A Memorial for the Animals
A Sermon and Service Celebrated at
The University of Pittsburgh Chapel
25 July 2004
By Frank L. Hoffman
Sermonette: We All Have a Need for Love
We have gathered together at this sunrise service because we have a love for animals and mourn their deaths.
We may be mourning the loss of a beloved member of our family whose life was so entwined with ours that we have a huge inner emptiness.
Or we could be mourning the loss of the billions of animals who suffer and die in the most horrible ways every year to satisfy human greed.
There is a universal need to be loved, and these farmed animals have been deprived of most of that need, which increases their misery.
We mourn because we live Godís greatest commandment (Deuteronomy 6:5-7):
5 "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart;
7 and you shall teach them diligently to your sons [children] and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (NASB)
This is an ancient Jewish commandment, but its message is universal, for to truly love God in this way we must also love the whole of His creation, too.
By inclusion, this also became a Christian understanding, even if most people donít practice it today.
If we love the whole of creation we can do it no harm. This is also an ancient Hindu teaching.
And since these words are to be upon our hearts and in our souls, it is only natural to mourn the loss of these animals and those billions who continue to suffer.
One of the problems in our human centered society is that we limit our understanding of love to only human relationships, or those between humans and companion animals, and we fail to realize that animals form these love bonds with each other, too.
We have a photo on our web site entitled ďBest BuddiesĒ which shows a cat grooming a rat.
These supposed enemies have formed a bond of true love that can do no harm to each other.
In Australia there is another cat, named Tigger, who has such a love relationship with a horse named Annie.
Tigger will jump up on a fence post and Annie will come over and they will rub their faces together and show other forms of true affection.
Tigger and Annie need each otherís love, just as we do, and as every other living being seems to need.
This isnít some passing fancy. This is true and lasting love, the loss of which would be devastating to both of them.
It is the physical loss of this loving contact that brings about our deep sense of mourning.
And even beyond that, our unconditional love extends to those who are being deprived of love:
We mourn the calves who have been stolen from their mothers, and the deep sorrow they all feel.
We mourn the female pigs who are confined to crates that are so small that they canít turn around, and who have no chance to express their love or to be loved.
We mourn the chickens who will never know their mothers.
And the list goes on and onÖ
And our sorrow is even greater, because we realize that all this misery has been caused by our fellow human beings.
Every human being needs to come to the reality that even though we are different from animals, we are not superior to them, and that we have no right to deprive them of any of God's gifts.
I believe that Francis of Assisi wrote the words to All Creatures of our God and King because he understood the connection between our love of God and the need for universal love.
To Francis, the whole of creation was a part of his loving family, even the physical world around him, and he wanted others to realize this for themselves, too.
Hymn: All Creatures of Our God and King
Sermonette: Because We Care, We Mourn
We mourn because we care!
And our mourning can be experienced in many ways.
We can have a deep inner sorrow and emptiness that devastate us emotionally.
Or, on the other end of the spectrum, we can become extremely angry and frustrated, which is the kind of mourning that many animal rights activists experience.
Proverbs 12:10 addresses two of the reasons our mourning takes the emotional avenues it does. The Proverb (paraphrased) says:
10. A righteous person has regard for the life of his or her animal,
But the compassion of the wicked is cruel.
When an animal we love, dies, we are filled with a deep inner sorrow and emptiness.
But when we see or hear about wicked, dispassionate people abusing and killing innocent animals, our mourning is often expressed in anger and frustration, because we couldnít prevent it.
Emotionally, we canít understand how someone could deliberately cause another living being to suffer, and it tears us apart.
Every human being has been created with the ability and desire to love and be loved, as have the animals.
This is why we are told that people who are cruel are also wicked.
We have to suppress these God-given feelings of love and choose to be cruel.
We have to choose to cause animals to suffer.
We have to choose to kill to satisfy our greed.
We have to choose to be wicked and evil people.
And because we know this, our mourning is even greater.
Sometimes, just the sight of cute baby animals can begin the mourning process, because we envision the horrible life and death that faces them.
Sometimes this anger and frustration can be directed toward God for allowing all this pain and suffering to continue to exist.
But I know without a doubt that every one of these animals is carried to heaven to live forever and ever in the presence of God.
Every animal has an immortal soul and spirit, just as we do.
Even though we die, so shall we live!
And even though we have this assurance, we still want our beloved animals with us.
In a scene from Peaceable Kingdom, the sorrow on Lorri Baustonís face as she tells of the hen she couldnít rescue is implanted in my mind, as it is in many of yours, too, because we all love and empathize with each otherís feelings.
And our tears roll down our faces and we choke up, as did Harold Brown as he related how his relationship with a cow named Snickers released all his suppressed emotions.
It takes real courage to let our sensitivities be seen in this way in public, and it has a profound effect on many who witness it.
The sensitivities that brought us here this morning are a God given gift, which is to be cherished and not suppressed, as most people in society would have us do.
Even though the pain, suffering, and death of others and the loss of our beloved companions fills us with great sorrow we also have a great inner strength, unlike those who choose to hide from the truth.
It is this deep mourning and inner strength that also propels us to take peaceful, positive action, and to speak out to end the pain and suffering of those who cannot speak for themselves.
This is our continuing eulogy for those who have died.
Hymn: Here I Am, Lord
See the other parts of the Memorial Service
for the Animals:
In Honor of Frank and Mary a poem by Roberta Schiff
A Morning Prayer when Mourning by Carol J. Adams
A Prayer and Benediction of Life and Love By Michael Klaper, MD
Your Comments are welcome
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