Did You Hear the One About… 40 Days with Cartoon Church
Day 11 – Monday after 2nd Sunday of Lent
From the Scriptures:
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
creeping things innumerable are there,
living things both small and great.
There go the ships,
and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.
I am a franciscan by calling so it would be natural to expect me to take an interest in ‘All Creatures of Our God and King’ and have a care for the environment – Felixstowe people be prepared for Pet Blessing on the Prom come October! My care for them, however, can wax and wane depending on circumstances.
For example earlier today Lesley-Anne and I were entranced by the antics of ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ foraging on the Vicarage lawn, popping his head up and down occasionally so that he could put out his tongue at our dog, then scurrying up a tree to keep out of her reach. However, when other members of his tribe took up residence inside the roof of Whitton Parish Hall and chewed through the electricity cables my feelings were not quite so warm towards these particular fur-friends!
So it is when it comes to being in church, like the animals in our cartoon and those resident on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others!
Martin de Porres, Patron saint of mixed-race people and those seeking racial harmony, had a very simple attitude to animals. He loved ‘ALL Creatures Great and Small’, extending this (to the annoyance of his brother monks) even to the love of vermin. He defended his caring for them as he saw in their ‘stealing’ of the convent food simply a hungry creature of God needing succour.
Now, I am not for one moment suggesting we should embrace cockroaches and death-watch beetles, cable chewing squirrels and (that bane of Archdeacons) bats from belfries, but we can be more humane in our care of each of them. Are they not just out of place pets? If we learn to care for all four-legged (and six and eight-legged) creatures we may find ourselves better able to care for two-legged creatures as well.
Occasionally, perhaps because they are underfed and have had to find their food under the table instead of at it, some members of our churches can take on the aspect of vermin. I don’t mean those who are of unkempt appearance and in need of a wash and some clean clothes; when we choose to, those can be remarkably easy to love. It is the regular church member who seems to feed on the scraps of community. The nosey one whose stock in trade is gossip rather than gospel. The needy one who makes a beeline for you as soon as they see you and you have to resist the temptation to turn away or look past them. The sad one, so consumed with unresolved anger, that they cannot see how much damage they are doing to themselves and those around them.
How do we, like Martin de Porres, learn to love these ‘vermin of the church? In fact, should we indeed love them? After all, wouldn’t it be easier to set traps for them and throw them out of the church? Why not develop strategies to have, ‘The Awkward Squad’, removed from our councils? If it is okay for the King Henry II to ask ‘Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?’ surely it is all right for the Body of Christ to be rid of the odd church member who doesn’t ‘fit’ into our fellowship?
Martin de Porres solved the problem of vermin by feeding them. Is not the key difference between a pet and a wild animal is that they no longer have to hunt or steal their food but the hand of a loving friend feeds them? I wonder if we find that ‘two-legged’ vermin grow inside churches because they do not always receive the good food they need to grow good? This food is not only found in the study of the Scriptures but in sharing the fruits of the Spirit with our sisters and brothers. After all when people are fed on a rich diet of ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ instead of the scraps of stale food that are ‘the works of the flesh’ (Galatians 5.16-26) we will all prosper and be able to sing together St Francis’ great Canticle of the Creatures.
Lord, you love life;
we owe our existence to you.
Give us reverence for life and love for every creature.
Sharpen our senses so that we shall recognise
the beauty and also the longing of your creation,
and, as befits your children,
treat our fellow creatures of the animal and plant kingdoms
with love as our brothers and sisters,
in readiness for your great day,
when you will make all things new.
- Attempt to spend more time with the person who annoys you
most in your church.
- Have a look at your spiritual diet in the light of Galatians
Chapter 5 and reflect on whether you are dining at the Lord’s table or stealing stale scraps from the rubbish bins of life.
Find out a little more about Martin de Porres here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_de_Porres
All Cartoons are copyright © Dave Walker. Please visit http://www.cartoonchurch.com if you would like to laugh even more J
Prayers are from the collection ‘Praying with the World Church’ compiled by USPG.
Please support their work by visiting http://www.uspg.org.uk
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘Did You Hear the One About…’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2017