"Baptizing Cats" by Pastor A.J. Houseman
So I grew up out in the country, not on a farm. We had no farm animals or fields. Both my parents worked for a company that made office furniture. But we had acreage in the country with a pond and a barn, again not for animals but to hold my dad's toys… like a boat and atvs and stuff.
And we had cats and dogs. Now they were barn cats, so we had a lot of them. Kittens galore! And it's a rough life for a barn kitten in the wilderness… there’s hawks, foxes, coyotes, and a number of other predators…. So you learn pretty early about the circle of life kind of stuff when kittens disappear all the time.
And as a kid, my response to this was to baptize them all. ALL of them. My mom will tell you this is when she knew I was going to be a pastor.
And these kittens had good baptisms too. Full submersion.
I would take them down to the pond, say a prayer and throw them in the water in the name of the Father, Son, and HS. … you didn’t want to hold them in the water because you would get all scratched up.
Now I’m sure there's a few priests and fundamentalist pastors out there that would have marked me out as a heretic for baptizing cats, but I don’t think God is as finicky.
I could go into a whole philosophical tangent about baptism being for the forgiveness of sins and do animals sin? I mean, my current cat can be quite a jerk on purpose… soooo
But we’ll leave that one up to the philosophers.
Baptism is a gift from God to God’s family.
And God’s family is expansive. Much of the narrative in the books of the Bible are about God’s relationship with the people of Israel very specifically. Not just Jews, because there were a lot of Jews in a lot of other places, but very specifically the Jews that lived in this place and were a part of this tribe.
Now that is true all the way up until Jesus enters the scene and brings us a whole new meaning for this relationship with God the creator. See even Jesus’ baptism was not the same as ours. Jesus had a Jewish baptism, for purification purposes. …. Plus the Holy Spirit. That’s new.
AND because of Jesus, because of the promise given to us in Christ. Because God made a new covenant with God’s creation in this savior, everything is different.
A covenant is a contractual exchange. Most of the covenants in the Bible that God makes are promises of things that God is going to give God’s people, however, some of them come with stipulations that the people of God have to do in return to receive the gift from God.
But this is not one of those promises. This new covenant in the body and blood of Jesus Christ that we speak about every Sunday that we celebrate communion does not require anything in return, it is a free gift given by God to God’s family.
And the thing about this new covenant, it’s for God’s creation. Now, mostly we just talk about the relationship with the people, but the truth of the matter is that God has a relationship with more than just humans.
I mean God is the creator of everything, it’s kind of self centered to think that God only has a relationship with humans.
There’s actually a fancy word for this: anthropocentrism, meaning human centered point of view. Much of creation and environmental theology is focused on us learning to expand away from anthropocentrism.
A good book if you are interested is called Ask the Beasts by Elizabeth Johnson who is a Catholic nun and really great theologian who taught at Fordham University in NYC.
I learned as a child in 1995 in the Disney classic Pocahontas, “Colors of the Wind” lyrics that:
“You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name”
Again, we’ll leave it to the philosophers the fine details, and I’ll ask God someday when I get a chance, but for now, let’s focus on Jesus.
This gift in Jesus changes everything, gives God’s gift of grace, forgiveness, love, and life everlasting to the world.
Too popularly quoted, John 3:16 is considered the summary of the gospel: “That God so loved the world that God gave God’s only son…” The Greek for the world here is the Cosmos… the whole cosmos.
God gave Jesus for the whole cosmos.
That is very powerful. And quite a gift.
When we are baptized as Christians we are baptized into this promise. The cool thing about this Christian baptism is that it was when gentiles, aka everyone who wasn’t Jewish, the whole Roman empire, then people all over the world God to be a part of this family.
This baptism is the expanse of God’s riches, grace, love and mercy to all. That is what is infused in this water when we proclaim that you are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
So today, we celebrate this expansive gift of God and for whom God’s gift is for: the cosmos!
So today, celebrate your baptismal promises and give thanks to God for the expansive, never ending, free gift of grace and love of God through Christ. Amen.