A Memorial for the Animals
A Sermon and Service Celebrated at
The University of Pittsburgh Chapel
10 August 2003
By Frank L. Hoffman
Genesis 1:20-21, 24
We have come together at 6:30 this morning to celebrate the lives of beloved companion animals, and to mourn the loss of our loved ones and the countless billions of other animals who have needlessly suffered and died.
Dear God, wake up the people of this world to feel this pain and suffering, and to have the compassion to bring it to an end.
While we’re contemplating these thoughts, let’s sing our first hymn for this morning: Morning Has Broken.
Probably every one of us has stories about our companion animals or others whom we have known.
We could talk about a kitty like our Jessie, who taught herself to do a back flip on our bed, and the more fuss we made about her doing it, the more she did it.
But there was something greater than her acrobatic ability taking place.
We could talk about the Mueller’s dog who, to attract attention, would pick up a cigarette butt in her lips and sit quietly with it hanging out of her mouth.
When someone noticed, her tail would start to wag; but when she attracted a crowd, she could hardly contain her joy.
The thing that amazed most of the onlookers was the fact that she taught herself this little game as a way of getting attention.
But again, there was something greater at work than this dog-created stunt.
We could talk about Tom, a little kitty who made up a game with a pig on the sanctuary where they lived.
Tom would jump on the back of the piggy, and the pig would take him for a ride around the pasture.
They did this for their own pleasure and companionship.
But there was something greater than piggyback rides taking place.
These animals were expressing the characteristics of souls and spirits, as we humans define them.
Most humans deny that other living beings have souls and spirits, and sometimes they even deny that other human beings have them, because they’re different, or considered "inferior" in some way.
The truth is that every living being, whether human or non-human, was created with a soul and spirit.
This is a fact that probably everyone in this room knows from their personal observation.
The Hebrew Bible tells us this in the first two chapters of Genesis.
In Hebrew, both human and non-human animals are called living souls (Hebrew: neh-fesh khah-yaw).
In Genesis 1:20-21 we are told that fish, sea mammals, and birds are living souls.
In Genesis 1:24 we are told that all of the land animals, including all the "creepers" are living souls.
In Genesis 2:7 we are told that Man was created as a living soul.
And in Genesis 2:19 we have further confirmation that the animals are living souls.
Unfortunately, we have hidden this fact about the animals in our English translations.
Because if we admit this truth, we also make ourselves responsible for the way we treat animals.
We even deny the animals a place in heaven.
But according to the Bible, which is the only place where we learn about heaven, if we humans go to heaven, then so do the animals; because we were created the same way with bodies, souls, and spirits.
Also, every religion that believes in reincarnation is acknowledging this body, soul, and spirit relationship.
So, if we expect to be in heaven, then we can expect to see the animals there, too; and they will out number us greatly, just as we are told in Revelation 5:11-12:
11. Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures [animals] and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
12. saying with a loud voice,
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
While we think about this time of wonderful reunion, praise, and joy, let's sing our second hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King.
Dudley and Molly were soul-mates from the time the were little piggies. They did everything together.
They ate together, they played together, and they slept together.
When they were five years old, they could no longer live where they had been living, and fortunately ended up together at a sanctuary in Tennessee.
There they joined a small herd of other pigs, and Dudley became their leader.
Dudley’s and Molly’s love for one another continued to grow over the next five years.
Then Molly got very sick and no one was able to help her.
They made her a shelter under the shade of a large tree where she had enjoyed lounging when she was healthy.
Dudley stayed with Molly every moment, but he couldn’t help her.
You could see and feel Dudley’s anguish, as he watched his beloved soul mate dying.
They buried Molly in that pasture, as Dudley looked on.
His beloved soul mate was gone, and there was this horrible void in his life, and it hurt more than he could express.
Dudley never went back to the herd. He ate alone. He slept alone. He stopped playing, and he’s been a loner ever since.
Dudley’s feelings are really no different from our human emotions; and since that is a fact, these emotional feelings must exist in every other living soul.
It is to Dudleys and Mollys of this world, whether named or unnamed, that we dedicate this memorial service.
We pray that their love will never fail, and that their sorrow, pain, and suffering would be turned into joy.
And we pray that no more would human beings use and abuse animals for their pleasure and appetite, and that the peaceable kingdom (Isaiah 11:6-9) would truly exist here on earth in the here and now.
6. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
7. Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.
9. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
As we sing our final hymn for this morning, Here I Am, Lord, let’s think about how similar our calling to help the animals is to Isaiah’s calling from God.
And to us, whether we are human or non-human, we are all God’s people and His children.
Your Comments are welcome
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