“Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”. Romans 8:21
I remember a Saturday evening three years ago. A faithful dozen people gathered in the little church at Seir Kieran in Co Offaly on an evening that threatened rain.
A dozen was not a bad turnout on a summer’s evening, there were only three dozen people in the parish. They are gentle, softly spoken people. A people comfortable in their own skin, inhabiting the farms around for generations, they will probably remain for generations to come.
Much of the language of the church probably means nothing, but that is not a problem, they have a sense of God greater than that found in theological books. The second reading that evening was the Epistle reading for this week. It was from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, it’s not easy stuff, but beginning the reading from Chapter 8, there was a desire to talk about Verse 21 in a language we all understood. To talk about what might be meant by, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Farm people understand the bond between a person and a dog, the generations of Sheps, and Rexes and Rovers will have been loved as family members, they understand the sense of loss when a faithful servant and friend dies.
Our dog Bella had died two years previously, Becoming ill one morning, she had died in her bed in the afternoon, having reached the grand old age of sixteen or so (we were never certain of her age, she had been abandoned at a roadside at the age of what the vet thought might be eighteen months). At the age of three, she had been joined by Holly, another rescue dog, and they were great friends and companions for eight years, until Holly had died after having gone to the vet to have a wart removed.
What Saint Paul said that evening’s reading from Romans Chapter 8 is that Jesus’ death on the Cross frees not just human beings, but God’s very creation from the burden of sin and death, he writes, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”.
If Paul was right, then that freedom included all those dogs that we had loved so much.
I had buried Bella on a June evening, finding a quiet space among the bushes she loved to explore, and digging her grave with a long-handled spade. Tears had poured down my face as I had done so.
The church makes no provision for such occasions, I think there was some medieval theology that animals do not have souls, but I had gathered stones to cover her grave. I had picked up a stone and scratched Romans 8:21 on the wall above the grave.
There were nods of agreement when I commented at that evening service that dogs really were our best friends.
In the three years since then, I have concluded that if there is to be a redemption, then it must include all the works of the Creator. To liberate only self-centred, destructive humanity would be an act of injustice by the Creator against himself,