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Blessing of the Hands or Pets…both Bogus?

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A couple of weeks ago in his sermon our preacher was talking about a local congregation that had a “Blessing of the Pets”.  While I always thought that this was a bizarre practice, I thought of it as fairly innocuous.  Our preacher, though, went off on it, saying that when the gospel is ignored all you have left are empty practices like blessing of pets.  (This is a very liberal congregation).  I am not sure that I buy into his assertion that practices like pet blessings are a sign of an abandonment of the gospel.  But in our bible study that week, there was a cheering section mocking such practices and lifting up the pastor for calling it out.

I was reminded of this when I came across the news article about a church blessing the hands of nurses for National Nurses Week.  It was done by a church in south Georgia. You can find the news article & video here.   In practice, it seems the same thing as a pet blessing…an extra-biblical practice that is not core to the gospel. 

But I am uncomfortable criticizing it (and not just because it is an apparently evangelical church doing it–I usually find myself more critical of evangelical churches than of mainline or more liturgical churches).  I think that the practice is an affirmation of the important role that nurses play in our society and asking God to use these hands to minister to others is at least a fair thing to do. (I admit that I don’t really know the content of the blessing).

I guess I would say the same thing for “pet blessings”.  Pets play an important role in the lives of most Americans.  They are not only companions, but can bring increased mental health and a purpose in living for many people.  To thank God for them and ask that he use them in that role, seems (while not core to the gospel) at least not antithetical to it. 

What are your thoughts?  Do you see a difference between the two?  Are both bogus or is there legitimate benefit in both.  Have you ever participated in one or the other? Share what you think…

Again you can find the article & video here.

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5 Comments to “Blessing of the Hands or Pets…both Bogus?”

  1. Cal,

    I think practices that open us up to the grace and love of God, empowering us to be more loving and peaceful, serve a good purpose.

    Billy

  2. Pet blessing seems kind of silly, to me, but i think it is because I don’t have any pets (nor do I ever plan on having any). Although, as my understanding of the nature of the gospel has grown to include a holisitic redemption of creation (Romans 8:18 till end of chapter) with the salvation of humanity , it seems to me by creating a gesture such as blessing a beloved pet to recognize the cosmic implications of Christ’s resurrection could be a good way to shift from an anthropocentric gospel to what the NT teaches about resurrection and new creation…

    In that light this silly event is quite the opposite to “ignoring the gospel” as your preacher put it.

  3. What is the purpose of blessing anything, be it pets, nurses, whatever? If those doing the blessing or those participating in the blessing are caused to believe or already believe that some magical quality is going to be passed tothe object being blessed then I think their walk is in jeapordy. God has already blessed the animals. He has blessed people (nurses included). He did this when he created them — He said “It is Good”. The sin of mankind did not remove the blessings from anything God created. It simply separated us from God and as a consequence the rest of creation is growning until the Day of the Lord.
    It is biblical to bless those entering into works of service. We do this when we pray and lay hands on missionaries, pastors, and whomever is entering into a work of service in the Lord. This blessing is so that they will be empowered to do the work God has called them to. To bless something or someone that has not been “called” to that work as a service to God would be an empty blessing. So, I think our blessings should be specifically directed accordingly and not blanket blessings when the specific calling or service is not known. Some pets may be “called” for a service for someone’s specific need — but not all pets. Some nurses may be specifically called to that service as a ministry — but not all nurses. Same with engineers, firemane, accountants, etc.
    I think we just need to be careful what message is being transmitted by our actions in the name of the Lord.

  4. Bob: Can you explain, as a point of clarification, the connection you see between blessing and magical practice? I’ve never heard of a blessing ceremony talked about in those terms.

    • Daniel — I may have a bad impression, and forgive me if so. But I sometimes feel that “blessing” something is expected to impart to it a power to do something almost supernatural. I know that would not be everyone’s expectation. I apologize if I misinterpret.

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