Today we have blessed our pets and said words of love and thanksgiving for all they bring to our lives and families. Animals have so many lessons to teach us… they show us how to love unconditionally, have patience for our shortcomings, they are loyal companions who never tire of showing you how much you mean to them. Just moments ago, we heard Jim and Elaine speak about the Creation banners that grace our space… one creative event makes way for the next… out of nothing comes an amazing inter-connected, inter-dependent web of life. And we remember those who imagined designs, cut fabric and stitched pieces of cloth together to make these pieces of art. The story represented also reminds us of the special role and responsibility we humans at the top of this creative order and the power and dominion we hold over the environment and all who make their homes in nature.
The idea of the web of life is known by the interdependence within an ecosystem. Animals and plants depend on a complex system of food for survival. In a typical prairie ecosystem, the web might work like this: The sun provides energy for the grass; grasshoppers feed on the grass; birds and frogs eat the grasshoppers; snakes eat birds, frogs and mice; owls and hawks will eat the birds as well as snakes, frogs and mice. When an animal dies, it is decomposed by worms, fungi and bacteria action and nutrients are released to the soil during the decaying process for the grass to use again. It is obvious that all forms of life in the ecosystem are dependent on all other living and non-living things for food, nutrients and energy. And then enter we humans who are completely dependent on this mysterious and beautiful tapestry of natural inter-connectedness.
The pandemic we are experiencing and the presence of the COVID-19 underscores the reality that when we destroy biodiversity we put human life at risk. Science tells us that when wildlife and humans keep their safe distance from one another, when we preserve natural ecosystems, we help maintain a healthy equilibrium. But human practices of urban development, deforestation, expanding agriculture, change and shift wildlife habitats and the ecosystems that support them. When a coronavirus arrives, there is a greater likelihood that the virus will pass from animals to humans and take hold, spreading within the populations. But we must remain hopeful and vigilant… that COVID has seen us finding a new appreciation for the outdoors and connection with Mother Earth… the birds, the wildlife, fish all creating new pathways because as you will recall our economy came to a grinding halt this past spring. All our actions have an impact on our natural environment and the presence of this pandemic is a wake up call to all of us, to government, industry and individuals like you and me to be more cognizant of our choices, our planning and our subsequent actions.
As part of our theme around Web of Life, we share with you Margaret Kyle’s painting, Prayers For the Earth, displaying varied prayer flags representative of the natural forms and textures found in our world. We are the keepers of these flags… what is my prayer for the Earth this day… as we prepare for a second wave of infection… what is my commitment to the environment, the web of life that I am a strand of? I want to share with you the following prayerful words from someone named Thomas Rhodes… on this day when we bless our animals may we take a few moments for some reflection and contemplation:
You Birds of the Air, Hawk, Sparrow, and laughing Jay You embody freedom itself, delight us with your song, astound us with feats of migration Grant us your perspective, for too often our horizon is limited and we are blind to the full results of our actions.
You Worms of the Earth, Ants, Beetles, Spiders and Centipedes You are the essential but oft-forgotten strand in nature’s web. Through you the cycle is complete; through you new life arises from old. Remind us of our humility. For the wheel of life does not turn around us; we are not the axle, but merely spokes no less than unseen, unknown and shunned companions such as yourselves.
You creatures of the field and wood, of marsh and desert— Bear and Bison, Skunk and Squirrel, Weasel and Wolf Too often we have sacrificed your homes in the name of progress, clear cutting the forests to fill our desire, or covering the earth with tarmac, cement, and suburban lawns. Pray that we may remember that the earth was not given for our needs alone, and what we do to you, we eventually do to ourselves.
You animals of the farm— Horse and cow, pig and fowl Willingly or not, you give your very lives for us, your milk for our nourishment, your flesh for our sustenance, Yet too often we forget that the meat on our tables was once as alive as we are.
Forgive our ignorance, and remind us constantly to give thanks for your sacrifice.
You Dearest Companions in our lives Dogs and Cats, Hamsters and Goldfish You who are with us today and you who always be present in our memories You have enriched our lives in so many ways endured our shortcomings with calm acceptance taught us something of our humanity taught us how to love. May we hold you in our hearts throughout the days of our lives.
Amen and Amen.