Earth Day, April 22, has turned into a modern secular holiday, but it is often ignored by churches. However, Thanksgiving is a more natural time for Christians to give thanks and praise to God for his creation. We thank God not just for food, family, and country, but for the beauty and bounty of his whole created order. And unlike Earth Day, Thanksgiving is not just a recent invention: for generations we have given thanks to God for a bountiful harvest just on the cusp of winter, a season of hibernation and deprivation in most of North America. That’s because we know that God is good, and his provisions abundant. Our thanksgiving is as much a profession of faith as a recognition of what we already have.
So with Thanksgiving swiftly approaching, consider weaving an appreciation for the whole created order into a Thanksgiving-related service at your church, or incorporating activities into your church’s Thanksgiving celebrations that will help your congregation be mindful of the blessing of the cosmos they inhabit.
Here are some suggestions:
- Sing using worship songs that reflect on and give thanks for the glory of God’s creation. See last week’s Church Activity for some suggestions.
- Read Scripture that emphasizes the abundance of creativity and diversity within the earth. Some suggestions: Genesis 1 and 2; Job 40:15-24; 41; Psalm 8, 19, 96, 104; Isaiah 55:8-13; Matthew 6:19-34; Colossians 1:15-20
- Fill your church’s sanctuary with seasonal artifacts from the outdoors: vibrant leaves, gourds and pumpkins, arrangements of dried grasses, chrysanthemums, and pansies are all natural elements that may be available to use in this season, depending on where you live.
- Offer prayers that incorporate thanks for creation, either of your own expression or using traditional prayers like these from the Book of Common Prayer:
For Joy in God’s Creation
O heavenly Father, who hast ﬁlled the world with beauty:
Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works;
that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve
thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all
things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Right Use of God’s Gifts
Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we
possess: Grant us grace that we may honor thee with our
substance, and, remembering the account which we must one
day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty, through
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so
that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who
work in the ﬁelds; give us seasonable weather; and grant that
we may all share the fruits of the earth, rejoicing in your
goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Arrange to do a hike, bike ride, or nature-related service project as a church community. Contact your local government or local or national parks to learn about volunteer opportunities like a recycling collection, trail or park maintenance, or cell phone collection drive that your church can participate in.
- Celebrate the seasonal harvest in your area by cooking dishes made with locally grown or produced autumnal ingredients for church dinners, small group gatherings, showers, pot lucks, and coffee hours. Find what’s in season near you (and some great recipes that use those ingredients) with this interactive map from epicurious.com.
Is your church celebrating God’s creation this Thanksgiving? Let us know how in the comments below!