Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

We are Sanctuaries

This afternoon I had the joy of leading a special outdoor worship service at Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries, one of the animal rescue shelters in Tioga County. We gathered in the space adjacent to the building that is called Memory Garden. There were twenty-one people, seven dogs, and one cat present for the experience of worship. As we worshiped God in the small apple orchard we were surrounded by the songs of bluebirds, tree swallows, and a distant meadowlark; the dogs in the yard could be heard barking in the background, and a wind chime, moved by the gentle breeze, sounded off.

During the sermon I referred to the teaching of Jesus about loving God with all of our faculties and loving our neighbor as ourselves followed by the story of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Both can be found in chapter 10 of the Gospel according to Luke.

By Jesus' interpretation of his Jewish scriptures to treat someone as a neighbor is to extend to them the mercy (loving-kindness) of God. Furthermore, Jesus is always challenging his disciples to expand the boundaries of who we include as our neighbor.

As we take in God's big picture vision for this world, a vision of peace among people and peace between people and everything else that has live, it is imperative that we grow to count all of our human neighbors, dogs, cats, and other animals, plants, trees, and all of the many diverse ecosystems of the world as neighbors to whom we extend the mercy of God.

We ended our experience of worship with the song called Sanctuary that is number 2164 from the United Methodist hymn book The Faith We Sing.

A sanctuary is a safe space; a space within which life can be nurtured; a space within which love can be felt and hope can be found. While we celebrate that the Second Chance Animal Sanctuaries facility is a place of sanctuary for the animals, those who make it as such are the staff and volunteers whose very lives have become sanctuaries for the animals we all love so dearly.

The song goes like this: Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true, with thanksgiving, I'll be a living, sanctuary for you.

Let us pray that we would be empowered by the presence and power of God at work within us, as we trust in the love of Jesus Christ, to live as sanctuaries for all that has life.


Here is the responsive prayer that we prayed together:

God, as we praise you for the beauty and wonder of your creative love; Of singing birds, of blooming flowers, of flowing rivers and expansive oceans, of cloudless skies and of life giving rain, of mountains and valleys; of life in all of its forms; of the night sky that brings into view distant planets, stars, and galaxies. As we ask, loving God, that you would open our eyes to all of the goodness and beauty of your creation and of our responsibility as its members…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we lift up to you in prayer those among us who are sick and injured. As we pray that your healing presence would be upon our brothers and sisters…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we lift up to you those animals who have become the victims of breed-prejudice and other forms of marginalization. As we pray for your healing presence to be upon them…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we lift up to you those animals who are suffering due to mistreatment and neglect. We pray that you would release them, as…

Loving God, we release into your loving care those special animals whom we have loved and lost, embrace them in your perpetual loving presence, and embrace us as well, as…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, we pray for hope for animals everywhere; and we pray for your blessing upon this Second Chance Animals Sanctuaries facility and upon the staff and volunteers who give of their time, energy, and love for the animals we all love and care about so dearly. We pray for your blessing upon those animals currently at Second Chance that they would receive the gift of loving forever homes. And we pray for your blessing to be upon all of us gathered here, that you would empower us, loving God, for the fulfillment of the call you've placed upon us as we seek to be a presence of hope as…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Loving God, empower us to be an answer to these prayers we’ve lifted. We lay down our lives before you as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us. We want to live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. So change the desires of our hearts, loving God, so our hearts beat in tune with yours. Make us to be the beloved community of disciples that is the embodiment of peace, justice, and hope for all creatures. As we pray that the changes you are bringing about within us may find expression in our living…

Together we pray, Come, Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit, fill us with the grace and love of God, empower us with inner strength as we pray together as Jesus taught us…

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us of our failures to love as we forgive those who have not loved us. Do not lead us into temptation and deliver us from evil. Yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, Amen. 

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