May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, oh
Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Across the church this week,
People are remembering and honoring St. Francis of Assisi.
We’re going to bless our pets:
And many other churches will do the same.
Some will put up new birdbaths, and say special prayers for nature.
But there’s a lot more to St. Francis than that.
Francis was the son of a wealthy textile merchant.
His father’s wealth, and Francis’ own charisma,
Made the young man a leader of the youth of his town.
And Francis gained a rock-star following by the Early 1200’s.
And he remains famous today,
Not just because of birdbaths and animals,
Not just because of his own words and actions,
But more because his words and actions conformed so closely to those of Jesus.
As a young boy,
Francis dreamed of earning glory and battle.
He got his chance at an early age when he enlisted,
Along with the other young men of Assisi,
To fight in a feud against a neighboring city-state.
Assis lost the battle and Francis was imprisoned for a time.
Defeat in battle and a serious illness in prison caused Francis to turn away from
his visions of glory on the battlefield.
The course of Francis’ life was profoundly changed by at least two formative
On a pilgrimage to Rome,
Francis saw a beggar outside of St. Peter’s Church.
They Holy Spirit moved him to trade places with the beggar.
Francis exchanged clothes with a beggar,
And spent the day begging for alms.
That experience of being poor shook Francis to the core.
Later he confronted his own fears of leprosy by hugging a leper.
Like trading places with the beggar in Rome,
Hugging a leper left a deep mark on Francis.
Shaped by his experiences with the beggar and the leper,
He had a strong identification with the poor.
Francis cut himself off from the rich lifestyle of his father,
And sought out a radically simple life.
By the time of his death,
The love of God had compelled Francis to accomplish much toward rebuilding the
He was known for preaching to anyone:
Even to birds!
He believed that God loved EVERY one: and EVERY creature.
He could look on thousands of lives transformed by his call for repentance and
simplicity of life.
Yet, Francis was simply a man transformed by the love of God,
And the joy that flowed from a deep understanding of all that God has done for
Francis’ approach to his life of Christian service fits with Jesus’ words to us in
Jesus tells those who follow him that they are to serve with no thought of reward.
Jesus says, “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do,
‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!”
When you come in from doing something for God,
Don’t expect a reward, only more work.
Francis knew this. And he lived it.
I think we all know about this.
Do you get thanked every time you do the dishes?
Or mow the lawn? Or wash the laundry?
Or make your bed?
But if you wait too long without doing the dishes, mowing the lawn,
Washing the laundry, making your bed,
you are sure to hear about it.
These are thankless tasks and you take them on with no thought to getting praise
for doing them.
Sort of like:
Feeding your dog.
Or emptying your cat’s litterbox.
It must be done.
And you don’t get much thanks.
(although you might get a tail wag or a little meowing chirp)
Notice that in this Gospel story,
Jesus tells of the servant who does what he or she is supposed to do,
In response to the disciples asking for more faith.
First he tells them the parable of the mustard seed,
And how the tiniest amount of faith is enough to accomplish great things for God.
Then he goes on to describe the thankless task of serving God his father.
It is in serving God that we find our faith strengthened.
We are not to serve others for the thanks we get.
We are to serve others as serving Jesus,
Because that is the life God calls us to,
Knowing that we will benefit more than the people we help.
We will benefit in increased faith and increased love.
Francis took his mustard seed of faith and used it to trust that he could hug a
Though he was terribly afraid.
Francis took his mustard seed of faith and used it to grow in compassion:
By begging for alms in order to more deeply know another.
Francis took his mustard seed of faith, and preached to all God’s creatures:
Knowing that each of them was beloved.
In the process,
Francis found the faith to work among lepers,
And to become one with the poor.
And so, again and again,
His steps of faith emboldened Francis to trust God even more.
It’s the same for us.
Each small mustard seed of faith,
Strengthens our trust in God to follow even more boldly.
Nobody mirrors this more than our pets.
Who place their love and trust in us:
Whether we deserve it or not.
And that small mustard seed of faith that they place in us:
Strengthens and grows powerfully.
But our beloved pets mirror God too.
Through the unconditional love they offer.
Mark found this great song: God and Dog.
The words say:
“I look up and I see God,
I look down and see my dog.
Simple spelling GOD,
Same word backwards, DOG.
They would stay with me all day.
I’m the one who walks away.
But both of them just wait for me,
And dance at my return with glee.
Both love me no matter what:
Divine God and canine mutt.
I take it hard each time I fail,
But God forgives,
Dog wags his tail.
God thought up and made the dog,
Dog reflects a part of God.
I’ve seen love from both sides now,
It’s everywhere, amen, bow wow.
I look up and I see God,
I look down and see my dog.
And in my human frailty,
I can’t match their love for me.”
It only takes a tiny mustard seed of faith to start.
And then it grows:
But not because of the thanks of praise we may get for that small seed of faith.
It’s because that faith is an act of love.
We can join Francis in saying that we are merely servants doing what we are
called to do.
We call ourselves servants knowing that what we do,
We do for love,
For the one who knows us fully,
And loves us more than we could ever ask for or imagine.
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