Perhaps you'll be called on to offer a prayer before Thanksgiving Day dinner tomorrow. And perhaps one or more of these posts will help you with that task. Some of these were posted earlier this week, others are going up today...
Grace Before Thanksgiving Day Dinner
|Saying Grace - Norman Rockwell
Blest are you, Lord, God of all creation!
Through your goodness we have so much
for which to give you thanks and praise...
Make us grateful for all you've given us;
may our desire for more not blind us to all we have...
Make us grateful for all who love us;
may no grudge or anger keep us distant
from family and friends, neighbors and colleagues...
Make us grateful for those who are with us;
may no grief isolate us from their loving embrace...
Make us grateful for the good work we have done:
may our mistakes and failures not weigh us down
or blind us to your mercy...
Make us grateful for the freedom we enjoy;
may we never take it for granted...
Make us grateful for the peace we find in you;
let no other cause or victory take its place...
Make us grateful for our dreams;
let no disappointment keep us from hope...
Make us grateful for our faith in you;
let no doubt cloud our trusting in your love...
Make us grateful for the meal we are about to share
and mindful of any and all who have so much less...
Nourish and strengthen us
to change what keeps so many hungry
while others, like us, have more than we need...
Give us grateful hearts, O God, to praise and thank you:
in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health,
in plenty and in want, in sorrow and in joy...
This is the day you have made, O Lord:
let us be glad and rejoice in it
and give you thanks and praise!
A Midday prayer for Thanksgiving
It's Thanksgiving Day...
Today I thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith:
that strength, power and source within
showing me the way,
guiding me in the dark,
making sure my faltering step,
giving light for finding truth
and hope for living gracefully
through trials and troubled times...
Today I thank you, Lord,
for the gift of your Church:
that wounded, rag-tag, joyful company of saints and sinners
whose faith is my strength, binding us all together,
brothers and sisters in you and in your love...
Today I thank you, Lord, for all the people around me
and those behind me and before me:
the ones who've helped to make me the person I've become;
those who've loved me in ways too many to know or to imagine;
those who've loved me when I've failed to love them in return;
those who've pardoned and forgiven me with mercy and with grace;
those who've shared their joy with me, who fill my heart with peace
and who help me trust and know with hope
that you are ever by my side...
And today I thank you, Lord,
for all the people I have yet to meet
Today I thank you, Lord, for the mystery of your presence:
in everyone I know and meet;
in the simplest and most ordinary moments of each day;
and in the stillness, in the quiet
of the time I spend with you in prayer...
Today I praise and thank you, Lord,
for you are my God
from whom all blessings flow...
An Empty Chair at Our Table...
This Thanksgiving, Lord,
there’s an empty chair at our table,
an ache in our hearts
and tears on our cheeks...
We might shield others from our grief but we can't hide it from you...
We pray for (name your loved ones)
whose loving presence we'll miss
at this homecoming time...
Help us remember and tell again
the stories that knit us as one
with the ones we miss so much...
Open our hearts to joyful memories
of the love we shared with those who've gone before us..
Let the bonds you forged so deep in our hearts
grow stronger yet in remembering those who've left our side...
Help us pray and trust that those we miss have a home in your heart
and a place at your table forever and that one day we'll be one with them once again...
Teach us to lean on you and on one another for the strength we need
to walk through these difficult days...
Open our eyes and our hearts
to the healing, the warmth and the peace of your presence...
Give us quiet moments with you in prayer,
with our memories and loss,
with our thoughts and tears...
Be with us to console us
and hold us in your arms
as you hold the ones we miss...
Even in our grief, Lord,
this is the day that you have made:
help us be glad in the peace you've promised,
the peace we pray you share with those who've gone before us...
For ourselves, Lord,
and for all who find the holidays to be a difficult time,
we make this prayer...
A Morning Prayer of Thanksgiving
Good morning, good God!
This week is a special time, Lord,
to do what we should do always and everywhere:
give you thanks and praise!
I offer you thanks for all the people I so often take for granted:
those who serve me in a hundred, quiet ways each day;
those who work with me, around me and near me;
those who so often make my life easier and my work lighter;
those whose work so often makes my work fruitful...
And I thank you for those who stand ready to protect me
in the town where I live and at posts far away;
I thank you for those who keep me safe
and those who safeguard my freedom and liberty...
I thank you for those whose work brings
food from farms,
delight from poetry,
love in songs
joy in the arts;
news from the world,
truth from study
and knowledge from a million different sources...
I thank you for those who deliver heat, light
and clean water to my home;
those who keep my home, my church
and my town the beautiful places they are;
those who bring the mail to my door;
those who deliver all the comforts I take for granted...
I thank you for all the people
who fill my mornings, days and evenings
with their smiles, their friendship,
their company and conversation...
I offer you thanks for the beauty of the world around me:
the light of the sun, the moon and the stars;
the pull of ocean tides, the depths of lakes,
the flow of streams, the ripples of ponds;
the colors of nature, birds on the wing,
flowers in field and garden
- and every square inch of Cape Cod...
I thank you for my faith, my trust, my hope in you;
I thank you for my ministry and the people I serve;
I thank you for the message of the gospel I preach
and the history of salvation
we inherit from your chosen people...
