How many of you have been fortunate enough to share part of your life with an animal?
A dog, cat, bird, guinea pig, rabbit, chickens, horse? It’s so wonderful for us to live with animals. Think back to a time when you had to say goodbye – when a creature you loved died. How did you feel?
When my first cat, Tanner, died five years ago, I was shattered. Bereft. Deeply distraught for days. Grieving for weeks. Perhaps you can relate. Losing a pet is one of the most painful experiences we can have. Why? Because the way that an animal loves us, so purely, so unconditionally, is a rare gift. They never judge us or intentionally hurt us. More than anything, they seem to simply want our attention and love. A connection with an animal is a connection of the heart. And for many of us, our animals become treasured members of our family; and just like any beloved family member, we try to do everything we can to care for them.
This experience of heartfelt love underlies the vision of St. Francis towards all of creation.
It is a spiritual and mystical vision of all creatures as members of the family, as brother and sister, sharing the same Divine Parent, God the Creator of all. Francis came to this insight through prayer and the way he related with other people and with nature. We can do the same.
Francis shows us that we can be in relationship with God the Creator through each and every element of creation. This is why loving and being loved by an animal gives us a vehicle for knowing more about the nature of God’s unconditional love. Francis viewed the whole Creation as one family of God living within one shared home, our earth. We urgently need this spiritual vision if we are to overcome the perils of our climate crisis.
Sir Jonathan Porritt, the founder of the Friends of the Earth movement, writes that what is needed in response to the threat of climate destruction is not simply an international agreement on carbon emissions (important as that is), but nothing less than a profound re-orientation of our attitude to, and relationship with, our natural environment. He suggests that there is a real danger in relying solely on advances in technology to ‘sort it all out’, so that we can go on living in much the same way as we do now, out of harmony with creation and each other, out of harmony with God.
St Francis, with his recognition of a joyful brotherhood and sisterhood with all of life, offers an ecological vision which brings together the environmental, the social and the spiritual. By doing this, Francis lights the way to show us how the way we pray and live can lead us to a future where all of God’s creation – the human, animal, and plant – can thrive.
This is why today, you are invited to join our church community in a 30 Day Creation Care Virtual Pilgrimage. Beginning Tuesday-Saturday for six weeks, my emails each day (crafted by our Creation Care Team) will offer you an opportunity to learn about a specific element of our lives – like the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat – and will offer scripture, scientific fact, immediate and long term actions you can take as an individual or family, and prayer from Christian and other religious traditions. Our Creation Care Team: Peter Lawrence, Lindsay Crouse, Nancy Guselli, Jock Bourneuf, Peg Brady and I, have taken a program created 20 years ago by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and painstakingly updated and expanded it.
Since the Team and I began our work on this, it has changed my life and I hope it will make a difference in yours. Gail Straub writes, “Understanding that our destiny is forever linked with the fate of the Earth, that the health of our souls is inextricably related to the health of our planet; this is the heart of (creation care) as a spiritual practice. Walking the path as active stewards of God’s creation (by the way, which our Board unanimously voted in September to add to our church mission statement), we take it one day at a time…We aspire toward a fresh beginner’s mind as we compost, plant trees, shop with green values, conserve, recycle, reuse and repair…Gently, inexorably, our spiritual practice- which includes our active stewardship of creation – changes us and changes the world.
Since reading Cathedral on Fire and working with the Creation Care Team, I truly feel closer to God, to the earth, and to the people who shared in the book discussions and are part of this dedicated Team. And even though we have been learning about truly perilous and frightening realities, my eyes, my heart, and my mind have been opened in new ways.
I am growing, inspired, and delighted by sharing this journey in community with many of you!
As your pastor, I hope that you will take this opportunity to be part of our 30 Day Creation Care Virtual Pilgrimage; so that you, too, will grow, be inspired and delighted by being on this path! We must change our ways to save the only home we, Trey, his siblings, our children and our grandchildren will ever have. To be part of the Pilgrimage, you simply need to read the emails, begin taking the actions you feel called to take, and to join in the reflections each Tuesday at 4 p.m. on Zoom. The goal of this pilgrimage is to renew our connection to the earth, enabling us to more deeply connect with God and one another for the benefit of generations to come.
St. Francis shows us that living in joyful relationship with all of creation is a path to the heart of God. Let’s follow in his footsteps together. Amen.