November 2019 - The Pastor’s Creel
“Let us give our thanks to the Lord our God. It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always,
and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”
The United Methodist Book of Worship, Service of Word and Table.
As the chairman of the Susquehanna Conference Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM), in early October I attended the Northeastern Jurisdiction CONAM in which ten United Methodist Conferences and their representative, from West Virginia to Maine, convened. This year’s NEJ CONAM was held in Syracuse, NY, the heartland of the Haudenosaunee people, meaning the people of the long house, or better known by their French given name, the Iroquois. The Haudenosaunee were also known as the Five Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca), later to become the Six Nations, with the addition of the Tuscarora.
While there, I was introduced to the “ Ohen: ton Karihwatehkwen,” meaning “words before all else.” This is a thanksgiving address that is used before all ceremonial and governmental gatherings. Its roots go back thousands of years to the Great Law of Peace.
Although it is not found in the Bible, all elements of this thanksgiving can be found throughout Scripture. As we approach our own national day of Thanksgiving, I believe we can learn something from our Native American brothers and sisters. As a matter of fact, the tenants put forth in this address are similar to those of the Wampanoag, who helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter in the new world and influenced the first Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving Address is not necessarily a prayer as much as an expression of gratitude for all of creation and the Great Spirit. Each element of creation is pondered, and thanksgiving is given to God for its contributions to life.
Therefore, I offer this as a guide for your own possible use this Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving Address can be designed to meet your own personal time limits. Tribes use forms that span from ten minutes to three hours long. I am simply offering a few examples and an outline for you to use as you wish. I hope you will find it helpful. The Thanksgiving Address always begins by thanking people.
THE PEOPLE: “Today we have gathered, and 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 living things. So now we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.” You can name specific people you give thanks for.
THE WATER: “We give thanks for the water of the world, for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms: waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind we give thanks for water.”
The other elements are: THE EARTH, THE PLANTS, THE FOOD PLANTS, THE MEDICINAL PLANTS, THE TREES, THE ANIMALS, THE FISH, THE BIRDS, THE EARTH, THE SUN, THE MOON, THE STARS, THE TEACHERS (those who teach, influence, and inspire us), and most importantly, THE CREATOR, GOD who is the source of all we are thankful for. You may want to conclude your Thanksgiving by singing “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
Have a Blessed Thanksgiving. Pastor Rick