Serving Animals - A Sermon by Roberta James
Bless the Beasts and the Children
“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” This was said by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our sermon today will not be an uplifting sermon to help you get through the week. For as much as we need help in these troubled times, there are those who are in worse shape than we are, and they are called animals.
Today we will break down the walls of comfort we build around ourselves and examine our feelings toward animals. This whole subject of rights for animals is not an official church stance; this is simply an issue for each of us to examine.
The sermon for today will be “Serving Animals.” And by serving animals I do not mean on a plate. Today we will see what we can do to help the situation that animals find themselves in, and how we can be of service to help improve their conditions. As you sit uncomfortably in your seats for a short time here at church and feel you do not want to know what is happening to animals, realize that on most factory farms the animals are sitting, standing and lying through much worse. As Christians, we should not want to enslave innocent creatures, yet we are part of the blame for the enslavement, because we do nothing to help the situation. As citizens in this fine town, we are trying to earn the title of “City of Compassion,” but how can we become a City of Compassion if the people of the City ignore what is happening to animals every day?
The sixth Commandment says, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” It did not say the rule applied only to humans. Yet we make an assumption that it is fine to kill any being except humans. When we go to the grocery store we see a large variety of delicious meats; our brains block out that the display contains parts of animals whose last thoughts were fear and horror at a slaughterhouse. But those delicious meat pieces were animals who were just toddlers and teenagers when they were killed. Broiler chickens are babies: just 5 weeks old when they are killed, veal calves are 4 months old and beef cattle are 13 months old. We always talk about protecting babies, but these are young ones that we have not protected.
How do we feel about imprisonment of the innocent? Most farm animals are imprisoned, whether they are in a cage, tied to a stall, or crowded in a barn with thousands of other animals. How do we feel about slavery? Dairy cows are our modern day slaves, as they work to produce for us three times a day, every day, with no holidays. In Exodus 20:8-10 it says “Animals are to abstain from work on the Sabbath as well as the humans.” But today’s dairy cows do not work regular hours. They are continuously kept pregnant so they will produce milk, and are bred to produce up to 20 times the milk they are meant to give. The dairy cows’ muscles waste away because all of their energy goes into producing milk. And their babies do not get one drop of mother’s milk because the baby calves are taken away, usually at one day of age and are raised on formula. Do we, as Christians, support imprisonment and slavery of the innocent? Do we support babies being taken from their mothers?
When we hear of the daily treatment of animals in America, why are we not horrified? We have become numb to the suffering of any creatures but humans.
Here is a poem written by Jenny Moxham.
How Would You Like It?
How would you like it if right from the start,
Right from the day of your birth,
You were never allowed to have even one glimpse
Of this beautiful glorious Earth.
Not ever a glimpse of the sun or the sky
The grassy green meadows or trees,
Deprived of all knowledge of beauty and color
Of raindrops and sweet summer breeze.
Well this is the wanton and cruel deprivation
Imposed upon millions of hens,
Imposed upon chickens in windowless warehouses
Pigs and their piglets in pens.
Not permitted to know even if there's a world
Regardless of what shape or form,
Outside of the cobwebby, gloomy grey prison,
The hell into which they've been born.
But there does come a day when some do get a chance
To get a wee glimpse of the sky,
The dazzle of sunshine or grassy green field
As their transport goes hurtling by.
The sad irony is that this day of their life,
This day when their hearts should be filled,
Is the day that they're crammed into lorries and crates,
And are driven away to be killed.
Let us continue with looking at our own conversations, our own thoughts.
Have we ever said, “Animals are here for our use.” Although people can
reference the Bible for similar phrases, I am sure God did not want us to
use animals by imprisoning them. As an example, when we purchase eggs from
the grocery store, 95% of the eggs come from chickens who are jammed into
small cages, 8 to a cage, so tight they can never spread their wings. Their
cages are stacked one on top of another, so the droppings from the chickens
in the top cages fall on the other chickens below them. This is just not a
Godly image! If you look at Genesis 1:29, God made a paradise for all His
creatures and it says that nuts, seeds and plants were eaten in Paradise.
Do we want to live closer to being in “Paradise” or do we want to live as
if we are in “The Fallen World”?
There is another Bible verse we must discuss. Have we ever said to another person, “The Bible says we have dominion over animals.” This one word, dominion, has been misused for man’s greed and power. Dominion means being the caregiver and ruler, but that does not mean being abusive. We have dominion over our children; but none of us would ever force feed our children, operate on them without anesthesia, or send them to stand in the slaughter line. If we would not do this to a human, why would we do it to an animal? They have feelings and emotions, and they do suffer and feel pain. Yet we deny their pain and suffering in order to continue our gluttonous lifestyles. Is our desire for a moment’s pleasure worth more than that animal’s entire life?
Why do we specifically use Bible passages to justify abuse toward animals? One phrase that is used often is: “Man is specially made in God’s image.” Certainly, we can feel special that we are made in God’s image -- but are we supposed to use this passage to separate ourselves from other creatures on this earth? We humans should be looking for our connections, our shared elements with the earth and the stars, and not be ashamed that we have some DNA sequences the same as animals. We are all created with some of the very same elements as animals, the earth and the stars. After all, Adam was created from the dirt of the earth. We should embrace how specially made we all are!
