Prayer for Evanston’s Annual Interfaith Action Thanksgiving Service

The remarks and prayer I offered this evening at Evanston’s annual Interfaith Action Thanksgiving service.

In the mythology of this country, we laud the industrious pilgrims who came here seeking religious freedom. In the lore of the first Thanksgiving, after a rough period in which many died, these pilgrims celebrated the bounty of the harvest 400 years ago in 1621 in the town they named Plimouth, but was called Patuxet by the indigenous tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag. The Mashpee Wampanoag were never acknowledged for their role in sharing their resources and wisdom that enabled the pilgrims’ survival. And then, as we know, more and more settlers arrived to these shores, bringing disease, death, and displacement to the native population, but not destruction. The Mashpee Wampanoag still live in that part of the country and are supporting legislative and administrative efforts to protect Nantucket Sound in perpetuity. This will secure traditional laws, cultures, and the way of life for the native nations that continue to inhabit their ancestral homelands there.

We pray:
Hodu L’adonai ki tov, ki leolam hasdo, It is good to give thanks to the Merciful One, for God’s steadfast love is everlasting. (Psalm 107)

Today we gather to express our gratitude for the bounty that so many of us enjoy, but also to tell the truth about our country’s origins and to come to terms with its ongoing racism, discrimination, and failure to ensure that everyone shares in the richness of our nation’s resources.

We appreciate this opportunity to come together in prayer and thanksgiving as a community.

We are thankful for the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the beautiful area in which we live.

May we protect the precious natural resources You have entrusted to us, O God, and make sure they are available to all for years to come. They are not ours to ruin or hoard. As the Psalmist teaches us: the earth is the Eternal God’s and the fullness thereof. (Psalm24)

We pledge to care for the fragile ecosystems that we are despoiling.

We are grateful that we live in a community that pushes us to grow and learn and confront the difficult parts of our history and the ongoing problems in our society. When we know better, we can do better.

We commit to make amends with those who were harmed in the building of this nation whether the indigenous populations or those who were forcibly brought here and enslaved to create our country’s wealth.

On this day in which we express our thanks, we turn to the Holy Source of Blessing in whose image we were all created.

May we see the divine in every human being, and treat all people with dignity and respect.

May our gratitude on this day compel us to be more generous and to strive for justice and equity.

Help us, O God, to see beyond the narrow concerns of our own needs, to not become trapped in our fears and callousness, but instead to open our hands and hearts to share and care for one another and our world.

In this way do we show our gratitude for the many blessings You, Merciful God shower upon us on this holiday of Thanksgiving and every day.

Hodu l’adonai ki tov, ki leolam hasdo. It is good to give thanks to the Merciful One for God’s love is everlasting.