I thank you for the beauty of worship,
the depths of your Word,
they lyrics of the psalms,
the grace of the sacraments
and the life that is ours
through faith in you...
Make me truly and more deeply grateful, Lord,
for all you have given me
and for gifts I have yet to find, open and discover...
I thank you, Lord,
for all things bright and beautiful
and for all things bruised and broken:
let me find in everything
and in everyone around me
a trace of your presence,
the fingerprint of your grace,
the signature of your artistry...
Indeed, Lord, help me
always and everywhere
to praise and thank you
for every good gift
that comes from your hand...
Ritual: where you might least expect to find it!
before I bake a pie or stuff a turkey this week,
I want to take some time to ponder
all my reasons to be grateful...
Help me remember, by name,
the most important people in my life,
on whom I depend for so many things,
who support, comfort and challenge me,
who help me make it day to day
and through the night,
one day at a time...
Help me remember, one by one,
all the gifts I have:
the gifts of faith and hope and love,
the gifts of wonder, tears and laughter,
the gifts of friendship and affection,
the gifts of peace and quiet
and the gift and grace of prayer...
Help me remember, Lord,
all my talents and my skills:
the ones I use every day,
and the ones I hide from others,
the ones I need to learn to share...
Help me remember
what I often take for granted:
my liberty and freedom,
the right to speak and write and vote,
the opportunity to seek my heart's desire
and to go where you may call me...
Help me remember all that I've forgotten,
all I should be grateful for,
all for which I owe you thanks and praise...
Help me remember, Lord,
so that on Thanksgiving I'll know why
I bow my head in prayer and whisper,
"Thank you, Lord my God!"
There begins this coming week the season generally referred to as “the holidays,” a portion of the calendar stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Some of the celebrations in this season are common to all and others are particular to different faiths and followers. Without wanting to omit less well-known dates, “the holidays” are generally understood to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Day. And each of these celebrations has its own rituals.
Consider Thanksgiving Day which is fast upon us. How many times have you already been asked (or have you asked others) this question: “So, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” There’s a ritual fascination for knowing when and where we and others will celebrate this day. And many times have you heard a response like, “Oh, we’re going to my sister’s - she’s having 29 for dinner.” At no other time of the year are we likely to know, much less announce to others how many people will be at table for a particular meal. A number of other ritual questions may follow: will it be a fresh or frozen turkey - and how much does it weigh? how many vegetables? sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows? who’s bringing what? is he bringing that string-bean casserole again? what kind of stuffing do you make? how many pies and what kind? are your married kids coming home or going to the in-laws?
Much conversation like this will be conducted before Thanksgiving and will then be repeated again after the holidays when folks begin to ask, “So, how was your Thanksgiving?” There’s a definite ritual dialogue that occurs before and after the actual Thanksgiving Day meal.
And what of the ritual dynamics and conversations that surround the Thanksgiving gathering? Will there a table for adults and a kids' table, too? Will there be a prayer before the meal even at tables where no prayer is usually offered? Do you go around the table inviting guests to mention things they’re grateful for this Thanksgiving? Who will carve the turkey? Who will get the drumsticks? Who will break the wishbone? What family stories are told every year and exaggerated even beyond last year’s telling? Who will be the predictable tellers of the predictable stories? What political and religious topics will be fair game during dinner? At what point will some portion of those gathered excuse themselves to go watch the game?
Odds are you’re adding your own family’s ritual words and deeds to the list I’ve
offered above. True ritual behavior and dialogue have many functions. They reconnect us to our roots and one another. They offer us a conversation in which all participants know the vocabulary and their own part. Ritual can offer us, if only for a few hours, a moment of sanity and serenity amidst the chaos of the rest of life. We are drawn to such ritual gatherings because they have the power to reassure us that in spite of everything else, there is still point in time, a place in our lives, in which peace can be ours in the simple experience of sharing a meal among those who have helped, for weal or for woe, to shape our lives.
We should be grateful to know that a holiday like Thanksgiving not only survives but thrives in a culture that so easily dismisses ritual behavior as rote and empty. And following Thanksgiving a whole season of such experiences draws us together between the end of November and the early days of January.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it might be helpful to reflect on how such holiday and family rituals play out in and prosper our lives and well-being: how these tried and true, age-old familiar activities and conversations touch us in the depths of our hearts and connect us with realities more important than we might often realize and acknowledge.
And may I take this opportunity to remind you that this very same ritual dynamic is played out week after week in our houses of prayer? The ritual of worship in any faith is filled with: familiar words and dialogue; old, even ancient stories of the family of faith; meals shared in remembrance of our roots and our connection to one another; the offering of a place where peace can be found, where one can escape the chaos not by running away from it but by hastening towards a center, a calm, a serenity the chaos can never overwhelm.
The rituals of “the holidays” are life-giving in many ways but they also put us in touch with our losses, our hurts and our disappointments. Rituals in faith communities do the same but, again, such ritual offers a place not to deny our pain but to find healing for it in a community of others sharing joys and sorrows alike with any who will give themselves to the words and deeds of shared, ritual prayer.
May the rituals of this season of holidays enrich, strengthen, delight and heal you in your heart of hearts. And may the rituals of these holidays draw you home, through the new year, to the community of faith whose rituals are yours - and are waiting for you...