we take up our role in the cosmic dance of creation.

We have a choice: we can see the world through the lens of isolation and scarcity, cut off from God and creation, or we can look through the lens of connection and abundance. We have this choice every moment to pay attention to what is around us.

Like many of you I have a longish commute to work. In my fallen human nature I sometimes maintain a list of what’s wrong: too much traffic, too many potholes, too many idiots on the road, too much to do and too little time to do it…on and on. These are the ravings of an isolated man who can’t see reality because of anxious whining.

But imagine another way of living: In the Spirit which is Christ in us we can see evidence of 10,000 people who have given their blood, sweat and tears to make our trip possible. Just think how many people are involved in the creation of a road—from the engineers with the design to the guy with the shovel to the police who keep it safe. How many thousands of people are involved in creating and maintaining my car, and my clothes, and my health? I’d starve to death if it weren’t for the people stocking the shelves at Market Basket—they too are part of the luminous web.

Living with this awareness of the abundant support of creation can make us shout “thank you” every mile of the commute, because without it there would be no commute and no work at the end of it.

And your work and mine are necessary parts of this web, which is also like a cosmic dance.

This is the luminous web of relationships maintained by the love of God. Without God’s ever-present merciful attention we would disappear like the bubbles my granddaughter blows into the wind.

My dog Charlie is happiest when he is at home with the pack. The human being is happiest when at home with creation and Creator.

You remember the Saint Augustine quote: “you have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Confessions

Humans lose their minds when they believe they are isolated and alone—and then one day they decide it would be better to hurt themselves or others than change the glasses through which they see the world.

Sam Wells writes: The problem is that the human imagination is simply not large enough to take in all that God is and has to give. We are overwhelmed. God’s inexhaustible creation, limitless grace, relentless mercy, enduring purpose, fathomless love: it is just too much to contemplate, assimilate, understand. This is the language of abundance. And if humans turn away it is sometimes out of a misguided but understandable sense of self-protection, a preservation of identity in the face of a tidal wave of glory.” In Matthew Commentary, Brazos, Stanley Hauerwas.

But Jesus Christ calls each of us to wake up to this “tidal wave of glory”. Jesus is God with us in the flesh, connecting earth and heaven, which are both right here.

He calls us to be his disciples so that in him we can learn to pray for daily bread, and for our enemies who threaten us.  See Stanley Hauerwas’ Brazos Commentary on Matthew

This is why disciples care for the environment not as a duty but as an act of thanksgiving. This is why seeking to reduce the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is no different than removing Radon from your house. Even Charlie knows deep in his dog DNA that it is a mistake to soil the den.

Jesus says follow me and I’ll teach you to live like the birds and the lilies, trusting in God and not in the destructive search for security in things.

As he says from the cross our problem is ignorance. We don’t know what we’re doing. He has come to be the way out of the anxiety caused by our untrained minds and closed hearts.

Anne Lamott says, “Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.”
― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

So Jesus keeps bringing us back to God and says: Consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and seek first God’s Presence and God’s covenant faithfulness and all these things will be given to you as well.”