Early Sunday night at the labyrinth, the dogs filed in, from frisky little fur balls to big lumbering black carpets, all wagging and sniffing and licking as their happy people introduced them to their friends, fed them treats, and found seats for the service. Cats were there too, and even a snake, flicking his tongue at the kids hovering over him.
Whether they knew it or not, the pets were there to be blessed. This was surely no surprise to the dogs, who spend their lives nosing up and smiling at us, begging us to look in their eyes and bless them. They joined in occasionally with barks and yips as the snake slithered, the cats meowed sarcastic comments about how goofy the dogs looked, and the humans sang “This Is My Father’s World” and prayed Pope Francis’s Prayer for the Earth, “…Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature …”
But when everybody lined up and Pastor Jim knelt before each creature, holding their heads in his hands and speaking words of blessing into each of their dog faces and cat faces and snake faces, acknowledging their own dear place on earth as an animal created by God, loved by their families, bringing new joy and even holiness to our world, I wanted to cry out, “YES! THIS IS WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS!”
But I didn’t say that. I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to look like a crazy woman- even though I wanted to keep talking. Even though I wanted to say, “CAN’T I LINE UP FOR A BLESSING? CAN’T WE ALL?”
Maybe it was because I had just reread the chapter about blessings in Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World, or maybe it was because I had just spent the weekend at the beach with friends facing a big scary health crisis and yet they spent three days dishing out nothing but peace and courage and love onto my plate, or maybe it was because of the sickening behavior I see every time I turn on the television news, the flagrant disrespect and cruelty towards fellow human beings on this earth, that I want to LINE UP THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD AND HAVE SOMEBODY GIVE OUT BLESSINGS.
We could call it The Blessing of the Humans, and the ministers could work in shifts so that our own dear pastor doesn’t have his mouth dry out or fall over in exhaustion or get a leg cramp from all that crouching. (Some people are shorter than others and everybody deserves a blessing.) One by one, he could hold our heads in his hands and speak words of blessing into our human faces, acknowledging our dear place on earth as treasured children of God, bringing joy and even holiness to our world.
I think it’s what our world needs. The idea feels familiar somehow.
Oh, that’s right.
Here’s the play set the children enjoyed Sunday morning. Look! The sheep have found their places at the table among all the people of the world! They’ve all circled up to be near the Good Shepherd, to receive the blessing, to soak in the mist of holiness in the cloud of witnesses.
As much as I love this picture, I know I can’t line up the world. I can only do my part, like others have done for me, making sure I’m blessing those in my path as I go through my day, acknowledging their humanity, encountering each as a treasured child of God.
Blessings to you, friends!
And thanks, Mary Carol Anderson, for the sweet photo of Jim blessing Bebe the dog, who is beside herself with happiness!