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A Memorial for the Animals

A Sermon and Service Celebrated at
The University of Pittsburgh Chapel
Johnstown, Pennsylvania
4 August 2002

By Frank L. Hoffman

Scripture References:

2 Samuel 12:1-6
Isaiah 6:8
Matthew 23:37
Revelation 5:11-14

We have come here this morning to celebrate the lives of billions of animals who have gone on before us, and whose souls and spirits are now with God.

We've come to celebrate the lives of those loved ones who were members of our family, and whose deaths we mourn very deeply.

We've come to celebrate the lives of all those farmed animals who have suffered and died to satisfy the human lust for flesh.

And, we've come together to celebrate the lives of all the unwanted animals who have been put in shelters, and those who have suffered and died in laboratories and for entertainment.

Many people wonder about whether or not animals go to heaven and are raised from the dead as they believe humans are.

The Bible gives us ample proof that they are. 

Let's look at Revelation 5:11-14 where a worship service is taking place in heaven, and note who is present:

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."

13.  And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,

"To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."

14.  And the four living creatures [animals] kept saying, "Amen."  And the elders fell down and worshiped.
NASU

The myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands include the animals who will far out number us, and they are all worshiping God.

And as we're thinking about these things, let's sing our first hymn for this morning: Morning Has Broken.

In many places in the Bible, God uses animal examples to try to teach humans how we should behave.

One of these examples is delivered by the prophet Nathan to David, following David's killing of Uriah the husband of Bathsheba with whom David had an adulterous relationship. (2 Samuel 12:1-6)

1.  Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said,

"There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.

2.  "The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.

3.  "But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb

Which he bought and nourished;

And it grew up together with him and his children.

It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom,

And was like a daughter to him.

4.  "Now a traveler came to the rich man,

And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd,

To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him;

Rather he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."

5.  Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.

6.  "He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion."
NASU

God used this example with David because he was a former shepherd, who could empathize with this man over the loss of his beloved lamb.

The key to our understanding of the relationship between this poor man and the lamb is that this lamb was like a daughter to him.

Any of us who have had companion animals should be able to relate to these feelings of love.

But at the same time we should realize that this ewe lamb is not unlike every other farmed or laboratory animal, for they all desire to be loved and cherished as sons and daughters, and not as commodities.

While David recognized the evil of this act, he failed to comprehend the love that this man and this lamb had for one another.

This man didn't want four other lambs; he wanted his beloved lamb back in his arms.

He mourned for his murdered "daughter."

It is for this lamb and for all the other murdered animals that we also mourn.

Jesus used another animal example when He looked out upon Jerusalem. (Matthew 23:37)

37.  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!  How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
NASU

Jesus knew that the people understood about the loving and protective way a hen cares for her chicks.

He wanted them to relate this to the way God wants to care for them.

If animals didn't have souls and spirits, the same as humans do, such a loving relationship couldn't exist and Jesus' example would have had no meaning.

Humans in the United States deprive nearly 9 billion chickens of ever having known this loving relationship with their mothers before they are sent to their deaths.

An incubator is a machines that hatches eggs.  It is incapable of love, and we mourn for the double loss these chickens have suffered.

Francis of Assisi also knew of the ways of animals and the loving relationship that God desired for the whole of creation.

Let's listen to his words as we sing the hymn he penned:
All Creatures of Our God and King.

I want to tell you a little story about two feline members of our family, Nathan and Travelin, now both deceased. 

They truly loved each other. 

They had two other adopted siblings in the same age range, but these two had something special about their relationship with one another.

They played with the others, but the same closeness wasn't there.  They were very much like us humans.

Travelin was one of three female foundlings that came to us over a period of about a year in 1980 and 81.  She was black and white, smaller than the other two, and sickly as a kitten. 

She seemed more of an "outsider," having come to us after Jessie and Tabby had already forged a friendship. 

When Jessie and Tabby would occasionally fight, Travelin would race across the room and get between them, but never took sides.  She was a peacemaker.

In 1984 we attended the funeral of a family member who lived alone with Nathan, a black and white, neutered male cat. 

He was alone in the apartment where his human companion had died, an event which obviously traumatized him very much. 

After the funeral, we were relieved to hear that he was still in the apartment.  We both knew that Nathan would have to come to live with us.

Nathan turned out to be a combination of the Cowardly Lion of Oz and Garfield from the comic strip. 

During the long drive to bring him to our home, we tried to comfort and assure him of our love, but he kept trying to squeeze himself under the car seat.  

Upon arriving home, he hid behind the washer and dryer.  It was Travelin who finally got him to associate with the rest of the family; and those two became inseparable. 

Years later, Nathan got sick.  He ate very little, but drank a lot of water.  He lost about half his weight in about two months. 

Even with a special diet, he didn't improve, and his illness was having a noticeable effect on Travelin.  She would rub her cheek against him and lick him.  He acknowledged her love, but he didn't get any better.

At the age of 17, in Mary's arms, Nathan died of kidney disease. 

Travelin was right there when Nathan died, and you could tell that she was very depressed. 

She hid herself in a corner of the basement, and wouldn't eat or drink anything. 

We would bring her out and hold her, but then she would go back to her corner.  She wanted to die, too.  

On the third day, the odor of death was all over her, and we had to take her to the vet. 

He gave Travelin some saline solution through an IV to rehydrate her, so much in fact, that she actually sloshed on the way home. 

We continued to pray with her and tell her that we loved her and that God loved her, and that He wanted her to live.   And she responded, and lived several more years.

Probably every one of us has felt these same feelings of loss, and they are the same for both humans and other animals.

Mary and I believe that these feelings of grief may actually be greater in animals because they don't complicate their lives, as we humans do.

But grief and that horrible empty feeling of loss are all part of life and love, and the way God created us to be.

Since we know these feelings of the desire to love another, and to be loved, and of love and loss, we owe this universal right to every other living being.

Thus, we are being called into God's service, just as the prophet Isaiah was called (Isaiah 6:8), to spread this message of unconditional love throughout the world.

So as we sing our final hymn for today, Here I Am Lord, let us commit ourselves, as did Isaiah, when he heard the Lord ask, "Whom shall I send?" 

Let us each acknowledge with our own, "Here I Am Lord.  Send me!"

There is no better way to tell the animals of this world that we love them, and mourn those who have died, that others might have the rights and love God desires them to have.

Amen.

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