Tonight I am preparing for our church’s Blessing of the Animals service which we are holding on the 10th October. My mind is all about the furry, feathered and finned creatures with whom we
share our precious earthly space. I turned to the Hebrews reading, and, not surprisingly I guess, a couple of lines jumped out at me.
Verse 12: The word of God is active and alive….. It cuts all the way through to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. Verse 13: ….everything in all creation is
exposed and lies open before God’s eyes.
“….souls, spirit, joints, marrow… all creation ….” words written to a group of wavering Christians, but also words that would be familiar to the writer’s audience who included animal sacrifices in the
rituals of the Hebrew religion. It brought to mind the time when a small group of Police Officers were holding a “memorial” service for a recently retired dog from the Dog Squad. As I was reading
the lovely plaque that had been placed in the garden, one of the Handlers came up to me and quietly asked, “Chaplain, do dogs have souls?”
“Well that’s a big question” I replied, but it was a question needing an answer in the heart of at least one member of the Dog Squad, and I suspect it’s a question in the hearts of the dozens of
dog owners who I meet as I exercise Yogi Broughton on Howrah Beach every day.
So, after suitable theological consultation, I decided to hurtle headlong into heresy by replying “Yes”. Now, I know there is nothing in the Bible specifically about dogs having souls, but among
the gifts of the Spirit are numbered all those things for which dogs are so well known, such as love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, goodness, patience, and faithfulness.
If these are the gifts of God, we have much to learn from our beloved pets. Although humanity is made in the image of God, to a dog, I guess humans are a sort of god, and it is up to us to behave
to our little friends with the same love, joy, peace and with the other fruits of the Spirit – for whether they have souls or not, we do not know.
What we do know is that this world would be a sadder place without them, and that God is not a God of sadness, but a God of joy.…….I think I’ve just got my sermon’s theme for the “Blessing of the Animals” service!!
Rev John Broughton
Hobart Scots Memorial