A few weeks ago, I gave a great sermon. It was deep and wise and thoughtful and I was very impressed with myself. Nobody heard it. A bat parked itself on the speakers at the peak of the ceiling, front and center, perfectly visible from every pew. So, everyone at church watched the bat to see if it would do anything entertaining like swoop around and threaten to tangle up in the preacher’s hair.
No such luck. This was a very well-behaved little bat. It slept through the service just like everyone else. A day or two later it disappeared. I don’t know if it left the building or just found a less public spot in the church to hibernate. Now, whenever it is dark in the church, I look around to make sure there is nothing soaring in the rafters.
Which brings me to the poinsettia leaf. Last Sunday there was a crumpled leaf on the floor near my office. But was it a leaf? It was the right size, shape, and color to be a folded-up bat. So, I prodded it with my foot and peered a little closer. There was a stem and no response to the prodding. Leaf it was.
I may not be thrilled with the bat in church, but I know its purpose is to praise God. Psalm 148 tells all Creation, from the sun and the moon, to all fruit trees and cedars, to all small creatures and flying birds, to praise the Lord. Humans are in the mix—princes and rulers of nations, young men and women, old people and children, are all told to praise God.
I think of Psalm 148 whenever I am tempted to pretend that I am separate from the natural environment. We are all part of the intricacies of Creation. I believe that part of humanity’s job, given to us when we were given stewardship over the earth, is to protect the ability of the rest of Creation to praise God.
How does a bat praise God? It praises God by being a good bat, a batly bat, a bat that doesn’t have a fungal disease, a bat that lives out its bat life the way God made it to. Right now, this is jeopardized by white-nose syndrome, a disease that has caused terrible harm to the bat population in North America. It appears that this disease came over from another continent. It can be spread when humans visit an infected cave and then bring it to another cave. It isn’t clear how much damage this disease will do in the end. Aside from being careful when hiking or spelunking, it isn’t clear how humans can protect the bats.
There is so much else to worry about. Children living in poverty, climate change, women who face violence, our democracy in tough shape. I pray that these woes, and more, will be healed. And I pray for bats. Because they eat mosquitoes. Because they pollinate plants. Because they are a necessary part of the eco-system. Because they are in danger. Because God made them and loves them. Because they need to praise the Lord.