A Thanksgiving Prayer by Howard Thurman

Howard Thurman’s Thanksgiving Prayer

Today, I make my Sacrament of Thanksgiving.
I begin with the simple things of my days:
Fresh air to breathe,
Cool water to drink,
The taste of food,
The protection of houses and clothes,
The comforts of home.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day!

I bring to mind all the warmth of humankind that I have known:
My mother’s arms,
The strength of my father
The playmates of my childhood,
The wonderful stories brought to me from the lives
Of many who talked of days gone by when fairies
And giants and all kinds of magic held sway;
The tears I have shed, the tears I have seen;
The excitement of laughter and the twinkle in the
Eye with its reminder that life is good.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day

I finger one by one the messages of hope that awaited me at the crossroads:
The smile of approval from those who held in their hands the reins of my security;
The tightening of the grip in a simple handshake when I
Feared the step before me in darkness;
The whisper in my heart when the temptation was fiercest
And the claims of appetite were not to be denied;
The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open
Page when my decision hung in the balance.
For all these I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I pass before me the main springs of my heritage:
The fruits of labors of countless generations who lived before me,
Without whom my own life would have no meaning;
The seers who saw visions and dreamed dreams;
The prophets who sensed a truth greater than the mind could grasp
And whose words would only find fulfillment
In the years which they would never see;
The workers whose sweat has watered the trees,
The leaves of which are for the healing of the nations;
The pilgrims who set their sails for lands beyond all horizons,
Whose courage made paths into new worlds and far off places;
The saviors whose blood was shed with a recklessness that only a dream
Could inspire and God could command.
For all this I make an act of Thanksgiving this day.

I linger over the meaning of my own life and the commitment
To which I give the loyalty of my heart and mind:
The little purposes in which I have shared my loves,
My desires, my gifts;
The restlessness which bottoms all I do with its stark insistence
That I have never done my best, I have never dared
To reach for the highest;

The big hope that never quite deserts me, that I and my kind
Will study war no more, that love and tenderness and all the
inner graces of Almighty affection will cover the life of the
children of God as the waters cover the sea.

All these and more than mind can think and heart can feel,
I make as my sacrament of Thanksgiving to Thee,
Our Father, in humbleness of mind and simplicity of heart. (source: http://blogs.bu.edu/sermons/2008/11/23/a-thanksgiving-prayer/comment-page-1/)

Howard Thurman (1899-1981) was an African-American theologian, preacher, and activist.  Author of Jesus and the Disinherited, he mentored Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other civil rights leaders.


Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the
fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those
who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of
your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and
the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. BCP, p. 246

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen. BCP, p. 101

A Thanksgiving Prayer

As we gather at tables, grieving the state of our nation, may we gain spiritual strength for the journey ahead, drawing on the deepest wells of wisdom from those on whose shoulders we stand and the various faith traditions that have fueled their freedom march and continue to energizee ours.

In the spirit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. King, may the pioneers of the civil rights movement collaborate with the young leaders in Ferguson, New York City and other cities, and may they impart their knowledge and understanding of nonviolent resistance that is not passive, but is spiritually active with an abiding faith that the universe is on the side of justice, and that, in the end, love will triumph over evil.

May this spiritual strength, fueled by prophetic fire and love, reveal to us our neighbors’ humanity, our own complicity in their suffering and liberate us once and for all from the history that continues to enslave us.


From Cornel West and Peter Goodwin Heltzel

A Prayer of Giving Thanks

by Mark Sandlin

Good and gracious God,

There is a tension that comes
with giving thanks.

Even as we recognize
and are grateful for
the blessings in our lives,
we are confronted with
enjoying our abundance
as we recognize the reality
that there are those
who have far too little.

Even as we celebrate a holiday
with roots which reach back
to the beginnings of our nation,
we are confronted with
the reality of
the genocide and slavery
upon which it was found.

We do not forget these things.
We do not celebrate them.
We do not give thanks for them.

In this our tale of Thanksgiving,
they are the terrible storyline
which we must not forget.

Our pride,
our arrogance
and our pursuit of possessions
have constantly stood
alongside of our blessings
as a reminder.

They remind us why we give thanks.

They remind us that life
is sacred and fragile
and that we
are its biggest threats.
They remind us that we do not want
to be those people again,
people who lord over others
and are self-adsorbed and self-important.

They remind us to appreciate
what we do have.

So, we give thanks.

We give thanks for this moment.
We give thanks for the things
that are right about the world
right now,
in this moment.
We give thanks for family and friends.
We give thanks for love and laughter.
We give thanks for grace and good company.

We give thanks for the tension
we find in a day like today
because it provides us the insight
and the motivation
to create better tomorrows.
Not just for ourselves,
not just for our families,
not just for our friends
but for the world.

