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Good morning everybody and welcome! Welcome to the annual Blessing of the Animals and the first of hopefully many times that this event is being hosted together by both Grace Episcopal and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. My name is Pastor Ben Adams and I serve with Holy Trinity, and also presiding here with me today is the amazing Rev. Amity Carrubba, the Rector at Grace.

To all the animals out there, we are so glad to see all of you here today ready to receive your blessing, and I think I can speak for both Amity and myself in saying we cannot wait to meet you And the human you brought with you this morning.

You know what...I guess for a moment there I began to channel my inner St. Francis of Assisi and started preaching to the animals. St. Francis was after all known for his love of animals and legends are told of his tendency to preach to even the birds. Francis even went so far as to call the birds his “little sisters” and remarked that they paid better attention to the gospel than people did. Inevitably though, this seemingly odd behavior garnered him criticism from some and earned him the nickname "God's fool."

But if there is one aspect of St. Francis’, foolish life that many of us as pet owners or pet lovers can relate to, it’s his tendency to talk to animals. Because, let’s be honest, most of us at times have had full on conversations with our pets.

Just a mixture of sounds and illegible words that only you and your pet truly understand.

Maybe in looking and acting foolish we are able to communicate something deeper than words, maybe in an odd way we are able to communicate deep deep love.

And if following St. Francis’ foolish example can lead us to a deeper sense of love, then I say, let’s be God’s fools for the sake of the love of all creation. Foolishly talking to our dogs, cats, maybe even our plants and tapping into the love of God which we have all been created with. Once we acknowledge and recognize the love of God that we have been created with, it is then that we can regard all life for exactly what it is… sacred.

St. Francis in all his foolishness, was guided by this very truth to the point that he saw the sacredness of life even in bugs and insects. Those pests that we swat and squash without a second thought were as sacred to Francis as our pets are to us. There might be a few of you thinking, I could never do that, regard a bug like I would my pet!

And I hear you. That’s a lot to ask, I mean, I know that no pesky insect could ever hold the same place in my heart as my Gracie. And maybe we will never attain the same level of regard for every creature that St. Francis had, but I think if we simply begin to entertain the thought that everything is sacred because God lovingly created it, it will have significant implications on our life. Trusting in God, our loving creator may seem obvious to some of us, but when we really take this truth to heart, our lives and our relationship to everything around us will never be the same.

But in the world we live in, where profit reigns over people, pets, plants, and our planet, actions taken that forsake profit and wealth creation will always be regarded as foolish. I’m warning you that once we accept that all creation is covered with the loving fingerprints of God and filled with the breath of God, we, like Francis experience a conversion of sorts, becoming God’s fools.

And as God’s fools we are not just any kind of fool. I invite you to imagine what it would look like in your own life to be fool enough like Francis to believe that Jesus actually meant for his disciples to live as he had instructed.

To sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, to give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again, or if your brother or sister sins against you, forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven times.

But trust in the gift of faith that each one of us has been blessed with. And entrust yourself to the care of God our Creator, the unpredictable movement of the Spirit, and the love of Christ outpoured for us all on the cross.

This St. Francis Sunday is a day we bless animals and to ask God’s forgiveness for our mistreatment of them and of the Earth, the home we share with them. And in celebration of our brother from Assisi, it’s also a day to bless each other, God’s fools who are passionate enough to live as citizens of God’s kingdom in this life, not waiting for the next.

On his deathbed Francis offered his friends a final prayer: “I have done what is mine. May Christ teach you what is yours to do.” It is my prayer that Christ teach us what may be ours to do. And may God give us the grace to accomplish those things as foolishly as Francis did. And now, please receive this Franciscan Blessing:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. Amen