They teach us love

A Sermon preached by the Rev. Nils Chittenden

Sunday, OCTOBER 7th, 2018

This is going to be a very short sermon. I know, I know… I’m sorry to disappoint you….


I didn’t grow up with pets at all. We didn’t have pets at home, and neither set of grandparents had pets so when I met Kelly in North Carolina exactly ten years ago, her two cats were a bit of a mystery to me, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to interact with them at first, but since it was clear that cats were, going forward, going to play a not-insignificant part in my life, I was interested and cautiously eager to learn how to interact with them. Now, anyone who does have a cat will know that the first thing one needs to get straight is who in the cat/human matrix is in charge. That didn’t take long to figure out. Right?


Looking back now over the last ten years, what has become crystal-clear to me is that every household should have pets; indeed, I wish now that I had grown up with them, because in the last ten years, not only has my appreciation of love grown through my relationship with Kelly, but through living with others of God’s creatures. Simply put, I would say this: our pets have made me a better person.

A better person because they have taught me invaluable lessons about kindness, compassion, care and companionship and, perhaps most important of all, they have taught me about the preciousness and the sanctity of all life – since all life, whether animal, insect, fish or plant is from God.

Now, I don’t want to over sentimentalize this. I mean, where do you draw the line? Bacteria are part of God’s creation, aren’t they? What I am talking about, really, is the responsibility that we have to not exploit our position as the custodians of creation.

At this point, some of the cynics among you may be thinking, well, he eats meat, doesn’t he? Or if not meat, then fish, or plants. And yes, I do happen to eat fish and plants. I graduated away from meat recently.

“The Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks

The perhaps slightly unsatisfactory answer is that we humans are designed to be carnivores and that the wonderful vision described for us by the prophet Isaiah in our first reading is a work in progress. A world where the lion will lie down with the lamb, and where a child can coexist comfortably with a venomous snake is a vision of what could be, and can be, and will be, but in the future.

But that shouldn’t make us complacent, or cynical. Right now, there is so much that we could do, and should do, to make sure that, as the custodians of God’s creation, we ensure that no animal, no insect, no created thing be wasted, or be made to suffer because of our selfishness, or our laziness, or our convenience.


If today’s blessing of the animals is to mean anything truly meaningful, and not just a cute rite of passage for our pets, then we owe it to each other, and to God, to think about how we extend that blessing to every living thing. Isaiah’s words might be a vision of the future, but there are concrete steps we can take, right now, today. Don’t buy eggs from anything other than hens allowed to live a happy life out in the open, where they can peck and take a dust bath, and socialize and live life the way chickens are meant to. Don’t buy meat that has been injected with growth hormones, which is only done to increase the meat yield and treats that living creature as nothing more than a production line.


And the next time you see a bug in your house, look at it with compassion, not revulsion. Scoop it up in a glass, contain it with a card, and put it somewhere where it will be safer. And don’t just eliminate it from the face of the earth. It has every right to be here.

Yes, this is an imperfect world, but that shouldn’t stop us trying to make it more perfect whenever we can.

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