So, today and everyday,
we give thanks
and we work to create a world
that gives more reasons
for which to be thankful.


Thanksgiving, 2011

Giving thanks in difficult times.

The Lectionary for Thanksgiving, Year A

We have a noon Eucharist at Grace on Wednesdays. Typically we follow the calendar of commemorations in Holy Women, Holy Men although I am rather free in my adaptation of the calendar. I begin by looking at the commemoration of the day, and then if that doesn’t strike my fancy, I look further afield. In part, I look for a figure about whom I can say something with a minimum of research, so that means I’m more likely to draw on traditional figures than on some of the new (and trial) figures.

November 23 is Clement of Rome and for a few minutes I pondered whether I might go there. Then my mind turned to Thanksgiving. The richness of the texts beckoned to me. I went back through my files, looking for sermons I preached on Thanksgiving, or on its eve, and came across the one I gave in 2008. Reading even the first paragraph was shocking:

Our national mood is very different this November than it has been in the previous few years. The global financial crisis in which we find ourselves has created tremendous anxiety, even fear. No one knows how bad things are going to get and no one knows how long it will last.

We are anxious and fearful, but as a nation many of us are also wondering whether our best years are behind us. In addition to the financial crisis, there is the meltdown in the auto industry and the shock this summer and fall when gas prices topped $4.00 a gallon. We wonder whether we will ever again enjoy the lavish and profligate lifestyles most of us led only a few months ago. There is belt-tightening all around. We are in a somber mood.

As I read that, I was surprised both by the negative tone with which I began, and by the fact, that three years later, our national mood is, if anything, even more somber.

How can we give thanks in such a context? The lessons for Thanksgiving in year A don’t ask that question directly, but when their contexts are considered, that question may be at the heart of the lections. In the first place, Deuteronomy: first written centuries after the events it recounts, it is a call to faithfulness, a reminder of the covenant with God, of God’s promises to God’s chosen people, and of the response to those promises that God demanded. They were given a rich and fruitful land but their possession of it was dependent on their faithfulness to God.

Deuteronomy reached something of the form we have it today in the Exiliic period, when the descendants of the Israelites were living in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem and the defeat of Judah. They no longer possessed the land and they were having to rethink their faith in God. It would have been easy to abandon Yahweh in that context, but instead they developed a theology that explained their plight and offered hope for a different future.

In the gospel, we hear the story of the cleansing of the ten lepers. It’s a wonderful story, full of drama and puzzling detail. The miracle itself takes place off-stage. Jesus does nothing except tell the ten to present themselves to a priest, in keeping with Mosaic law. As they go, they discover that they are cleansed. One turns back and thanks Jesus. It turns out, he’s a Samaritan. The wonderful bit of this story is that while we are led to believe he turns back out of faith and gratitude, a moment’s reflection reminds us that he had no place to go. As a Samaritan, it didn’t matter if he was cleansed of leprosy, and no priest would certify him so. As a Samaritan, whether or not he was a leper, he was profoundly unclean in the eyes of Jews.

We have a great deal for which to give thanks and these lessons remind us, that whatever our circumstances, it is appropriate, even necessary, to be thankful to God. In these difficult times, we need to remember that God has given us so very much, that it is because of God’s love that the universe was created and us in it, because of God’s love that his Son’s love has restored us to right relationship with one another and with God, that all we have comes from God, and that in the end, all we can do, is be thankful.


Biblical surprises

I’m always fascinated when I encounter surprises in the biblical text. Today was one such occasion. As I began preparing for the noon Eucharist, I turned to Lesser Feasts and Fasts. November 25 is the commemoration of James Huntington.

As is often the case, when I encounter a figure with whom I am not familiar, I look for alternatives. Tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I checked out the propers for Thanksgiving in Year C. The gospel was immediately approachable: Matthew 6:25-33 which include those wonderful words: Consider the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin…” Given the anxiety I was experiencing, trying to make final preparations for Sunday, after having been out of the office all day yesterday, they were words I needed to hear.

But the lesson from Joel was even more fascinating: “Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield” (Joel 2:21-22). Remarkable words given the overall attitude toward the land and its non-human inhabitants in the Hebrew Bible.

I had to drive to Whitewater yesterday. As I did, I saw fields that had been harvested, cornfields that remained untouched, and farmers here and there picking corn. Our culture has tended to view the land as something to exploit, but Joel’s words suggest a more difficult and complex relationship. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors, the fruits of harvest. We live in a world that is very much divorced from the struggles of farmers, and their work in the fields. But much of our wealth is created on the backs of the poor, and on the backs of those who toil in fields to harvest vegetables and fruits for our tables. We also benefit from a system that exploits animals horribly. Thanksgiving is a hollow holiday indeed if we do not recognize the sacrifices of others (human beings and animals) to make our table full of food.