I write this on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who reminds us of our uniquely human capacities and responsibilities as stewards of creation.
Last evening, our congregation and Ashland's First Christian Church hosted a service of Blessing of the Pets, using the Collect of the Day for St. Francis from the Book of Common Prayer:
Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace gladly to renounce the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfect joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We were reminded of our relationship with the other living creatures with whom we share this planet and, in particular, those for whom we are protectors.
Today, as I celebrated the Holy Eucharist, I shared with the congregation how literally Francis and his companions took Jesus instructions to his disciples when he sent them out on their mission:
"As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food" (Matthew 10:7-10).
We were reminded of our relationship with our possessions.
This second reminder from the life and witness of St. Francis comes to me at a time when Gay and I are preparing for a move to a new place of ministry. This happens every year or two for interim clergy. Each time it happens and we start packing for the move, we realize that we have accumulated too much stuff.
There was a time (1996) when all of our worldly possessions would fit in a 900 square foot apartment and one 10 x 10 x 10 foot storage unit. Then, we bought a 3200 square foot house in Galveston that had a full attic and an above ground "basement" in which to accumulate things. Even though we have reduced our inventory with each successive move, we find that we still have too much stuff.
This point was driven home when we contacted movers! I won't go into the details, but the costs for a full-service move took my breath away. I cannot imagine spending so much money to move our stuff 360 miles. There are better ways to use those funds. It appears that we have worked out a reasonable and affordable solution, but for a few moments this week, I almost wished I had taken a vow of poverty like Francis and his Friars.
Perhaps we already have enough people living in poverty and those of us who are in a position to earn may be able to help them when they find it impossible to help themselves. So, for now, I won't take that vow. But I will be more mindful of how my stuff can get in the way of life and my relationship with God, my neighbors, and my own spiritual being.
Thank you, Francis, for doing what most of us cannot bring ourselves to do and for giving us an example of a life that is not weighed down by possessions to the extent that we cannot see beyond them to all that is eternal.
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