Yesterday someone asked me if a friend had her baby yet and I said, “Oh, yes, Charlie! Yes, she had him--I saw the pix on Facebook on Thursday!”
We are very connected with the world through cable, the internet and social media. All wonderful ways to stay informed about the world and those we love. Often, we find out things about those we dearly love that we wish we had never read or heard or seen. Sometimes they have different worldviews that frighten us!
St. Francis had a worldview that included the covenant between God and Noah--between God and humankind. That people would care for the Earth and the Earth and her Creator would care for her people. And St. Francis and those who were so inspired by him that they followed him into a vow of poverty had small carbon footprints. They weren’t destroying the environment on the scale we do, that is for sure. The Franciscan community was not out for personal gain--they lived like the poor, cared for the poor, and loved animals of all kinds.
St. Francis took to heart the passage in Matthew, “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving.” Everything is a gift from God, so St. Francis was able to set aside his need for material things and think about how he could be part of God’s generosity to others.
What does all this have to do with the internet and social media? One, the internet is run by advertising so there is the constant temptation to buy things while looking for information. Two, I believe we all have the need to be incarnate for one another--and sometimes we can kind of do that over the internet, through email, or a text. But, really, nothing beats having someone hold your hand when you are sick or even just be in the room with you. We all need flesh and blood presence from time to time. It’s why most of us come to church--to share in worship and be here to listen to one another’s stories and to look one another in the eye while we eat cookies or a communion wafer.
Flesh and blood presence is also why we have animals in our lives. This past week I watched the first season of The Yorkshire Vet and found myself loving the folks in the Yorkshire Dales all over again. I believe I have read everything James Herriot wrote. In February, 1995 (as Anne and I were getting ready to fly out of Heathrow) we got word that James Wright, the author’s real name, had passed away. We were so sad to hear it. As I watched the modern-day series, I was struck by the relationships between the farmers and their animals and the people and their companion animals at the veterinary clinic in Thirsk. The elderly farmers who had to give up their dairy herd because of poor health broke my heart as the woman cried and said, “We’ve had cows on this farm for over 200 years.” Each of her cows had a name. The woman was sure no one would care for them like she did, which is probably true. I have never seen anyone hand feed a banana to a cow before.
And, the dogs and cats--so dearly loved. Treatment for a 9-year old rabbit with a broken leg, dogs hit by tractors and cars, and a cat with a bee stinger in her eye. Companion animals that have no more options for treatment that are euthanized.
And, as I posted on Facebook the other day, when we think about it, our companion animals are often more intimate with us than any human in our lives. They follow us into the bathroom, they travel with us in our cars, they sit with us when we are sad, they share our beds, they run with us when we are healthy and happy, they hunt with us and they wait when we are away from them. They are here in flesh and blood--always on call for a snuggle, a snack, or a kiss. Unless they are a cat, maybe. They know all our quirky mannerisms, our every mood and they don’t judge us.
I have this passage called “I wait” from Dog Psalms by Herbert Brokering: “I am dog. I am patient. I can be taught to wait. I do not prefer to wait in a long line; I want to be the only dog waiting. If you are coming, I will wait, breathing deeply, half dreaming, wholly wishing. When I know you love me, I live for you with every breath. I bury my yearning deep inside and hide it in my sleeplessness. I toss and turn and wait until you are here. I wait for you sometimes while singing, sometimes while whimpering, howling, wanting with all my heart. I can wait loud or soft. I can wait through long night watches. I will wait without end, knowing I am wanted. I am dog, willing, patient. Waiting prepares me for your presence.”
Flesh and blood presence--like God came to Earth in Jesus. Companion animals have saved many a soul from hardness of heart, selfishness and loneliness. Companion animals are always there for us if we love them. God is always there for us, waiting for us and waiting with us.
[From Dog Psalms] “God, You have given me the gift of waiting. Like a child, I wait with my whole body, mind, and soul. I wait for seasons, they go; I wait for another, it comes. I wait for days to dawn, nights to darken, seeds to break open, fruit to fall. As I wait I learn the gift of patience and the joy of surprise. While I wait I find myself in your presence. I wait for you, and in waiting I see you are here, waiting.”