In Walter Brueggemann’s book “Sabbath as Resistance: Saying no to the Culture of now” he makes the case that the Commandments at Sinai, especially the command about Sabbath—is directly opposed to slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh.
Just listen to Pharaoh, the hard nosed production manager in Exodus:
All that in 14 verses. Work work work work work work work—relentless restlessness.
Pharaoh and his gods are all insatiable gods. They are all gods who require production to produce, they require toil to just get by, slaving away just to sustain the status quo.
And to this situation of slavery and to these gods—to these cries of desperation out of Egypt—comes a God who rests on the 7th day of creation. Who institutes Sabbath for His people—a day that is, “good… for nothing.”
In the face of slavery, Sabbath insists, “The wellbeing of creation does not depend on endless work.”
It points to Grace in creation—the radical proposition that the earth will keep spinning with or without our effort.
Grace in creation.
Now, at this point you might we wondering what Pastor is on about… All the readings have animals in them, we’re blessing the animals… and he’s talking about Sabbath… did he just want to do a mini-book-report for us? Is he trying to tell us something about our society’s habits of relentless restlessness?
Just what gives?
Well, let me tell you a story.
It was 11 o’clock on a Tuesday, and I was putting my mail out before I went to bed, when Simul, the Parsonage Cat, zipped between my legs and into the bushes
—Now Simul is an indoor kitty, ever since I brought her to Baltimore as a kitten—so naturally I endeavored to bring her back inside every way I knew how
—Catnip, gently calling her name, treats, wet food,
chasing her, calling after her,
following her through my neighbor’s prickly bushes, yelling at her…
you get the picture… all of this until 1:30-2am something like that… at which point I thought the neighbors might call the cops on me for disturbing the peace, so I left some food out and the door open and I went to sleep on my couch…(God help me if I become a dad—I can only imagine.)
Then, around 5:30-6 O’clock I wake up to hear Simul crunching and munching in her little kitty bowl in the kitchen.
--She got back on her own… no effort of mine.
Even an indoor cat can survive a few hours in the wilds of suburban New Jersey… no human effort needed… grace in creation.
That’s what Animals do, they remind us creation can continue spinning without us (maybe even a little better without us in some ways)…
that there is a grace in the created order.
“The wellbeing of creation does not depend on endless work.”
These barnless birds Jesus talks about in Matthew—Grace in creation.
These lilies that have no need to toil for their clothing—Grace in creation.
A pet rat’s restfulness exposes our addiction to the rat race—Grace in creation.
Our little companions are fuzzy, feathery, scaly, Sabbaths—Reminders of God’s creative grace. Good simply because they are.
Like the Sabbath—Good, for nothing
(And as a cat owner I can add some are a little more good for nothing than others).
In some ways a pet blessing is superfluous, in their fuzzy flesh they so often show that original blessing said seven times at the start of Genesis “God saw that it was good.”
Critters are part of what makes creation good and very good—seven times good—completely good.
Their ongoing presence sings praise to God the creator of all that is, seen and unseen. Singing a song of praise to the LORD from beginning to end.
And let all God’s living creatures say: Amen!