Thanks Be to God

by Pastor Heath Howe

St. Augustine said, "Nature really is our first bible." It is in paying attention to nature that we see the cycle of death and resurrection. We see how a seed must die to become a tree. We watch how the flowers depend on the bees to continue their growth. We see how fall and winter must come, before spring and summer can be realized. The dying and rising cycles in nature, the connection and dependence between all of creation teaches us how to live as disciples of Christ, and loving neighbors to one another. In many ways, more than ever, I find myself so thankful for the gift of nature.

With this in mind, I have decided to add another ritual and tradition to my family's Thanksgiving Day celebration. Come November 28th, we will include giving thanks for the changing of the seasons.

I've adapted the following from For Everything a Season by the Nilsen Family. Much like holiday recipes, feel free to adapt, adopt, amend and come up with any other ways to incorporate this into your lives. We'd love to know how you have incorporated these suggestions into your holiday.

The Blessing for the Changing of the Seasons

Time/Day: This blessing can be done at any time as the seasons change. For the month of November, this could be done in preparation of Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving Day, or the day when fall decorations are replaced with Advent and Christmas ones. Choose what's best for your family.

Preparation: Have each person bring to the celebration a symbol from the past season (a leaf, pumpkin) and a symbol from the coming season (pine cone, branches, advent wreath). Arrange symbols from past seasons in a group as part of the dining table center piece. Set the symbols for the coming season aside. Light a candle.

Welcome (read by the oldest female): For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Prayer (read by the oldest female): Holy One, Mother of Creation, Father of Life, bless our gathering, that we may honor the rhythms of the earth as witness to your extravagant love and faithfulness. Amen.

Bible Text (read by the oldest male): As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. Genesis: 8:22

Reflection: Share or write in a journal your thoughts to the following:

How have I seen the presence of God revealed this past season in my life? In nature?

The piece of this season I need to let go of spiritually
is...(anger at someone, resentment, fear of the future, shame)

This season has taught me...

The piece of this season I am most thankful for is...(could be literal, like a cool fall breeze, or spiritual like a new understanding/awareness)

Prayer (to be read together): Thank you, God of cycles and rhythms, for making yourself known to us in the seasons of the earth and the seasons of our lives. Amen.

Ritual Action: Remove the old symbols and say together, "Thank you God for this season that has past and all we have learned because of it." Replace them with the new symbols. Pause and notice them.

Reflection: Share or write in your journal answers to the following:

What do I hope for as I enter this new season?

Name one thing from nature that will be your special reminder of God's presence in the coming season.

When I think about the coming season I am most thankful for...

Prayer (read by a member of the family): God of rhythms and cycles, open our hearts and all our senses to your presence in nature during the coming season. Amen.

If possible, take a walk in your neighborhood, a park,
the beach, or natural area. Pay special attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the natural world. What does nature teach us about God?

Blessing (said by youngest reader in family): May we trust that this season, like all others, will bear witness to God's extravagant love and faithfulness.

Amen.

Extinguish candle.

We have so much for which to be thankful. Our God is a God of great abundance who never ceases in leading us out of death and into life. As we gather to give thanks this year, let us give thanks to God for nature, our greatest and most consistent teacher.

Blessings,
Heath