We are gathered here this morning in a common heart-felt feeling that surpasses all religious doctrine.
The reason we feel this way is because we recognize that every animal has a soul and a spirit, just as we do.
We know that all animals have a God given right to live their lives in peace, just as we do.
We know animals love, as we love; we know they fear, as we fear; we know they dream, as we dream; we know they mourn, as we mourn, and we know when they are happy, and when they are sad, because we have observed these emotions in them.
And we mourn because most of our fellow human beings and the corrupted ways of this world have taken this peace and quality of life away from the animals, and most of them now only know pain, suffering and death.
We form common bonds of love between members of different species, as we do with members of our own species, and we bring many of them into our homes as members of our families, and we mourn their deaths much in the same way we mourn the death of one of our own children.
Similarly, animals form these same kinds of strong bonds of love, just as the cat and the deer, and the dog and the fawn, in the photos on your bulletin.
I saw a video from Elephant Sanctuary about a large elephant and an average sized dog who formed this kind of loving bond with each other.
They were with each other all day long and really enjoyed each other’s company, which seems strange when we look at their relative sizes, but the bonds of true love surpass these kinds of differences.
Then one day the dog became very ill, and the elephant stood outside the home for two weeks until the dog was well enough to be carried out to see the elephant.
The way the elephant gently touched the dog with her trunk was an example of the way that all humans and animals should get along with one another.
It was a glimpse into the peaceable kingdom, and it’s proof that Isaiah’s prophecy (11:6-9) can and should take place in the here and now.
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.
This is also what brought Hogan (the dog) and Bella (the fawn) in the photo together, and the cat and the deer together.
And the only reason that this doesn’t happen all the time with all animals and humans is because the earth is not as full of the knowledge of the Lord, as most people like to think.
In fact, the world is largely devoid of the knowledge of the Lord.
St. Francis of Assisi knew what it meant to be full of the knowledge of the Lord, and these thoughts and feelings are reflected in the words he penned in the hymn All Creatures of Our God and King.
Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King
More than 2,700 years ago, the prophet Micah tried to remind the people about what it meant to be full of the knowledge of the Lord (6:8):
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Because we love, we know that there is nothing just or kind about farming animals, or experimenting on them, or making them an object of sport, or using them in any other exploitive way.
And because these things are happening all around us, we mourn.
Paul expresses the knowledge of the Lord as coming from the Holy Spirit, as he wrote to the Galatians (5:22-23).
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Aren’t these the character qualities that bind us to our companion animals?
And aren’t these the very things that cause us to mourn so deeply when a beloved dies?
We mourn because we love.
Aren’t these also the things that cause us to mourn when we see all the horrible suffering in the world?
We mourn because we love.
On, July 6, Leslie wrote to us:
“I lost my very dear friend, Tiger, very suddenly to liver failure. I am grieving deeply. He was my friend, my baby, but he was "just a cat, a thing," my husband tells me.
People in our church, even our pastor's wife, say our pets do not go to heaven, and that they die and go into the ground and are no more. I am heartbroken.
I had a very deep connection with Tiger. I adopted him and bottle-fed him as an orphan, and we bonded with one another the very first day he came into our home. That bond grew in the nearly 6 years I was privileged to know him and care for him. I hope you will pray for me.”
It is devastating enough to lose a beloved companion, but when it’s coupled with the hardness of heart of the people around us, it is greatly compounded.
Bill also wrote to us and said in part:
“I could go on for pages telling about my relationship with Gus, but yes, these are things that no human can share with you, so you miss them very much.
It's not like I don't have a life outside of my pets either. I work, I have friends, my wife and I travel, I belong to professional and singing organizations, etc.
But there will always be a very large hole in my heart that time will never completely heal. And that hole has the shape of my cat's face.”
I believe that most, if not all of us gathered here today, hold similar feelings of love in our hearts, and we can very much relate to Leslie and Bill.
And then there’s that poem by Tammy C. Smith that expresses the true essence, flavor, and taste of “happy meat”, or "humane meat":
By Tammy C. Smith
The first words I heard were, “Yes! A little boy!”
I looked up at my Momma, her eyes filled with joy.
My legs are shaking bad but Momma looks so proud
When at last I get my feet firmly on the ground.
I love to play outside, how soft the green grass feels
When I run and leap so high kicking up my heels.
The warm yellow sunshine and Momma breathing deep
Mix into a lullaby as I drift to sleep.
My Mom is always near me, she keeps a watchful eye.
I feel so loved and safe and warm when I’m by her side.
How fast I am growing! My Momma’s pride and joy.
No longer little baby – I’m a great big boy.
Every weekend folks drive from very far away
Just to stand beside the fence and watch me as I play!
I am the most handsome, every one does agree.
Wait, what is this? Why do they measure and weigh me?
My Momma looks so worried, tears fill up her eyes.
But what could be so bad to make my Momma cry?
I’m going for a ride in a bright shiny truck!
It’s my first ride ever! I really am grown up.
Where am I? Who are you? Did Momma stay at home?
I’m really getting scared; I’ve never been alone.
MOMMA?! What is that sound I’ve never heard before?
I’ve got to find Momma. Please! No! Don’t close the door.
OH, NO! I CAN’T MOVE! I can’t even turn around.
This space is much too tight. There it is again. That sound.
Was that a scream? A SCREAM? My heart is pounding hard.
Oh Lord, I can’t catch my breath. Why is it so dark?
Hello? Anyone? I think there’s been a mistake.
Momma would never let me come to this kind of place.
I want Momma. I’m so scared. I can’t stop shaking.
I don’t know which is worse: the dark or the screaming.
I’m so thirsty. I want Momma. And some water.
I JUST WANT MY MOMMA! MOMMA! I want to see her.
Oh Lord, who is screaming? Why are they screaming? WHY?
Please, turn on the lights! I’m shaking. I want Momma! I …
Wait, I hear someone coming. Yes! I hear their steps.
LIGHTS! I can see! Yes! Momma, did you come to help?
Who is this man with scary eyes hid beneath his hat?
Will you take me to Momma? Will you take me back?
No! PLEASE! Take me home. I don’t want to go that way.
The screams are getting louder then silence takes their place.
No! Not this way! THIS IS THE WRONG WAY! Don’t you hear?
Don’t you hear those screams? Those loud screams? Screams filled with fear?
No! Please don’t go. PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE! Take me home!
You don’t understand. Momma needs me. She’s all alone.
What is this room? DEAR GOD, I can’t stop trembling.
OH. This is the room from where I heard the screaming.
Scream, too, would I, if I only had a voice.
That I am the most handsome, my Momma’s pride and joy.
Momma! Can I see my Momma just one last time?
My little life is ending, I am next in line.
Dear God, Will you take care of Momma for me, please?
She was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Tell Momma that I love her, her sweet little boy.
All I ever lived to be was her pride and joy.
There really is no such thing as "happy meat", or "humane meat".
These terms are oxymorons, for when animals are farmed, there is always mourning, fear, suffering, and death.
These are just some of the reasons that we feel compelled to do something to end all the suffering and mourning.
This is the reason that we have joined together to honor and remember the animals, and pray that true peace would come to earth as it is in heaven.
Join Isaiah and us in answering God’s call to free this world from all the corruption.
God told Isaiah about all the sinful and corrupt ways of the world, just as we also know, and He wanted someone to deliver His message to the people, and Isaiah said:
Here I Am, Lord. Send me!
As we pray each and every one of us will do, too.
Hymn: Here I Am, Lord