Jeremiah 22:13-16; Galatians 6:14-18; Psalms 148:7-16; Matthew 11:25-30
Dr. Carol Franklin
Last Sunday, (Rev.) Rachel (Hackenberg) talked about her rough week and how challenging it was to find hope in the face of evil (especially the evil we do to each other). This week hasn’t been much better, but her powerful message grounded in the gospel of love and hope still resonates with me. For it is love and hope which shaped my reflections on the blessings of our companion animals. Today’s gospel talks of things hidden from the wise, but revealed to those who are spiritually open enough to receive it. What is hidden is the miracle of creation and the power of love. Today we stand with St. Francis to affirm and celebrate that all of creation is divine speech and that each of us, two-footed, four-footed (and maybe even no-footed if there are any snakes here) is an example of creation’s wonder and unconditional love.
Hope, love, gentleness, and humbleness of heart… These gifts of the spirit are easily found in our companion animals. Since I am dog crazy you know I’m gonna have to talk about “The Boys.” It has always been boys (cocker spaniel boys to be precise) and puppies until these two (who are rescues). I was known for raising these uniquely spirited creatures, loving and full of personality. This included my last puppy, The Jazzman, whose nickname was The Devil’s Minion. He got into a lot of trouble, and yet he was the cutest loving little thing smiling up at me amid the chaos only he could create.
When Maxx died just before we went to Israel, I wasn’t sure I had puppy stamina. A friend suggested I consider a rescue. I was a bit unsure as I would not be the molder of its personality while trauma may have been. But then she sent me a link to Petfinder and the picture of a face – the face of Rocket, who thankfully became Rock the House. Rocket was a 2-year-old purebred raised from puppyhood by his first mom, who surrendered him as she struggled with terminal cancer.
When I saw his face for the first time, it seemed full of despair and sadness at being separated from his mom, but it was also full of hope and promise that out of the darkness light and love would be found. What a lesson and gift she gave to him and me out of her selflessness, a gift of hope and love, of gentleness and humbleness of spirit. If you came to my front door, you would probably question the gentleness ‘cause he “rocks the house” with his barking. But if he met you on the street or you came in and stayed awhile, he’s timid and shies away from stranger and friend alike. Just ask Byrdie.
For two years, Jazz and Rock were the boys. When Jazz died in 2014, I wondered if Rock and I needed a companion beyond each other. The energy in the house was different, so the search was on as I applied three times more on Petfinder. The third time was the charm as my friend who led me to Rock went with me to Columbus to get Mopsey (now known as Motown), who was found wandering in West Virginia.
Blind in one eye and losing sight in the other, we believe Motown was either abandoned or was a runaway with an owner who couldn’t deal with a handicapped dog. The owners didn’t realize they were abandoning a bundle of joy and love. When I saw Mo’s face, I saw joy and openness despite limitations, I saw forgiveness and pardon for any injury or abandonment. Mo is this happy-go-lucky not-so-little boy whose tail literally wags the dog. His inquisitiveness and pure joy on our walks and his open loving personality which greets friends and strangers with excitement epitomizes his amazement with all of creation.
My Boys are two uniquely colored dogs with two vastly different personalities. They remind me that each of us and all of creation is a receptacle of divine breath. They are two blessings who exemplify love and hope, gentleness and humbleness of spirit. The want to love and be loved, to offer comfort and understanding even though they have no words. Whatever my mood or if I forget dinner time (although that’s hard to do with Rock the timekeeper), they return only love and acceptance. Our companion animals remind us that it’s not about wisdom or knowledge: It’s about love, about surrendering to the well of grace that is the love of God. In opening my heart and home, I became something new: A rescue mom totally owned by the manifestation of the spirit on four paws who daily questions, “Who rescued who?”
The Reverend Peter Faass
The Reverend Peter Faass was born in Delft, Netherlands. He is a graduate of the General Theological Seminary in New York City and has been at Christ Church since 2006.