I write today in praise of the lowly wombat, lowly only in the sense that it burrows underground creating a homey labyrinth of tunnels. But it is a mighty wombat to be sure because of what rescuers in Australia have been discovering. You may already know this, but wombats are short-legged, muscular quadrupedal creatures native to Australia – so homely that they’re cute as can be.
I was sent an article about this by a Pastor friend from Pennsylvania whom I met a couple years back at a three-session seminar for Sr. Pastors that I was lucky enough to attend. Within that seminar, we were arranged into small groups and this pastor from PA named Bob was particularly fond of wombats for some reason, and talked about them enough so that we all started calling our group the “Wombats.” That small group of pastors wanted to keep communicating after our time together was over, and so they created a Facebook group, which in turn forced me to finally join Facebook, a little late to that party, I know. But I’ve been having fun keeping up with my cohort and we send each other encouragements, questions, suggestions, or sometimes, weird news stories about animals from far, far away.
I’m sure you have been following all the frightening fire stories out of Australia, right? It has been heartbreaking to see the devastation that has occurred, and to watch images of frightened animals trying to flee the flames, or find water, or scurry to safety. Recently, some rescuers have been discovering that some animals have been finding safety from the brush fires by hiding out in wombat homes. Almost as if the Wombats have opened up their doors and made room for all these other critters to find shelter and safety. In fact, the news article claims that, quite generously, the wombats have simply been allowing these other animals to take refuge in their tunnels as they hide from the blazes that threaten their usual habitats. Amazing! And what a witness these little furry, fuzzy creatures are giving to the rest of earth’s inhabitants!
Wombat Rescue manager Yolandi Vermaak said, “I’ve seen echidnas going into burrows – lizards, and skinks, rabbits; I’ve even seen a small wallaby.” Surprisingly, Vermaak has yet to encounter a wombat who has suffered any burns at all. Their tunnels have been wonderful places of refuge, and not just for themselves. They’ve welcomed (or at least not chased away) so many other animals too. So I write this Pondering in praise of the lowly – er, let’s call them the Mighty Wombats.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shares the parable of the sheep and the goats, and speaks in praise of the righteous ones who fed, and sheltered, and cared for the least of all. The Son of Man tells them that whenever they cared for the least, they were caring for the Lord, himself. This speaks to such an important value to us Christians as we want to note those places in the world where people of all kinds of backgrounds will reach out to care for the hurting, the lost, the injured, the ostracized, and the stranger. We celebrate such acts of compassion and want to emulate them at every turn. And we’ll further expand that to include our care and concern for creatures and their habitats.
Today I offer up our marsupial friend, the wombat, as a lesson in kindness and hospitality. Oh sure, maybe it is accidental that they are seeing their tunnels used by other creatures fleeing the devastation. But the more spiritual side of me sees the wombats welcoming in the lizards, wallabys and echidnas. They’re opening up the guest room, laying out fresh towels, sharing some refreshments and saying, “C’mon on in- it’s the least we can do! Please make yourself at home!”
“And the king will answer, ‘truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40)
See you in church where all of us are always welcome!