"Nine Interesting Animal Facts (and What They Teach Us About Faith)" – Matthew 6:25-33
As we can see from today’s Gospel reading, Jesus used animals in his telling of spiritual truths. So, following Jesus’ established use of animal behavior as illustrations of God’s kingdom, here are a list several interesting animal facts and the spiritual insights they provide. I assembled the list from various internet sources, so that means they are all true!
1) Cows produce more milk when listening to soothing music.
This is a wonderful illustration of one of the most basis tenants of the Christian faith: our good works come as a result of the salvation that has been given to us. God is not using force or abuse to get us to produce something of value for the world; rather, God has removed the barrier of sin and the threat of destruction from our lives. This means we can be at peace, with the soothing sound of God’s grace working in, around, and through us to make the world a better place.
2) Millions of trees grow every year because squirrels bury nuts.
As a Lutheran summer camp counselor, I would spend every minute for a week with a few kids, do my best to teach and demonstrate God’s love, and wave goodbye on Friday, knowing I would likely never see them again. Often there was little proof that our week at camp had impacted the kids in any significant way. I began to look at my summers at camp as opportunities to plant seeds of faith in kids’ lives. I wouldn’t see a giant tree take root and reach toward the heavens in one week; however, I trusted that God was using me to plant seeds of faith, which God would continue to nurture as the child grew. All that to say: our actions plant seeds in the lives of others; God takes care of the rest.
3) Dolphins have names for each other and can call out for each other specifically.
Standing before the tomb of his friend, Jesus instructs the stone to be rolled away and yells into the cave, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came to Jesus (John 11).
As Jesus was passing through Jericho he saw a man sitting in a sycamore tree and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus was so moved by Jesus’ presence that he agreed to give back four time the amount of taxes he had extracted from the people (Luke 19).
As Mary Magdalene stood in confusion outside Jesus’ empty tomb, Jesus approached her, saying, “Mary!” She suddenly realized that Jesus had, in face, been raised from the dead (John 20).
When Jesus calls people by name, incredible things happen – new chances, new relationships, and new life. Jesus calls us by name and promises to give us new chances, new relationships, and new life as we are encouraged to call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10).
4) Sea otters hold each other's paws when they sleep so they don't drift apart.
We’re not in this alone; we never have been, we never will be. In the same way that God holds us close, we have a responsibility to reach out to those in the world who are most at risk of floating away, alone, in the darkness of the night.
5) African elephants produce approximately 220 pounds of manure per day.
Just thought you’d like to know. You’ll thank me when the question pops up in a trivia game.
6) Elephants show incredible empathy for others, even different species.
Elephants demonstrate emotional contagion. When an elephant is distressed, nearby elephants react to the other elephant's distress by acting in exactly the same way. In such situations researchers have witnessed elephants come to stand beside their friend and touch the distressed elephant with their trunks to provide comfort.
The case could be made that elephants demonstrate a greater degree of emotional contagion than humans. In our world where it has become so easy to tune out others’ suffering, where we have become numb to the news of violence, death, and destruction, perhaps we should heed the call to take a stand beside those who are suffering. May we be inspired and equipped by the God who took a stand beside the suffering creation through the incarnation of God through Jesus Christ.
7) The three-toed sloth sleeps up to 20 hours a day and is so sedentary that algae grows on its back.
Before you rush to judgment against this poor, slow, lazy animal, you should know that this green algae that grows on the sloth’s back ends up camouflaging the sloth in the rainforest. Perhaps this animal can remind us of the value of slowing down. Most of us have bought into the rat race, thinking that our busyness will buy our way out of suffering. But in reality the faster we go, the more exposed we become to the predators of exhaustion, materialism, and competition. I hereby nominate the three-toed sloth as the official mascot of Sabbath!
8) The monarch butterfly can detect its lover's scent five miles away.
We are never too far away from the loving reach of God. No matter how alone or spiritually distant we feel, God is able to seek us out and demonstrate God’s love to us.
9) Turtles can breathe through their butts!
Again, simply for trivia’s sake. Always helps to remember that God has a sense of humor!
In conclusion, we don’t worship God’s creation; yet, through creation that we see the truths of God on miraculous display. We have been called to sustain, serve, and support God’s creation (not the other way around). So today we give thanks for animals, domesticated and wild, slow and fast, carnivore and herbivore, birds of the air and fish of the sea; each one a unique gift of God’s presence, each one demonstrating a profound truth about God.