The Celebration of St. Francis
Readings – Galatians 6: 14- 8; Psalm 121; Matthew 11: 25-30
Today as part of our blessing of pets, traditional for the celebration of St. Francis, we will sing Hymn #405, “All things bright and beautiful”. The hymn was first published in 1848. The author, Cecil Frances Alexander, was inspired by the very beginning of the Apostles Creed, “We believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…”.
Veterinarian James Herriot was in turn inspired by her hymn to write four best-selling books about his care of God’s creatures – All Creatures Great and Small (1972), All Things Bright and Beautiful (1974), All Things Wise and Wonderful (1977), and The Lord God Made Them All (1981).
The Church in Canada even added a verse to the hymn to reflect their nation –
The Rocky Mountain splendor, the lone wolf’s haunting call, the Great Lakes, and prairies, the forest in the fall.
The hymn and the books joyfully proclaim that the Lord God made them all, reminding us of the first chapter of the Bible and the six days of creation. On the sixth day, the text reads as follows –
And God said, let us make humankind in our image, according to Our likeness; and let them [care for] the fish of the sea, and …the birds of the air, and …the cattle, and … all the wild animals of the earth, and … every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own other concerns that we forget our primary role—that we were created to care for God’s artwork, to be curators of this planet earth. We even miss this role, given in Genesis in our Baptismal Covenant. I would hope that this will be corrected in our next prayer book.
To be true to our creation is to be curators of all life, to be stewards of God’s work. To be honest, I am very content, very joyful, when working in our gardens at home, and in our gardens here at Snyder and Market Streets. I can not garden as long as I used to, and getting up off my knees when I am working in the garden is not as easy as it once was, but there is joy, there is contentment, to be found working in the dirt. We are made to garden, as St. Francis once wrote, we are made to care for God’s artwork – “All things bright and beautiful”.
So, we do our part to care for God’s creation.
We recycle as much as possible.
We reuse as much as possible.
We reduce our use of plastics as much as possible.
We reduce our use of water as much as possible.
We reduce our use of fossil fuels as much as possible.
We reduce our use of electric power as much as possible.
We plant trees, and shrubs, and flowers.
We plant pollinator gardens.
We care for dogs and for cats.
We do our share to respond to the science of increasing planet temperatures, even when it becomes a political issue rather than a statement of faithful living.
During the 18th century revolutionary times, Voltaire, the French author, in his novel Candide, wrote – “Il faut cultiver notre jardin”. We must cultivate our garden. There is a great joy to be found in gardening, and in caring for God’s creatures, just as a dog owner or cat owner will tell you. Joy is to be found when we cooperate with our Creator when we serve as our Creator’s partners.
St. Francis found joy in nature and in serving as a curator of the Creator’s work. And so do we.
Let us conclude by reading together prayer # 1, found on page 814 of the Book of Common Prayer.
O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things we made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.