As we head into Thanksgiving, some of us will be at diverse tables with red state/blue state divides and perhaps a mix of people from different religions or no religious affiliations. It might be helpful to begin the meal with readings or quotes that speak to the theme of gratitude. Below are two lists with both religious and non-religious readings about thankfulness and gratitude. The first is a list of longer readings. The second is a list with shorter quotes.
You may want to distribute copies of a longer reading to everyone and ask each person around the table to read a sentence. This can symbolize that we each have a part in fulfilling the purpose of this day. Or you might want to print out and cut up the list of the shorter passages, spread them out on a table, and invite your guests to choose from among them to read aloud.
[If you’re looking for advice on how to survive a red state/blue state divide at the Thanksgiving table, check out this post: How to Survive a Red/Blue Thanksgiving: Creating a ‘Purple Zone’.]
LONGER READINGS ABOUT THANKFULNESS
1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.
5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
1 Corinthians 9:8 – 15
8And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
Colossians 3:9 – 17
12As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
[For a reflection on this passage of the healing of the man with leprosy, read: Gratitude is More than Skin Deep.]
General religious prayer
Thanksgiving Day: A Modern Psalm
By Debbie Perlman, z’l (From “Flames to Heaven: New Psalms for Healing and Praise”)
How easy to praise You, Beloved One,
For abundance, for cups brim filled;
How can we not delight in Your majesty,
Your endless blessings to us.
How simple our thanks, Beloved One,
For laden tables, for gathered families,
Shoulders touching in the intimacy of the meal
You have spread before us.
Teach us to thank and bless Your name,
When cups are empty and thirst is great;
Put our hands together to replenish,
Finding blessing in tiny sips.
Beloved One, to thank and bless You,
We find hope in uncertainty
And triumph in shaky steps.
We recreate abundance for Your sake.
SHORTER READINGS ABOUT THANKFULNESS
1 Chronicles 16:34
Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good; God’s love endures forever.
Psalm 9:1 – 2
1I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
2Let us come into God’s presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
1 Timothy 4:5 – 5
4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving; 5for it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 18
16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
“…Any who is grateful does so to the profit of his own soul…”
“How wonderful is the case of a Believer! There is good for him in whatever happens to him -and none, apart from him, enjoys this blessing. If he receives some bounty, he is grateful to Allah and this bounty brings good to him. And if some adversity befalls him, he is patient, and this affliction, too, brings good to him.”
“Make an attitude to be in gratitude; you will find the whole Universe will come to you.” – Yogi Bhajan
Again, consider putting these quotes on slips of paper or printed on index cards and either spread them out for people to choose, or have a “gratitude grab bag” and each person pick one out at random and read aloud. You might even decorate the room with print-outs of these quotes to scatter on the table or hang up throughout the room and house. This could be a fun activity for kids – have a “scavenger hunt for gratitude”!
“Let gratitude be like the sun to your flower. Keep your face always turned toward its light.” Leah D. Schade
“What would you have this morning if all you had was what you gave thanks for yesterday?” Anonymous
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
“Enough is a feast.” Buddhist proverb
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle
“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” Gerald Good
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson
“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself.” Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne
“The world has enough beautiful mountains and meadows, spectacular skies and serene lakes. It has enough lush forests, flowered fields, and sandy beaches. It has plenty of stars and the promise of a new sunrise and sunset every day. What the world needs more of is people to appreciate and enjoy it.” Michael Josephson
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
“Silent gratitude is of no use to anyone.” Gertrude Stein
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” Henri Frederic Amiel
“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” Naomi Williams
“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(With gratitude to the following site for providing many of these secular quotes: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/40-inspiring-motivational-quotes-about-gratitude.html)
Do you have a favorite scripture passage, or religious or secular quote about thankfulness?
Share it in the comment section below!
The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and ordained in the ELCA. Dr. Schade does not speak for LTS or the ELCA; her opinions are her own. She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is the co-editor of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Her newest book is Introduction to Preaching: Scripture, Theology, and Sermon Preparation, co-authored with Jerry L. Sumney and Emily Askew (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023).