Pine Valley United Methodist Church was a busy place this past weekend with over 24 parking lot servants, bus drivers and those who helped with the Franklin Graham crusade. Then there were lots who helped with the “Blessing of the Animals”. I did not get to go to the animal blessing but from what I hear, I hope to go next year.
My mom and my pet sitter, both, wanted to go see what this was all about. Since I was out of town they took my three pound dog, Duke. They loved it and would like to go back. They loved it more than Duke! And I was grateful that he was “blessed.”
You may think this service is silly and I did when I first heard about it. Then I remembered the most beautiful place in the world that I have ever visited - South Africa. I always say God really showed off when He made their mountains, oceans and animals! Truly those baboons, giraffes, elephants, lions, zebras and panthers were truly like works of art. To see them in their own surrounding taking care of their family, hunting or running. To see the very pregnant zebra was breathtaking. I had never had such an appreciation of animals before. God’s creation in the animals was like beautiful artwork!
Psalm 148:10-13, “...wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Revelation 5:13, “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
We are first told about animals in Genesis. Genesis 1:20-25, “ And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
The Blessing Of The Animals service is dedicated to our pets, the men and women who serve as veterinarians, and vet technicians all over the world. The animal blessing is based on Job 12:7-10, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
Most of the songs at the service are about animals. Winter Park Presbyterian Church Ukulele choir had several musical presentations. The liturgy spoke of the animals of God’s creation inhabiting the skies, the earth and the seas. Animals were saved from the flood and afterwards were part of the covenant with Noah. A giant fish saved Jonah. Ravens brought bread to Elijah. Animals were included in the repentance of Ninevah. A candle was lit in memory of past pets and butterflies were released at the end of the service in their memory. My mom said she had never seen so many dog strollers in one place! Charles reported that there were 63 people, 27 dogs, 14 cats, and 1 rooster!
Some of the comments I have heard from those who went were how special it was that two churches come together to do this ministry. Several wished more children could go to see that they can ask God to take care of their animal. This service is a reminder that God created the animals. It was a reminder to an older adult that so often the pet is a constant companion and best friend to someone lonely. There was a retired army veteran having his dog blessed. The dog was in the war with him and was going to be put down. He was getting ready to be discharged so he felt the least he could do was save that dog since that dog saved many lives. So he brought the dog back and adopted him.
God created the animals. Many of us have pets that are part of the family. We can learn from animal’s wisdom, their loyalty and their ability to be present in the moment. Stop and notice an animal’s form, color, texture and motion. God created beautiful works of art through animals. I love to see an eagle fly, birds in formation, a dolphin playing in the water, a galloping horse, etc. May we praise Him for all the beauty in creation. May we praise Him for all the blessings we receive from animals. Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures.