October 4 each year is the commemoration of Francis of Assisi. He was a friar who lived from 1182-1226. By the time he was in his 20s, he had given up all claims to an inheritance and gave himself to Christ to serve the poor and destitute. He created an order of friars (look it up on the internet) to serve those in need and provide charity as Christ calls to us. This order keeps a strict rule of poverty so that all available resources may go to those in need. That’s only a brief summary.
What we remember Saint Francis for today is both his adoption of poverty and humility, and for his care and joy for God’s creation. This care includes all living things as well as the foundations of earth, sea and sky. Of special remembrance on St. Francis Day is the blessing of the animals. This reminds us of the care we provide for animals, pets as well as livestock, skunks as well as earthworms.
Last week in the Your Pastor Speaks column, Rock Jones set out for us a challenge to look for and develop “bridge builders” in our personal, local and global lives. St. Francis saw all creation as worthy to be honored, connecting us to each other, and connecting us to all that God has created.
“Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful God is in God’s doing toward all people.” – Psalm 66:4
The blessing of the animals is a small part of the greater challenge that St. Francis took up, a challenge that we are also called to take up, each in our own way. Being humble in a culture that does not easily honor humility is challenging. Serving others who are hungry, hurting or lack safe shelter each night is challenging, especially when they don’t look or speak like us. St. Francis saw these challenges as a call from Christ to serve everyone, Christian or not.
Francis was building bridges with everyone and everything around him, all of God’s creation, and we can do that too, even though it is still a great challenge. But Christians, and all the major religions, are called to humbly serve those most in need. And those most in need are all around us. They, too, are looking for bridges of connection to live a better life for themselves and for their families.
How do we connect to our community and the world, like St. Francis did? How do you meet this challenge to serve Christ as he calls us to do?
Blessings of the fall season, and blessings to our Jewish brothers and sisters in Abraham for their observance of Yom Kippur this week, the Day of Atonement and highest Holy Day.
The Rev. David Kendall-Sperry is the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 45 W. Winter St., Delaware, and can be reached at 740-369-3175. He’s a member of the Delaware Ministerial Association and a life member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, an Episcopal ministry to men and boys. He’s married and has three adult children and two grandchildren.