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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Thanksgiving for Creation
South Sydney Uniting Church
October 1, 2017

Psalm 148; Galatians 6:14-18; Matthew 11:25-30

‘Otherkind, otherkin’

Today we share our worship space with animal companions – humankind with otherkind, otherkin … God be with you

The little word “kin” tells us something important. We all breathe the same atmosphere. We thirst and hunger for food and drink. We share the same fleshly existence, and we experience pleasure and pain.

Eight hundred years ago in Assisi (Italy), saints Francis and Clare saw that all creatures share a common bond, expressed in praise of God as common source of life. “Blessed are you, O God, in all your creatures,” Francis sang/prayed.

A common source of life means it’s always possible to find connection with fellow creatures. It’s possible to learn from one another (as humans learn from the wisdom of dogs and cats, birds and fish … insects and spiders, as well as plants, trees and the simplest of living organisms).

Let’s introduce our animal companions and share something we’ve learnt from them or with them …

A common source of life also means it’s possible to affirm a common destiny – our evolving together, our becoming a new creation (salvation of all, with all that that entails). The Apostle Paul writes that our being “created anew” is the crucial factor (Galatians 6:15b), referring to the “cross of our Saviour Jesus Christ” as revelation of both violence/scapegoating and forgiveness/compassion. The end to blood sacrifice – the sacrifice of animals, certainly, and also cut-throat competition, murderous rivalries, imperial entitlement, moral condemnation, war. “We’re all in this together”, as a more recent songwriter has put it. May it be so.

We might also focus on the word “other”.

There’s an experience I may have, as a human being face-to-face with a feline being, for example, that is marked by difference, incomprehension, dispossession, wonderment, mystery. I can’t know what my cat is thinking, feeling, needing, saying, hoping, dreaming – or whether these are even the right cat-egories!

Augie (my cat) has been quite unwell this past week. He is having difficulty breathing and we’ve twice been to see the vet. After a course of antibiotics and a CT scan, results are inconclusive. A third visit to the vet is planned.

The experience of otherness is humbling, sometimes disorienting. I realise how little I know and how much I usually project onto others my own thoughts and desires.

In the mode of faith, however, the experience of otherness is an invitation to openness – self-emptying – my being at the service of another. Vulnerability, hospitality, patience, reverence. All this may be asked of me, drawn from me, inspired in me.

It’s true, of course, of every experience of otherness. I can decide to withhold affection/acceptance. I can decide to reject another person, neglect another creature.

Or I can decide to risk openness – to serve and revere (having acknowledged my fears in hope of transfiguration) with whatever means or strength I can summon.

Is there not a deep desire – an orientation – in us for/to this kind of reverence?

Clare’s beautiful blessing for an animal applies to us. “Live without fear,” she begins, echoing the assurance of many biblical strangers and angels – echoing the assurance of Jesus (gentle and dependable as an ox according to today’s Gospel). “Your Creator loves you, made you holy, and has always cared for you.”

Blessed, I can listen, respond, re-spect (which means to look again, perhaps to look anew, having been blessed).

If this is a way of speaking about faith – in praise of being as common source; in holy silence and wonder – it is also a way of speaking theologically.

For Wisdom/God is the event, the miracle of love in grateful hearts, minds, eyes, hands, paws, wings, fins. Wisdom/God is the miracle of love in respectful hearts, minds, eyes, hands, paws, wings, fins. In and through … in and between … with and within …

“God’s glory shines out in faithful people,” the psalmist says. God’s glory shines out in faithful creatures. God’s glory shines out in faithful interactions … forever and ever ... Amen.