Whistle: Good dog, Good dog! Hey kitty kitty kitty. Got your attention? Everyone sit.
Good dogs. Excuse me, folks for a minute while I talk to the animals: Welcome dogs and cats, birds and whatever bugs and spiders might be in the building. It brings us great joy to have you all with us here at St. Mark’s today. Did all of you pets listen to the gospel reading? In case you got distracted, here it is in a nutshell: You are beautiful and handsome and perfect just as you are, just as God made you. You mustn’t worry about anything because God is taking care of us; ALL of us, pets and people alike.
God loves you just as you are and wants you to be happy. When God made you, God said “This is good.” But you already know that, don’t you? You don’t need me to tell you that all is well in your world. I mean, here you are sitting in a warm place with your very favorite people nearby. Soon there will be treats. Life is good!
So let me address you human creatures. I’ve got good news for you too. You mustn’t worry either because you are perfect just the way you are. God loves you just exactly as you are and wants you to be happy. When God made you, God said “This is good.” Do you know that you don’t have to change anything about yourself to be wholly deserving of God’s love?
Have you heard this prayer? “Lord, help me to be the kind of person my pet thinks I am.” I know my Lucy thinks I am fabulous. Our pets know us and love us with all of our faults. They know that sometimes we are too busy for them or don’t feed them on time or we don’t brush them often enough. But they think we are wonderful. They think the sun rises and sets in us. They seek and find the good in us.
In the same way, God seeks and finds the good in us and sees past our failings. We don’t have to earn God’s love any more than we have to earn the love of our pets.
So our pets teach us this essential lesson about God’s love. I think we should thank them for that. Help me out here. Let’s all put our hands on our pets. Scratch a little behind their ears. Now please tell your pet; “Good girl, good boy. You are good.” Go ahead. Now thank your pet for loving you just as you are.
I like to think that God is doing this very same thing. So please join me in this: picture God leaning down out of heaven and resting a big, warm hand on your head, scratching a little behind your ears and whispering in a deep voice: “Good girl, Good boy.” God’s hand feels warm and safe and isn’t it so comforting to be assured that we are OK, that we are beloved, we are good, just as we are?
As we leave today we shall sing, loudly and triumphantly, Beethoven’s hymn to joy, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore You”. We’re singing this to God but if our pets could, they would be singing it to us! We shall sing these words: “Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.” Here’s the thing: that is what our pets do. Our pets teach us how to love each other. Our pets lift us to the joy divine. Without effort, they teach us about unconditional love. They love us the way that God loves us. So I say to each of the pets joining us here today: “Thank you for all the love and joy you give. God bless you.”