Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
A Memorial Service for the Animals
An Inter-Religious, Non-Denominational Service Celebrated
NAVS Vegetarian Summerfest
In the University of Pittsburgh Chapel
Sunday, 12 July 2009, 6:30 AM
Leader: Frank L. Hoffman
Music: Music provided by Ted Barnett and children Rebecca and Nate
Reading: Roberta Schiff
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Welcome and opening prayer
*Hymn: Morning Has Broken
Sermonette: They Have Ears That Do Not Hear and Eyes That Do Not See – Frank L. Hoffman
There is beautiful passage of hope in the Bible that Isaiah proclaimed in 11:6-9.
6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
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 And 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.
The ending of this passage tells us why this will come to pass: the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
By contrast, this same passage tells us there is so much pain and suffering in the world today: the vast majority of humans must lack the knowledge of the Lord.
Thus millions of our fellow humans and billions of our fellow animals suffer and die every year…and we mourn…
Every one of us gathered here today has experienced the way humans express their love for their companion animals, and how these animals express their love in return.
Many of us have experienced the love of one animal for another, as the pigs, and the chicken mothering baby kittens that are pictured on the cover of our bulletin.
And we have experienced the anguish when our beloved companion suffers and dies, or when we see other animals brutalized.
Because we love them, we mourn them and honor their passing, as we are this morning.
This is a spiritual connection that reaches to the depths of our soul and spirit, but if we look almost anywhere around the world, we find relatively few people who truly understand this connection.
Most people think nothing about saying that they love animals in the same breath that they are eating the tortured remains of another animal.
In the 29th chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people of the great wonders that they saw coming out of Egypt, and all that had happened in the forty years they spent in the wilderness, but failed to understand; and he says something very curious in verse 4:
4. Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
I strongly believe that this is the problem in the world today.
Most people don’t want to have a soft heart; they don’t want to acknowledge the horror they see and hear, because they don’t want to change their lifestyle.
And in the process they harden the hearts of their children so that they will be just as hard as they are.
4H is a perfect example of this, for parents encourage their sons and daughters to lovingly care for baby animals, with whom the children fall in love; then they wrench the animals away from them and send them to slaughter, which is the ultimate betrayal of both the human and animal children.
And parents serve their children the tortured remains of animals, and blasphemously thank God for their meal, or make a big fuss over the cadaver of the turkey at Thanksgiving.
We mourn for these people’s deliberate hardness of heart and indifference to the suffering of animals almost as much as we mourn for the animals they cause to suffer and die, for we know that unless they change, the animals will continue to suffer.
We also mourn for the churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, and their leaders, whose indifference to the suffering of animals and hardness of heart further promotes the cruelty to the animals, and to the humans who care about them.
God has given each and every one of us the sensitivity and empathy to care about every other living being, and to feel their pain and suffering, and to do everything we can to make things right.
We need to cherish these feelings, and do everything we can to rekindle them in others, particularly in the children.
And in the process, we strengthen our own love and compassion, so that it continuously overflows and is without limit.
*Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King
Reading: Roberta Schiff
Sermonette: Let Us Resolve to Always Speak Out for the Rights of All Animals – Frank L. Hoffman
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, Paul gives us one of the best definitions of love that we have ever come across.
4 Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;
There is no way that this kind of love could ever harm another living being, or be complacent or indifferent to suffering of any other living being.
Thus, by this very definition, the people who eat and wear animals cannot be complete in this kind of unconditional love.
We hear people say: “I can’t look at those photos or watch those videos; it hurts too much!”
And some of you may feel the same way.
Yet there are others of us who feel the same emotional pain, but we don’t turn away.
We may cry and mourn for the animals, and we may get angry, but we have learned to redirect our emotional anguish into productive ways of helping the animals.
When people have hardened their heart to the suffering of others, they rarely seem to change unless their emotions are shocked back into the reality of once again becoming the sensitive being they were created to be.
There are people here with us today, that we could consider mass murderers and serial killers, but they have changed, and we openly accept them and even praise them.
They worked in animal agriculture, in laboratories, and exploited animals through their purchases.
Mary and I were among these people at one time in our lives, as we know most of you were, but thanks to the compassion of others, we are now working for the rights of all animals.
And unless someone like one of us cares enough for the animals to try to soften that hardness in others, they will not change; they will continue to cause or contribute to the suffering of animals.
Anger doesn’t work on these people, but love can.
Just as beating someone over the head with a Bible won't bring them to God, fighting with people over suffering they cause won't soften their hearts.
But love will bring people to both God and fully caring for the animals.
Comparing animal intelligence with ours isn't that main reason to give animals the rights they deserve, it's the fact that like us they love each other and have emotional feelings just as we do.
As an example of how people behave and the disconnect that they have, there is a video showing two otters floating on their backs together in a pond in a zoo, and we hear the people responding.
The otters get separated and begin to drift apart, when one realizes what is happening, and maneuvers his way back to his companion, he reaches his hand out to grasp the hand of the other otter so that they can once again float together.
We hear the ohs and awes of the people watching them, for they recognize the love that these animals have for one another, but unfortunately, most of them will go off and have a burger or hot dog and think nothing of it.
The sensitivity that these people expressed while watching the otters is the very wedge we need to begin to soften their hearts.
We absolutely believe that it’s our own emotional pain, coupled with our vegan lifestyle that makes us credible witnesses when we speak out for the animals to these and other people.
Animals have the God given right to enjoy the life they were created to have, just as we humans have.
They have the right to be free of the exploitation and use by humans.
And we have been charged by God to be the caretakers of His creation, and to make a stand against the forces of evil that seek to kill and destroy.
We all need to be ready and able to do this.
We owe it to the animals!
And I know that we all have heard that inner voice telling us to do something, or say something to end the animals’ suffering.
The apostle, Paul, teaches us (Romans 8:18-22) that the whole of creation is groaning, and suffering, and crying out to this day awaiting the revealing of the children of God to end the suffering.
God and the whole of creation are crying out, “Whom will we send?”
We all need to be like Isaiah (6:8), who enthusiastically answered this call: “Here I am, Lord. Send me!
*Hymn: Here I Am, Lord
Closing Prayer and Benediction
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