SermonMemorial for the Animals
An all-creatures Bible Message

Memorial for the Animals

A Service Celebrated at
The University of Pittsburgh Chapel
Johnstown, Pennsylvania

3 July 2005

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References

Isaiah 11:6-9
Isaiah 60:20
Romans 8:18-22

Sermonette: We Are Here Because We All Mourn

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 live and suffer and die in the most horrible ways every year to satisfy human greed.

Or we could be mourning the corrupted state of the whole of creation, and the seemingly endless suffering and death that is going on around us every day.

But in the midst of all this suffering and death, there is still joy and hope.

And itís this joy and hope that keeps us going and prevents us from dying of a broken heart.

Sometimes, our mixed emotional states of love, joy, compassion, sorrow, and anger get all churned together like our laundry when itís being washed.

If youíve ever had the opportunity to become close to wild predatory animals, as we have, you know how strong these mixed emotions can be.

Gray Three years ago the Gray Fox family were our neighbors.  This is a photo of Mama.

We had such wonderful joy watching and photographing her and her five children for a few months, but at the same time we had the sorrow of knowing that she killed other animals.

We saw her only once more after they moved away, when we were driving in our car.

She was walking across the road and we slowed down and stopped. She obviously recognized our car and us, for she stopped and we looked at each for a few moments.

The following year we were informed that she died at the hands of some uncaring and fearful humans.

This news filled us with a mixture of anger and sorrow.

How can people be so heartless!

Red This year we have been blessed by another family. Mama Red Fox and her five children are our new neighbors.

This is her picture with one of her children, on our driveway.

And once again we have the joy of watching and photographing wild animals, along with the sorrow of knowing that they kill other animals.

And we have similar mixed feelings about feeding our companion animals the body parts of other animals.

In his letter to the Romans (8:18-25), the apostle Paul wrote about these mixed feelings and our mourning. Letís look at the first five verses:

18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

19. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons [and daughters] of God.

20. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

21. that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

Part of our personal hope and joy is knowing that you are some of these children of God who are working every day to help free creation from it present corruption.

And 700 years before Paul wrote these words, Isaiah painted us a picture of this peaceable kingdom when he wrote (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.

I strongly believe that the reason we have so much pain and suffering and death and mourning in this world is that we humans are not as filled with the knowledge of God as we like to think we are.

Many of the Jewish sages believed this, too, and that together, those of us who truly have this unlimited love and compassion can help usher in this peaceable kingdom.

So donít get discouraged. Donít give up. There is hope. We are making a positive difference.

The children who are sending us emails every day are proving that this is true.

I also 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: And the days of our mourning will be finished (Isaiah 60:20d).

For most of us, all the cruelty in the world, and the indifference to the suffering of others, causes us to mourn all day long, or at least have times of mourning every day.

Even if we had peace among all human beings, we would still grieve for the suffering of animals, so that the end of our mourning must come with peace for the animals, too.

We have seen some positive signs that this is beginning to happen, or at least we are getting a taste of the peaceable kingdom.

We have seen more and more people of faith beginning to take up the animal cause within their religious communities.

Part of our joy and hope is coming from the animal kingdom itself.

Even though our fox neighbors killed other animals, we are seeing some real signs of peaceable-kingdom-living among the animals.

Last year we talked about the loving relationship between Tigger the cat and Annie the horse, and how their love crossed species lines.

Weíve heard about the loving relationship between Koko, the gorilla, and her companion, Ball, the cat, and how Koko mourned her death, just as we mourn the death of any of our companion animals.

But the real signs of the reality of a peaceable kingdom come when we see predator and prey lying down together and living in peace and love.

Hogan One of these windows of hope can be seen in the faces of Hogan, the dog, and Bella, an orphaned fawn whom he adopted.

Hogan offered Bella his love and protection, and her fear vanished, and she grew up with him and his human family.

Hogan obviously wasnít taught to kill by his humans, so his God-given sense of love and compassion was never destroyed. This is a lesson for all of us.

On our web site we have a photo of a cat grooming a rat in their humanís living room.

It is obvious that this cat wasnít trained to hunt, or she turned away from such desires; so yet another supposed predator and prey lie down together in peace.

Such scenes bring tears of joy.

But can we expect these things to happen with wild predators, too?

Yes, we can!

Several years ago a box containing four kittens was dumped over the fence of Wildlife Images Rehabilitation Center in Oregon.

They were able to trap only three of the kitties, in order to find homes for them.

Griz A couple of weeks later, Dave Siddon tells us that he had just finished giving Griz, a huge 560 pound grizzly bear his food, when he noticed this orange ball of fur approaching the grizzly.

He was filled with fear that this missing six-week-old kitty would become Grizís dessert.

When the kitten got close to Griz, she started to purr and mew.

Griz looked over at the kitten and raised his huge paw, and instead of swatting the kitten, he reached into his food pail, grabbed some food for the kitten, and flipped it over to her.

Because Griz was treated with lovingkindness, he extended this love to her and cared for her to the best of his ability.

With whatever abilities we have, each and every one of us has been called to do the same for the whole of creation.

Donít ignore the call.

We can make a difference that will help free creation from the corruption to which it has been subjected.

This is the way we can turn our mourning into gladness.


Hymn: Here I Am, Lord

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