The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Our scriptures are an amazing gift because they resemble a library more than a single book. Some books are letters, some are history, some are poetry, some prophecy, and others are legal statutes. But one thing present in many, if not most, of these books is animals. Animals are sometimes sustenance and sacrifice, sometimes a metaphorical reference for the appearance of humans, and sometimes an example of how we are to behave. Jesus is quite fond of animal references. He says we are to be good sheep who follow his voice, and not to be goats. He says we must be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves, but not a brood of vipers.
There are those who argue about whether or not animals have souls, and some who argue if pets are really family members. I think both arguments happen when we forget how important animals seem to be God and to God's son. Even in creation, God spends several days creating animals and only part of a day on humans. We are created on the same day as cattle and creatures that crawl on the earth, not even something cool like a stingray or snow leopard. And God calls all those creations good. And when God describes the new and perfect kingdom, we see in this text, it's not as one with people living peacefully as an example to all creatures, but as God's animals abandoning their role as predator and prey to simply live in harmony. It's a reminder that God has put God's law and love into creation all around us. We can learn from the loyalty of our dogs, the playfulness of our cats, the joy of our birds, the beauty of our fish, the obedience of our horses, and the generosity and affection of all our pets.
This Sunday, we will recognize the special gift that our animals are to us. Whether you have a service animal, a therapy companion, a comfort creature, or good old family pet, they are a part of your family, and therefore our extended family of faith. We will take a moment to remember faithful friends we've lost this year, give gratitude for our amazing animals who make our days brighter, and bless those animals and their families for the year ahead. I hope to see you there this Sunday evening for our annual Blessing of the Animals.