Sunday, February 26, 2012

Faith (or 'The Life of Riley')

(Note: this was prepared as the children's sermon for my local United Methodist Church. The woman in the story is my friend and the church's secretary. And, of course, the star of the story is her dog Riley)

How many of you have a dog?

How many of you have been to an animal shelter like the North Shore Animal League or the North Hempstead Animal Shelter? Did you get your dog from a place like that?

Today’s lesson has a dog in it, but really, it’s about FAITH. Faith is when you know God will make something good happen to you even when everything looks bad.

I’m going to tell you a true story.

Once, a number of years ago, in Florida, a dog was found wandering on the street.
He had been left there by his owner who didn’t want him anymore. The local dog shelter took him in where he got a clean kennel and food every day.

Now that sounds pretty good, except for one thing. This shelter had lots of dogs - too many, in fact. They didn’t have room for them all. Every now and then some nice people would come there and adopt one of the dogs and take them home. But many of them were not adopted. The shelter had to make the very hard decision to put the unadopted dogs to sleep after a while. No one was coming for them and the shelter had no room to keep them.

Now when this particular dog got to the shelter, he looked around and saw that the dogs who were there for a longer while were eventually walked through the big grey door in the back. These dogs did not come out again. He knew what that meant.

Every day, the shelter welcomed visitors who were looking to adopt a pet. They would stop and spend lots of time looking at the noisy dogs, the small cute dogs and the puppies. Our one dog was not like that. He was very big and no longer a cute puppy. He did not bark or cry, but instead waited patiently. ‘I know someone will come for me,’ he thought. ‘I’ll know them when I see them.’

He waited for days. And more days. Dogs all around him got adopted and taken home. New dogs arrived. Each day he was moved closer and closer to the grey door. But still he watched and waited for his special person. Standing still and quiet. Searching everyone’s eyes. ‘Are you the one?’ he asked over and over again.

Finally, on the very afternoon before it was his turn to go through the grey door, a woman came into the kennel area. She passed by all the noisy dogs. She passed by all the cute small dogs. She passed by all the puppies. She was looking for her special dog. “I’ll know him when I see him,” she said to the kennel worker.

Our dog was watching her this whole time. Standing, still and quiet, his eyes never left her face. When she finally reached him, he looked up at her. ‘I knew you would come,’ he said to her in his mind. ‘What took you so long?’ “I came as soon as I could,” she replied. Come on. Let’s go home.”

She clipped on him a brand new blue collar and together they walked out into the Florida sunshine. Our normally quiet dog was so happy that he suddenly turned around and jumped straight up into the air. The woman smiled.

Nine years have passed since that faithful dog went home with that faithful woman.
And today they are here to say hi to all of you.

Pat and Riley, come on in.