But instead of simply feeling grateful, we humans use this passage “Being specially made in God’s image” to make ourselves feel more important than animals. Haven’t some of us said, “I would rather help starving children than animals; I think helping humans is more important.” Look into your heart, and then ask yourself this: Why is this an either/or statement? Why only help humans when you can help both humans and animals?
In Proverbs 12:10 it says: “A righteous man regardeth his beast.” Are we righteous regarding animals? It is harder to tell now, as times have changed and we do not see a beast in our own fields. Those beasts are hidden away and laws are enacted to prevent us from knowing what is going on inside those walls of windowless barns. Are we righteous by ignoring what is being intentionally hidden from us?
There are many ways to help animals, but let us look first at our eating habits. If we look in the Bible for whether or not we are to eat meat, we can find support for eating meat and we can find support for not eating meat. What do we do when we can find evidence for eating meat but also evidence for being vegetarian from the words of the Bible? We must look into our hearts and converse with our God personally. Each of you must search your soul to figure out what will please God.
In the church, the word sacrifice is always used. We Christians speak of sacrificing all the time, yet how many of us would give up eating a hamburger in order to save a cow’s life that we cannot see? Most people will not even make a small substitute like drinking a glass of almond milk instead of cow’s milk for just one lunch! We do not want to throw around words like sacrificing for God, when we are not making any effort to give up a food in order to save an animal’s life.
But what is the harm of drinking cows’ milk or eating an egg? Most of us probably do not know. If we drink cow’s milk, whether it is regular milk, humanely farmed milk or organic milk, it means that a dairy cow worked for you and that she gave birth, probably several times. If she had a boy, he either became a veal calf or he was shipped off to slaughter as a baby, to become soft leather. So drinking milk affects the female cow’s own body and her children’s lives. If we eat eggs, it means we are contributing to a farming operation in which all male chicks are killed at one day of age; after all, what use are males to the egg laying industry? Male chicks are ground up or crushed, every day. So you can see that one glass of milk or one egg has a huge effect on a cow or a chicken. Whether humane farming, organic farming or factory farming, the animals suffer, and nearly all animals from factory farms, organic farms and humane farms, go to the same kind of slaughterhouse. It is time to help; it is time to change.
'Tis a Gift to be Simple
People who want to continue eating meat and dairy claim it is their personal
choice and they have a right to eat what they want. It is your personal
choice because there are very few laws to protect farm animals. So you do
have the personal choice to eat what you want. But this personal choice has
Let us pray. Dear Lord, let us find the mercy in our hearts to help those who need it, to recognize that need, when they cannot tell us they need help. Let the people of our church be an example of your good grace and your mercy, as you gave your life so that we may know how important it is to sacrifice for those we do not know.
Let us give generously today, and we will donate a portion of our gatherings to an animal sanctuary in Gridley, Illinois, just above Bloomington. The animals there are all rescued animals; these animals needed the help of humans in order to escape what other humans had done to them. Wedrose Acres has a camel, cow, pigs, llamas, sheep, goats, horses, a turkey, ducks and more!
With a growing population in the world, there will be more hungry people, more need for food, but more factory farms do not sound like the path of righteousness. There will be more factory farms –- it will get worse before it gets better. Sometimes, we follow a path we know is not the right direction. And as Christians we know how important it is to follow the right path. The right path might be a difficult path, but just because helping animals is not easy, should we give up before we start?
Helping animals can be one of your missions. You see, you do not need to travel to another country to perform a mission. You can help animals right here. We must start by instructing our younger generation. We must teach them to be kind to animals. Have we taken our children outside and taught them to quietly look at birds, enjoy animals from a distance, and to drive slowly so as not to hit a squirrel by mistake? These are lessons that seem to be forgotten. Do we put out water for animals? Most of us fear any animals coming into our yards, and we have stopped putting out scraps of food or water. We have insulated ourselves and isolated ourselves, and only see cute animal pictures on Facebook.
And we can look to our diets to see what we can do. If we read Daniel 1:3-16 in the Bible, “Daniel and his friends refuse to eat from the king’s table which has meat on it, but eat vegetables instead. After ten days they are found to be healthier than those who eat at the king’s table.” Daniel was ahead of his time. We now know from research that arteries can clean back out and heal themselves when we stop eating cholesterol and saturated fat. We can reverse heart disease and Type II diabetes with a very low fat, plant and starch based diet. So, we can heal ourselves of many illnesses while healing injustice in the world.
Animals on factory farms have no choice and no voice. We must be their voice. The strongest compassion can be for those innocent beings we do not see because they are hidden away. The greatest compassion is when we do not personally get rewarded for our deeds.
There will be some helpers passing out papers in the back which tell of specific ways to help animals. As you take the papers on your way out, realize that you are holding the key to a life of increased compassion.
May we bow our heads in prayer: Oh Heavenly Father, We thank you today for giving us a new message and a new challenge. You have brought us this awareness of injustice toward animals, and we recognize we must improve our compassion and turn it into action. Give us the strength to help those who are unseen but suffering.
In Your name, we pray. Amen
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