26 June 2011
Rev. Robert Weiss
“Whatever you do to the least of these creatures, that you do unto me.” [All read inscription on left wall between 1st and 2nde window.] This first picture is of a beloved family pet. My wife used o have two Yorkies. Our daughter in Germany has two Podencos. Such household pets are known for their intense feelings and responses.
These next two pictures are of the most frequently domesticated and cared for farm animals. We experience these as capable of hard work and productivity, appreciation, thanks, recognition and many other feelings. My own farm experience with animals goes back 65 years and more when I was a teenager on my Irish grandparents' 80 acres 20 miles south of Green Bay.
Very often though we know that the bodies of such animals are exploited, abused, subjected to extreme pain, discomfort and torture. Then their carcasses are processed and their remains disposed of as useless, valueless and non-profit making – such as found at a CAFO, an acronym for “concentrated animal feeding operations” or factory farms.
Today Eucharist communities celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, i.e. the Body of Christ; this is a public holiday in Germany. The origin of this celebration goes back to the 13th century. So on this Sunday, the notion of body with its two main components flesh and blood, is highlighted in all the Scripture readings.
In the first reading taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the Jews during their 40 years of desert wandering: “God...fed you with manna...to show you that not by bread alone does one live, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” In the whole passage, there is no mention of animals as a source for human nutrition.
In the second reading, taken from the New Testament, we hear the same idea: the bread is the body of Christ, so that we are all one body. If we live primarily in a sinful fashion, we meet death. We can examine the word body negatively in various human settings. We feel for the military veterans returning with bodies maimed and crippled, We learn of persons traveling in airplanes with bodies so large they need to book two seats for their flights. In sun-tanning salons, people subject their bodies to unhealthy rays. Seat belts in cars sometimes aren't long enough to hold the bodies of their passengers. These are extreme cases, but they point to the widespread notion that the human body can easily be used and abused.
We humans are sexual beings. Through the responsible exercise of our sexual powers, new life is brought into existence. But we don't have to look or listen much to know that many people misuse their sexual powers in irresponsible, disrespectful and irreverent ways. Rape is seen by some military forces as a weapon of war. In third-world countries, children are sold for sex enjoyment or for organ transplants. In my home town of Duesseldorf, Germany, Gert Kaiser recently wrote an op-ed article on violence against children and their bodies. Abuses include sending children to brothels, filming them for pornographic purposes, forcing them to be soldiers, persuading them to become suicide-bombers and compelling them to become slaves under appallingly inhuman conditions. He finished by stating that of all living creatures, only the human race treats its progeny in such widespread perverse fashion.
Not only human bodies but the bodies of all God's creatures deserve positive consideration. Some creatures began life on Earth millions of years ago. How long have we humans been on the scene? More and more theologians, Scripture scholars and anthropologists are re-examining the Sacred Scriptures and other major traditional religious writings. They do not find there the skewed attitudes and interpretations that have led to the present state of affairs relating to the inhumane treatment of our fellow beings. Rather, in today's readings, we hear clearly that we are all one in this earthly life. Criminal and sinful attitudes and actions towards other creatures are contrary to the real meaning of life on this Earth. AMEN!