"Allegiance to Gratitude"
Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.”[a] Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot— come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations— let not the rebellious rise up against him. Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. (Psalm 66:1-9)
I recently finished reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013 Milkweed Editions). Beyond being an avid gardener, there are many things I loved about this book. Among them a chapter called, “Allegiance to Gratitude.” Kimmerer tells of how Indigenous children begin and end their school week with a Thanksgiving Address or “Words That Come Before All Else.” They say:
Today we have gathered and when we look upon the faces around us, we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all other living things. So now let us bring our minds together as one and give greeting and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one.
The litany continues with thanksgiving for various gifts, followed with “Now our minds are one.” Our sacred scriptures are full of Thanksgiving Addresses, addresses of gratitude, many of which we find in the psalms, including the psalms in this week’s daily lectionary (Psalms 30, 75, 140 in addition to Psalm 66 above). In this season of transitions, where a cold wet spring has given way to a Texas style introduction to summer heat, many United Methodists laity and clergy alike are saying good-bye and preparing to say hello. I know of no better way to navigate transition than with gratitude. I am grateful for God’s merciful presence, taught to me since childhood by my parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers and others. I am grateful to Bishop Jung, my cabinet colleagues, colleagues serving local churches and to all the laity who faithfully live out the gospel in our churches. I am grateful for the seven years as a district superintendent, for my good colleague Park, who will succeed me and the new call to Wauwatosa Avenue UMC. I am grateful for my supportive spouse, Bob, loving children and for my dog Rocky. I am grateful for our Wesleyan expression of faith, with an open table, a sense of connection, a commitment to justice, and mission. I am grateful for the beauty of the earth and her fruits which sustain life. I know that our minds are not one. May our hearts be one with gratitude for all God has done, and for Jesus who teaches how to live, to sustain us through every transition.
Let us pray together in song (UMH #102):
1. Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
2. Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us, With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us; And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed; And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!
3. All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given, The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven— The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore; For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
WORDS: Martin Rinkhart, 1636 translated by Catherine Winkworth 1858
MUSIC: Johann Criger 1647, harm. Felix Mendelsohn 1840