||Environmental Stewardship Commission
Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota
Creation Season 1: Animals
Sermon originally presented October 7, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Thomas
The Creation Story
20 And God said, “Let the waters
bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the
across the dome of the sky.”
21 So God created the great sea
monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with
the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that
it was good.
22 God blessed them, saying, “Be
fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds
on the earth.”
23 And there was evening and there
was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth
bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things
and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.
25 God made the wild animals of
the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything
creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make
And it all went downhill from there.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled season of
for a four-week celebration of Creation.
I am just the right age to have grown up watching
of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I still have one of my favorite
books, Marvels and Mysteries of our Animal Kingdom, which is a
table book filled with beautiful pictures. Between the two, I was
to awe inspiring creatures from all over the world.
This morning we celebrate the animal kingdom.
In the weeks to come we’ll be celebrating the gifts of plants, water,
finally light. If you notice, we’re kind of going backwards. That’s
this Sunday is the one nearest to St. Francis Day, and Francis was know
for his love of the animals and birds.
Many of the largest animals are in danger of
primarily because people appropriate huge chunks of their habitat.
Elephants, Giraffes, Leopards and Lions, Birds and sea creatures too
At the Duluth Zoo, I watched with fascination as the polar bear swam
and round its pond.
God’s creatures are so much more marvelous than
human beings can make. Their variety is almost beyond imagination.
Never, before the 20th Century, did humans have enough population or
capability to modify large portions of the globe. For most of our
we needed protection from the larger animals. But now the
is reversed. One of the great challenges of our age is to pass on to
grandchildren a world where these amazing creatures still live.
Back when the book of Genesis was written, the idea that people could
control the future course of the world, could have dominion over it,
largely a pipe dream. Now suddenly we find ourselves with the power to
reshape the natural environment in massive and long lasting ways. Will
we use it responsibly, refraining from changing things whose workings
barely begun to understand?
But they bless us in many other ways as well.
One year in the boundary waters we paddled around a corner just in time
to see a moose and her calf swim across a narrow neck of the lake and
out onto the shore. It was one of the highlights of the whole trip.
Then there are the Eagles that soar above our lakes and rivers and make
me stand riveted, watching them ride the thermals.
The animals bless us merely by their presence, their beauty, and their
Dolphins surfing the bow waves or the bright cardinal in our yard can
us more joy than 100 bars of gold.
They bless us as pets with a love that is independent of our
or our worldly success.
Domestic animals blessed us with a leg up in our evolution.
Pepper and Cary are always delighted to see me come home. In fact we’re
glad that Pepper’s tail is cropped. Otherwise nothing would be left
after one of her welcomes.
Because of the undemanding joy they bring, pets improve our health in
They can turn a care facility from dreary to pleasant all by themselves.
They provided a concentrated source of food that left us time for
music, play, thinking, and planning.
We still depend upon the Chickens, Pigs, Ducks and cows of the
farmstead for a lot of our food, although we no longer raise them in
Until quite recently horses and oxen provided the muscle that made
agriculture possible. These Great Plains could never have been
into farmland without teams of willing horses pulling the plows.
Nor could the western ranges have been ranched without the highly
horses carrying their cowboys.
To this day a versatile machine that can do a lot of heavy work is
My sister does animal assisted therapy in Rochester. She tells about
young man from a very troubled family who would barely talk to her at
about his feelings. Then she brought in her little brown spaniel, and
and gentle as any dog you could meet. She started asking him how he
Cyan felt about this stranger, and how he interpreted her attempts to
him out. Before long he was talking much more freely about what it was
like to live in his family.
Search and Rescue
St. Bernards: Cask of liquor is a myth, but they really did search for
lost travelers in the high mountains
Dogs were all over the pile at the world trade center, searching for
Seizure dogs: So tuned into their humans that they can often detect an
approaching seizure as much as 30 minutes before it strikes. The dogs
then trained to alert their human, so he or she can get to a safe place
Helping Children Learn
It’s time that we give up the notion of dominating.
in those early days, in the Garden of Eden it made sense, but no longer.
The other night we happened catch a TV segment on a school in Israel
they decided to experiment with having pets for all the children in the
There were the most amazing pictures of children working at their tasks
with rabbits in their laps and pet rats crawling around the table.
Contrary to what you might expect, the children’s attention spans and
performance both improved dramatically.
Let us begin to understand ourselves as partners with all God’s
in God’s ongoing creation.
It’s true we occupy a special niche and have unusual capabilities.
But let us use those capabilities in the service of an ever richer and
more diverse creation.
The animals of this earth give us many blessings.
Let us be a blessing to them in return.
To Tom Harries' other Creation Season
This sermon was part of a four-week Creation
Season service first presented in October 2001 at St.
Nicholas' Episcopal Church, Richfield, MN. For additional
on the service, contact the Rev
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