How many Disney movies are about talking animals? I honestly do not know! I realised that it would take a deep dive research to give a definitive answer. So, I did the next best thing: I Googled it!
My Google research revealed there is debate on how to define a talking animal movie. Do we count the ones where there were talking animals, but humans were the main actors?[i] With subjectivity, I doubt we can come to an agreed answer. What we can agree on are the classics:
- The Lion King
- The Jungle Book
- Lady and the Tramp
- 101 Dalmations
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and
- The Aristocats.
Classic talking animal movies resonate with humanity.
We know that humans and animals have different flesh (1 Corinthians 15:39); however, they share the same breath; the same spirit (Ecclesiastes 3:19).
From an earthly perspective, our spirits rise to God after death and animal spirits descend downward to the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). That is not say there will be no animals in heaven! The Bible is filled with accounts of their presence. Revelation speaks of our Lord returning to earth from heaven on white horses – a theme exploited by Hollywood for decades!
Today’s bible reading informs that surrounding the very throne of God today are non-human beasts. Revelation 5:11-14 indicates there are animals around the throne. The vision is important. Not only do angels praise Christ on the throne, but also living creatures of Earth and Sky.[ii]
Animals are integral part of our hope and our future. As such, it explains why we have such a connection with them on earth. But before we develop that connection, let me first reinforce a message being given through the Creation series:
All creatures praise the Lord (Psalm 148).
The Praise of Animals
The title of this message and theme for the service is: If Animals Could Speak. Yet scripture empowers their voice to praise the Lord. That indicates animals CAN speak and do so every day.
St Francis of Assisi, in a sermon, encouraged birds of the air with this notable quote titled, Peace, birds, peace!
The Christian tradition upholds animals as part of God’s creation that can speak. There are two places in Scripture where animals do talk:
- The serpent of Eden’s Garden (Genesis 3:1) and
- The donkey of Balaam’s Rebellion (Numbers 22:21-40).
The theological debate about how it was possible for them to speak is fun to read. Most conservatives will state the animals themselves are not capable of speaking. They believe the donkey was channelling a spirit from God and that the serpent was a mouthpiece for Satan.
The idea of an animal speaking in human language is not what is being taught in Scripture. The Bible is not teaching they have an intellect coherent enough to communicate in human language. Scripture and true science do not contradict. However, for those of us that have been pet owners, we understand animals have an ability to communicate! They let us know what they are thinking and express their wishes/demands for us to carry out. And, like St Francis, we appreciate God’s creation being capable of offering God praise.
Still, why didn’t Adam and Eve find it strange that an animal was speaking to them? …There are so few details given in the account that much is left to speculation and presumption… It was not unreasonable for Eve to answer the snake. After all, the snake was evidently speaking in a language that she understood and asking an intelligible question. It is also likely that Adam was nearby and could verify that she was not imagining things. It was not the serpent speaking that should have alarmed them. Rather, it was the fact that he was causing them to doubt God’s instructions (Genesis 3:1), contradicting God (Genesis 3:4), and calling God’s motives into question (Genesis 3:5). That should have been enough to cause both Eve and Adam to stop talking to the serpent.[iii]
When animals do speak in the Bible, they challenge humans to choose God’s word over their own desires. Both the serpent and the donkey challenge our belief in God’s spoken word. It is no different today! Many interpret creation’s speech as anti-god. They point to creation as proof there is no God. And yet many others come to opposite conclusion! Animals, subsequently, become a conduit for our relationship with the Creator.
The Proclamation of Animals
Here is a children’s story I wrote years ago, pretending animals could talk. Listen for the biblical themes.
I think that if animals could speak, they would tell us there is a Creator, and that we should worship God.
The Partnership of Animals
That brings me to the third and final point in this sermon: the partnership with animals.
In the creation account given in Genesis 2:18-25, God creates the animals and birds from the same ground that the first human is created. Animals and humans are kin and partners.
Like children, the first human named the animals as part of a living family in Eden. Animals were created as partners for humanity.
God made creation beautiful. Not even Solomon, in all his royal splendour, could match the brilliance of the creatures God created (Matthew 6:25-29).
In the liturgies that celebrate Animal Sunday, there is a responsive prayer offered as part of the Great Thanksgiving. I would like to close my message with that blessing.
The Creator be with you and all creation. Open your hearts. Let us give thanks to our Creator. It is right to give you thanks, loving Creator.
Your Word is the impulse for all things to be, for space, stars, and stardust to appear, for Earth to emerge from the deep, for life to be born of Earth and for humans to be born of Earth and the Spirit.
Your presence is the living impulse in all things, the Christ deep among us, filling Earth—land, sea and air; filling every element and place; filling the grain and the grape we share with you this day.
Holy, holy, holy, God of all life, Earth and sea and sky and all things that exist are full of your presence and glorify your name. Amen