Note: Rather than a traditional sermon, this service offered a feast of pieces calling us to awareness and gratitude. Here are links to most of those pieces.
Gathering Song #21 For the Beauty of the Earth
Opening Words What Song? by Victoria Safford
Opening Hymn #1010 Oh, We Give Thanks
Story Thankful Dogs by Naomi King
A Thanksgiving Feast (An Introduction by Rev. Kevin Tarsa)
Rather than a sermon, this morning we’ll continue to set a table of readings, music, reflection, images, movement, and sharing, and invite you to partake of this meal family style, which is to say take and taste what you will, what you need, what will nourish you, and simply pass on the rest.
I will name for us all that we already know that gratitude is good for us, and that expressing gratitude is good for us and for the recipients of that gratitude. Gratitude strengthens our spiritual health, our emotional health, and our physical health. It is a virtue prized in our tradition.
In fact, Rev. Galen Gingrich claims that gratitude ought to be our defining religious discipline, as Unitarian Universalists, rooted in a transcendent experience of awe and an awareness of “how utterly dependent we are on the people and world around us for everything that matters. From this flows an ethic of gratitude, …an obligation to nurture the world that nurtures us in return.”
It’s difficult to force a feeling of genuine gratitude, however we can cultivate a sense of gratitude. We can take on spiritual practices that bring our attention to what we have in life, and we can cultivate practices that help us move from feeling to acting, so that gratitude becomes a life-giving virtue, not simply an internal state.
Robert Emmons, who studies gratitude right nearby in Davis, CA, echoes Guengrich, saying there are two key aspects to cultivating and experiencing gratitude. One: Recognizing all that we have, even when we don’t have everything we want. And two: recognizing all the things that benefit us that come from outside of ourselves, all that arrives by what some call grace.
So let’s begin with grace, cultivate our gratitude, partake of the feast, and so find ways to feed not only ourselves, but others and the well-being of the world in the process.
Reading Meditation (#479) by Denise Levertov
Music Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter
Reading Let Us Give Thanks by Max Coots
Reading There Once Was a Woman…
There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.
‘Well’, she said, ‘I think I’ll braid my hair today?’
So she did and she had a wonderful day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head.
‘H-M-M,’ she said, ‘I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today?’
So she did and she had a grand day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head.
‘Well,’ she said, ‘today I’m going to wear my hair in a pony tail.’
So she did and she had a fun, fun day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head.
‘YEA!’ she exclaimed, ‘I don’t have to fix my hair today!’
Universal Body Prayer by Rev. Beth Johnson, within a sermon by Rev. Denis Paul
Reading Gratitude by Max Kapp
Meditation Gratitude by Brother David Steindl-Rast with photography by Louie Schwartzberg (video)
Gratitude Sharing (conversation with one another)
Gratitude Journals (copies are still available in the entryway at UUCM)
Offertory Thanksgiving Eve by Bob Franke
Closing Words by W. E. B. DuBois
Give us thankful hearts . . . in [this] season of Thanksgiving.
May we be thankful for health and strength, for sun and rain and peace. Let us seize the day and the opportunity and strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities, and let us ever remember that true gratitude and appreciation shows itself neither in independence nor satisfaction but passes the gift joyfully on in larger and better form.
Closing Hymn #1064 Blue Boat Home
Let us…carry the flame of peace and love until we meet again.
Music for Going Forth