O Lord God of Hosts, you dwell in the high and holy place, and yet you watch over the lowly; you make the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and unjust; by your mighty power you order all things in heaven and earth. We give you heartfelt thanks that you have safely brought us to the season of harvest, visiting the earth and blessing it, and crowning the year with your goodness. We praise you for the fruits of the ground which you have bestowed upon us, filling our hearts with gladness. For these and all your mercies we praise and magnify your glorious name; beseeching you to sow the seed of your Word in our hearts, and pour upon us the continual dew of your blessing: so that we may abundantly bear the fruits of the Spirit, and at the last great day be gathered into your heavenly storehouse; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, is all honour and glory, now and for evermore. AMEN.
Here in Canada, today is Thanksgiving. While this is a Hallmark sort of holiday, the Church at this time of year has always kept Harvest Thanksgiving. It is a great time of giving thanks for all that gives life and love, and that feeds us. That changes from place to place for sure.
Growing up in rural Newfoundland my memories are of seeing the church decorated with big green cabbages, carrot, turnips, potatoes and beets. There were Mason jars of jam, preserves, and of course, large jars of moose meat and rabbit. It was not uncommon to see salt cod fish, a model boat, or perhaps even a small cast net.
In Labrador City the scene changed again. The root vegetables remained the same, as did the preserves. But I remember how powerful it was to see, as a part of the Harvest display, Tonka versions of the big trucks that extracted the rich iron minerals from the earth up there. Even a stone rich in minerals placed in the church, was a powerful reminder that we give thanks for different reasons and for different reason in different places.
Moving to Southwestern Ontario, meant seeing interesting gourds that I had no knowledge of. Peanut squash, butternut squash and HUGH pumpkins. Cornstalks, and straw are often part of Harvest displays in this part of the world as we love in such a rich and fruitful part of the world. Farming here plays a large role in our common life and it is appropriately celebrated. Industry sometimes finds its way into the décor here at time of harvest as well. A fellow minister told me once of their Harvest display in Windsor where all the parishioners brought their cars all [polished and cleaned and decorated for harvest and parked all over the front lawn of the church as a display to the neighbourhood, that the congregation was grateful for the livelihood that part of the world enjoyed due to the auto industry. A great idea for sure.
So if we were to put in front of us the things for which we are most thankful, what would we put out? While I would most certainly decorate my place of thankfulness with food from harvest and all that goes with it – my sanctuary would be filled with people. For it is people most of all for which I give thanks. I am grateful for time together with those I love.
There would be my family – For my father who taught me so much and who left us after a long and productive life. I give thanks for all that he was to us. For all that he worked to do for his seven children and for the 93 years that he lived. For my mother, whose constant, steady, strong and caring hand nurtured and cared for all seven of her children and many others as well. I give thanks for the care that she now receives and for opportunities to spend time with her even if, only once or twice a year. Every chance to say I love to her is a gift. For my six siblings. There are twenty-one years between me and my eldest brother. That for me meant that I had a wide range of experienced siblings to care for me. I would make sure when decorating thanksgiving space to put Kames, Helen, Elaine, Lloyd, Robert and Darryl front and center. I would ask that all of their children and grandchildren stand so I could give thanks. I love being an uncle. I love all of my family. I miss them all terribly on days like today. I am grateful for what God gave me in family.
There would be my teachers who taught me and mentored me. I would invite them to stand with me so that I might thanks them all. From Acreman Elementary, to Ridgewood Junior High, to St George’s High School, to Memorial University, to Huron University College, To McCormick Theological Seminary. I am grateful for what gave me in teachers. There would be priests and ministers of the church that I would need to include –There would be parishioners from five parishes of which I have been a member since my baptism. whose names are too many to list. There would be friends from long ago and friends recently made who would also need to stand and take their place. There would be caregivers, doctors, and healers for whom I need to give thanks. I am grateful for what God has given me in teachers, friends, and mentors.
I would keep a place at the very front for my wife Catherinanne. I am so thankful for her, for her patience with me, and her kind and loving support. I am grateful for what God gave me in Catherinanne.
Miester Ekhart said – ‘If the only prayer you ever say is Thank You – That would be enough!” We all have things for which we might be thankful — today I encourage you to think and pray about the people for whom you are thankful. For whom do you give thanks…?
Let’s hear it…..