All Souls Kansas City

“Words That Come Before All Else,” November 19th, 2017, with Rev. Kendyl Gibbons

 

We gather this morning on the eve of Thanksgiving;
A holiday both simple in its premise, and complex in the history of our nation and culture.
Gratitude for an abundant harvest is one of the oldest motifs in religious imagery;
It is found in both pagan and biblical sources,
As well as other traditions around the globe.
Fruitfulness is often used as a metaphor for the cultivation of human lives in community.
As we shall see, the giving of thanks is an important spiritual capacity and discipline.

 

Yet we must make an accounting of history as well as nature;
For too long the mythology of this holiday has naively celebrated our pilgrim ancestors,
Surviving in the wilderness of their new country
With the help of happy, welcoming indigenous tribal peoples, whom they were pleased to call Indians.
There is a sliver of truth to this in the one event we choose to remember,
But the fact is that by far most of the early Thanksgivings were proclaimed to celebrate
Military victories and massacres of these people, and theft of their food, supplies, and lands.
As a covenant community of memory,
committed to the work of justice, truth telling, and dismantling racism,
We cannot in good conscience perpetuate the amnesia
represented by the conventional images of Thanksgiving.

 

But still, ironically, gratitude and honor for the gifts of the natural world is a central premise
In the spiritual practices of many Native American traditions.
This morning I invite us into reflection through a practice of the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations, Confederacy.
The Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Tuscarora tribes came together in a political federation, from which some of the practices of democracy for the nascent United States Were derived.
Their interpretation of Thanksgiving is one that might inform not only our history, and our holiday, But our lives in community as well.
May we be thankful for the truth, however difficult, as well as the comforts of our culture.
May we attend to the needs of the earth, even as we accept its gifts.
And may the light we kindle as the symbol of our own heritage and faith
Illuminate the abundance of the world we share,
And be reflected in the generosity and gratitude of our living.

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address  Greetings to the Natural World

Today we have gathered, and when we look upon the faces around us we see that the cycles of life continue through the generations. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, let us bring our minds together as one, and give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

All Readers:  Now our minds are one.

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, shall we send thanksgiving, love and respect?

Now our minds are one.

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength and nurturing life for all beings. Water is life. We know its power in many forms ‐ waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans, snow and ice. Can we agree that water is important to all our lives, and bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to the Water?

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks; do we not all look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come?

Now our minds are one.

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. Can we agree to greet and thank the Tree life?

Now our minds are one.

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too.  Shall we gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks?

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal. Don’t we all need healing sometimes? Are we not happy that there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing? With one mind, let us send thanksgiving, love, and respect to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. Can we agree that we are all glad they are still here, and that we hope that it will always be so?

Now our minds are one

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each morning they greet the day with song, and remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds, from the smallest to the largest, let us send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, shall we all turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks?

Now our minds are one.

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help to bring us the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. Can we agree with one mind to send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds?

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring the storms that renew life. We are thankful that they keep the destructive powers underground. Let us bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

Now our minds are one.

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. Surely we can agree with one mind to send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, let us send gratitude to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. Don’t we all appreciate the stars? With our minds gathered together as one, shall we send greetings and thanks to the Stars?

Now our minds are one.

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. Don’t we all have caring teachers and spiritual leaders to send greetings and thanks?

Now our minds are one.

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send gratitude for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, let us gather our minds together as one and send our most beautiful words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

Now our minds are one.

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.