Care-Fully Relating to Creatures
A sermon based on Genesis 1:24-26, 2:18-20a
given at Mount Vernon, Ohio on August 19, 2018
by Rev. Scott Elliott
I read an anonymous tongue-in-cheek note on the internet claiming the discovery of a long lost set of verses from the creation story in Genesis. The discovery provide a humorous answer to the question “Where do pets come from?” I have slightly “re-translated” and paraphrased the discovery for this gathering. Hear now those verses:
Shortly after being driven from the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve cried out to the God saying, “Lord, in the garden thou walketh daily with us. Now beyondeth the garden we see-eth thou not and art lonesome and remembereth little how much thou dost loveth us.”
The Lord answered thusly: “I heareth thou plea and will create thee a companion that will be with you forever and reflecteth of my love for thee, so that thou shalt loveth me even when thou cannot seeth me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, thy new companion will accept you as you are and will love thee as I do, in spite of yourselves.”
And God created a new animal as a companion for Adam and Eve. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and she waggeth her tail.
And Adam saieth to the Lord “I hath already nameth all the animals and I cannot thinketh a name for this new one.”
And the Lord again answereth man’s plea, “Because I createth the new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, its name will be a reflection of mine own, G.O.D., so you will call her D.O.G. – Dog”
And Dog liveth with Adam and Eve and was a companion to them and loveth them. And the humans were comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and waggeth her tail.
After a while, it cameth to pass that Adam and Eve became full of pride and they believeth they were worthy of much adoration. And God said “Dog hath indeed taught humans they are loveth, but perhaps too well. To solveth this I will create a companion for them that will be with them forever and who will seeth them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of much adoration.”
And God createth CAT to be a companion to man and woman. And Cat would not obeyeth them.
And when Adam and Eve gazeth into Cat’s eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings. And Adam and Eve learned humility. And they were greatly loved.
And God was pleased.
And Dog was happy.
And Cat careth not one way or the other.
Dog and cat relationships with us create a lot of funny stories, and not just because dogs and cats can be funny, but we humans are pretty funny ourselves. But we would not find humor in such relationships, if the relationships with our pets, our farm animals and even wild life did not exist to begin with.
The Oxford Dictionary lists the number one definition of “relationship” as: “The way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.” 1. I often mention in church that religions are about relationships. The way we connect, the way we relate. We usually hear that to mean how we relate amongst ourselves, but clearly religions are also about how we relate to God, and all that God is in, all that is in God– which is very important for us to remember because that includes all living beings and all of creation.
In the first part of the real Genesis texts that I read this morning, the stories in our religious tradition have long stated that that God created animals on the same day and in essentially the same way humans were created. And specifically Genesis asserts humans were created in part to rule over creation, but to do so as God’s image! In other words, we are meant to relate to creation as God does, which means with care. We are supposed to act as stewards for God in Sacred stewardship over creation. We are charged with looking after this world like God looks after us with favor. That includes animals whether they are home-life or farm-life or wild-life. We come out here every year to bless animals and symbolically convey that favor we have for them, to remind us of our Holy duty, our Sacred charge to care for them.
In the second part of the real Genesis reading we heard that God made animals so we would not be alone and that God wanted to see what humans would call and name the animals. We sort of lose the power of the part of the story about naming. See in the Old Testament times naming was considered a great honor to do and a great honor to bestow. My Anchor Bible Dictionary points out that to name something was to give it a “distinguishing mark” which was “wholesome and salutary.” With knowledge of a name comes “dimensions for communication and for fellowship, ” that is to say relationship. 2
In Genesis the naming of animals “initiates the human ordering of creation . . .” Note that it is order not chaos. We bring order with the care and stewardship that ARE our obligations as God’s image on earth. That is no small matter. We are to be CARE-FULL. We are to be careful with and in creation.
God did not make creation for humans to pillage and plunder, While Genesis acknowledges that animals were created for us , it also acknowledges we are to care for them. We may not think about but it is still an honor to name animals in our culture. Just as in Bible times to name is to provide a “distinguishing mark” that is meant to be “wholesome and salutary” and open “dimensions for communication and for fellowship.” Naming critters creates and acknowledges relationship.
We often talk about how in the Bible “love” is our relationship aim and our call toward other humans. Love in the Bible means the care and desire for the well being of others. And I know some scoff at the idea that we truly love pets, but, who here does not care and desire the well being of their pet? Or their livestock? Or wildlife?
If we do not care we should . . . Shouldn’t we? Because when we have the care and desire for well being of creatures, any creatures, we tend to work toward their well the being. Which is good stewardship. Which is treating creation as Holy. In that respect, when we care about creation we are loving creation, and that is not only a good thing, but a Sacred call and duty given to us by God.
May we all care and desire the well being of creation, most especially for one another and our furry, feathery, slimy and scaly brothers and sisters– all of whom have the breath of life breathed into them by God’s very own self.
All of them are owed a Sacred duty from us. We are to act as God’s image in our stewardship obligations to them and in our love for them. Let us now and forever love pets, livestock and wildlife! We are out here to bless them, but let us never forget they are blessings to us, gifts from God so we are not alone.
2. Anchor Bible Dictionary
COPYRIGHT Scott Elliott © 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED