Next Saturday, our church is having its first ever Blessing of the Animals. I will be out of town and regret that I will miss it, but it has me thinking about animals and what they mean to us and to God. I like that God, our Creator, spent so much time crafting each type of animal and giving each one its own unique characteristics and personality. Genesis 1 tells us that God created the animals and observed that this endeavor was good.
Jesus tells us how much God cares for animals in Matthew 10:20 when he says God knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground. Jesus uses the animals as an example to us in the Sermon on the Mount, observing that the birds trust God to feed them (something we seem to be unable to do even though we like to think we are smarter than birds).
God rebukes Jonah for his lack of compassion for both the people and the animals of Ninevah, when he tells Jonah: “But Ninevah has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” God’s compassion to the people and animals of Ninevah is the result of the people and animals fasting and wearing garments of mourning.
Psalm 84:3 says that the sparrow and swallow both have a home near God’s altar. I am glad to know that God enjoys the birds as much as I do, and I look forward to joining them one day near his altar! And while so many Psalms command us to praise God, the last verse of the last Psalm, Psalm 150, says “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!” While we have to be told time and time again to praise God, everything else that breathes only has to be told once!
Animals do seem to praise their Creator much more freely than we do. As I write this, I am listening to mockingbirds, cardinals, chickadees, Canada geese, a barking dog, and a chipmunk. On such a beautiful fall day, they are singing their praises to God while I sit silent. It’s interesting that while we have been given stewardship over the animals, they are our example of how to praise God!
I am grateful for their example of how to praise God, for their example of living authentically as God created them with no guile or agendas, and for the unconditional love we receive from those animals that live within our homes as pets. For us to bless the animals is only to return to them and to God a small portion of the abundant blessings they give to us. Every day we are blessed by the animals in ways we may not even yet realize. How fitting that we acknowledge their blessings to us by blessing them!