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Why bless animals?

October 19, 2016
By Pastor ROGER LEMKE ( , Pine Island Eagle

During the last week of September and the first week of October, one of the most asked questions was: "Pastor, why are you and other pastors blessing animals on Oct. 1? Is it just to honor St. Francis of Assisi?"

My answer was always quite short: In part, "Yes." St. Francis spoke to animals as "brother wolf" and "sister bird" and saw all of creation as inherently good, not as something to be exploited, and so should we. However, as pastors, we are following God's example, who in Genesis 1:23 said: "Let the waters be alive with a swarm of living creatures, and let the birds wing their way above the earthAnd so it was. And God saw that it was good, and God blessed them." Or at times I quoted the last verse of the hymn "All Creatures of our God and King" which says: "Let all things their Creator bless and worship God in humbleness "

However, in a written article I can give a longer explanation. I just hope that your response will not be like the parishioner who in greeting her pastor at the door said: "Thank you Pastor for your sermon. It reminded me of the peace and love of God!" The pastor was thrilled; no one had ever said anything like that about his preaching. So he proudly said: "Tell me how I did that?" The lady replied: "Well, it reminded me of the peace of God because it passed all understanding and it reminded me of the love of God because it endured forever!"

So now to a longer explanation. The Hebrew word for "to bless" is "barak" which literally means "the imparting of power or life." Therefore, the person performing the blessing is mediating that power from God to the person or animal being blessed. To bless is more than an expression of good will and caring. The blessing of each animal, by name, means that health, healing and life are being mediated from God for the benefit of the animal in its relationship with its human partners.

Therefore I say in blessing: "Lord God, creator of all life, let your blessings be upon ________. Grant him/her good health. May the care and companionship that he/she receives and gives mirror your bountiful love and mercy. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The book of Genesis states clearly that animals are filled with the breath of life and that God proclaims that they are good. This blessing is a vision of the "Peaceable Kingdom" where "the wolf will lie down with the lamb" (Is. 11:6). Therefore in this blessings of animals we are declaring our common origin and that our connections stretch all the way back to creation where God said to man: "Manage and care for this earth and these creatures FOR ME that they may develop satisfactorily." Secondly, this blessing is a reminder of Isaiah's vision of the "Peaceable Kingdom" where "the wolf will lie down with the lamb" (Is. 11:6). Therefore, the blessing also stretches forward to that time where we have no need to seek dominion over any person or any part of God's creation. As it is written in Revelation: "All creatures never cease to sing before the throne of God" (Rev. 4:8). Therefore, may we join those creatures before the throne of God singing: "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty; who was, and is, and is to come. You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you made the whole universe: by your will, when it did not exist, it was created." (Rev. 4:8).

Roger Lemke is pastor of Fishers of Men Lutheran Church. The church is at 10360 Stringfellow Road. Call 239-283-1170 for service times and/or additional information.



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