Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark." - Genesis 9:8-17
Did you catch that? In today's story, which comes near the end of the whole ark episode, God makes a covenant not just with Noah and his descendants, but with every living animal, everywhere.
How does one make a covenant with an animal? A covenant is a contract, pure and simple, an agreement between two parties that spells out how they will behave with one another. "If you give me X, I will give you Y." "If I do this, you will do that."
So what is the birds' quid to God's quo? What is it that God needs, or even wants, enough to make a contract with zebras? What could dinosaurs or dolphins possibly do that's enough to pay for God's offer of a future?
It turns out that what your cat can offer God for her salvation is just what you can offer: exactly nothing. It turns out that covenants with God aren't quite the same as covenants with everyone else. It turns out that with God, it's not so much a quid pro quo as a quid pro nil. The promise, the salvation, the future on offer to every living thing is free, and there's nothing you or your cat can do to earn it, or to lose it.
So why don't you go find an animal you know, and celebrate?
Prayer (best said while holding or snuggling your favorite animal)
God, I thank you that in you, through you, and with you, the world, the animals, and I have a future. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.