Liturgy for Thanksgiving – Especially for 2020

by Christine Sine
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by Christine Sine

Even in the midst of pandemics, social distancing and deep injustices that divide us, there is still much to give thanks for.

This service has been adapted from a service pdf provided by St Andrews Episcopal church Seattle, for use in the home, as part of the main meal of the day and can be used not just for Thanksgiving but for any celebrative occasion where you would like to give thanks. It is appropriate for use via Zoom, FaceTime, or other video software, as a way to worship with the people you call family and friends who are far away.

Consider setting the table and surroundings with your favorite and/or special seasonal items in the home. A tablecloth, flowers, and your favorite place settings that express the festive theme of the day or season. The meal may consist of favorite and/or seasonal foods. We sit down to feast with God and for that we bring our full heart, our favorite things.

This service draws from the meal tradition of the early church (before formalized Eucharist). We call it Eukharistía: Ancient Greek (εὐχαριστία), meaning “gratitude, giving of thanks”. And this we can and should do whenever we share the bounty of the earth! All Christians are called to bless and so while this meal is not sacramental, it includes blessings of the food and drink shared, and the people gathered.

Preparation – For times of pandemic/epidemic.

We begin by washing, as we were washed in our baptism. We cleanse our hands as we were cleansed in the waters of new birth. We do this not because we are afraid, but because we were commanded to love: and to cleanse our hands, and gather in spirit, is how we love the vulnerable, whom Jesus loved. May we be instruments of love. May the sacrifices we make be for the good of our human family near and far. Each person present then washes their hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Once washed each person should help with setting out the food  (best if this is separate from where people will sit for the meal) When all is ready those present serve themselves and then either take their places at the table or sit around the area, socially distanced from each other and from where food is being shared.  (Adapted from Thanksgiving/Agape meal liturgy St Andrews Episcopal Church Seattle)

Once the main course has been eaten, the following Thanksgiving liturgy can be shared. Give each participant in the meal either a scripture reading or a prayer to recite.

A Thanksgiving Liturgy

God eternal and righteous One,
Who created the heavens and the earth,
we gather to give you thanks.
For breath that fills us with your life,
For love that softens our hearts,
For beauty revealed at every turn.

Christ redeeming and forgiving One,
Who is always faithful and merciful.
We gather to give you thanks,
For renewal, transforming our lives,
For peace calming the chaos of our souls,
For hope restoring our faith.

Spirit sustaining, and compassionate One,
Who calls us into relationship with the living God,
We give you thanks,
For caring when our hearts are aching,
For friends supportive in times of need,
For generosity lavish and overflowing.

God who created the earth and the heavens,
Eternal, Redeeming and Sustaining One,
We gather to give you thanks,
We come with hearts full of gratitude,
For all things good,
We give you thanks for You.

(Pause to express gratitude for your own areas of thanksgiving)

For the universe immense and unknown,
For the earth on which we live,
For humankind made in your image.
Thanks and praise to God our creator.
For the way you entered human history as one of us
For the sacrifice you made for all of us,
For dying that we might live.
Thanks and praise to Christ our redeemer,
For the wonder of your indwelling presence,
For the comfort of your guidance and direction,
For drawing us together as one body.
Thanks and praise to the Holy Spirit our sustainer.
Through your will we are made whole,
Through your love we are renewed.
Through your abiding presence we become one community.
Thanks and praise to God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer through all eternity.

Psalm 105:1-8 (TPT) (Evidently this was sung as the Ark of the Covenant was brought up to Jerusalem)

Go ahead and give God thanks
for all the glorious things he has done!
Go ahead and worship him!
Tell everyone about his wonders!
Let’s sing his praises! Sing, and put all of his miracles to music!
Shine and make your joyful boast in him, you lovers of God.
Let’s be happy and keep rejoicing no matter what.
Seek more of his strength! Seek more of him!
Let’s always be seeking the light of his face.
Don’t you ever forget his miracles and marvels.
Hold to your heart every judgment he has decreed.
For you are his servants, the true seed of Abraham,
and you are the chosen ones, Jacob’s sons.
For he is the Lord our God,
and his wise authority[b] can be seen in all he does.
8–9 For though a thousand generations may pass away,
he is still true to his word.
He has kept every promise[c] he made to Abraham and to Isaac.

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Colossians 3: 15-17 (TPT)

Let your heart be always guided by the peace of the Anointed One, who called you to peace as part of his one body. And always be thankful.

16 Let the word of Christ live in you richly, flooding you with all wisdom. Apply the Scriptures as you teach and instruct one another with the Psalms, and with festive praises,[c] and with prophetic songs given to you spontaneously by the Spirit, so sing to God with all your hearts!

17 Let every activity of your lives and every word[e] that comes from your lips be drenched with the beauty of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. And bring your constant praise to God the Father because of what Christ has done for you!

The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Luke 22:17–19 TPT

Then he raised a cup and gave thanks to God and said to them, “Take this and pass it on to one another and drink. 18 I promise you that the next time we drink this wine, we will be together in the feast of God’s kingdom realm.”

19 Then he lifted up a loaf, and after praying a prayer of thanksgiving to God, he gave each of his apostles a piece of bread, saying, “This loaf is my body,[b] which is now being offered to you. Always eat it to remember me.”

The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray together now in the words Jesus taught us.

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is Heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your Heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on Earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.

Amen. (From New Zealand Prayer Book)

Gracious and generous God we give you thanks,
For the gift of life for we are made in your image,
We think of all those in whom your divine image is still distorted.
We pray for your mercy and love to rest upon them.
God in your mercy be with them.
Caring and providing God we give you thanks,
For our homes that shelter and protect us,
We think of those without shelter and water and protection today.
We pray for your generous provision to be poured out upon them.
God in your mercy be with them.
Abundant and giving God we give you thanks,
For our food that nourishes and strengthens us,
We think of those without adequate food and nourishment today.
We pray that you will feed them with the bread of life.
God in your mercy be with them.
Loving and compassionate God we give you thanks,
For our friends and family who love and comfort us in times of need,
We think of those who are alone and feel abandoned in the midst of social distancing.
God comfort and surround them that they may sense your presence.
God in your mercy be with them.
Caring and healing God we give you thanks,
For hospital workers who minister in the midst of this pandemic,
We think of those who have lost loved ones and of those who are afraid yet still work,
God strengthen and hold them in your healing presence,
Give them wisdom that they may respond with your love.

(Pause to offer your own prayers)

Gracious and generous God,
We remember all the gifts you have given us,
We remember how lavishly you have provided.
We remember how lovingly you have cared,
We remember especially that greatest gift of all,
Jesus Christ our Saviour,
And we give you thanks.

Preparation before Dessert

Consider enjoying an appropriate dessert following the meal. This prayer may be used. If people are gathered together, encourage participants to wash their hands again or else clean them with hand sanitizer before they go to serve themselves with dessert.

One God of joy, may we remember in this moment how sweet your words are to the taste, sweeter than honey to the mouth! You have given us a feast of rich food, satisfying the longing soul; You filled our hungry souls with good things. May the sweetness on our tongues and the richness of your blessing be a calling to joyfulness, a taste of gratitude, a reminder to invite all of your creation to a seat at the table for the banquet feast you have bestowed upon us. Amen. (From St Andrews Thanksgiving/Agape liturgy)

Concluding Prayer

The following prayer may be used at the conclusion of the meal.

One Holy One, draw near to your people this day/night, keep watch over those whose hearts are heavy or whose burdens are great. Send your holy angels to watch over the sick, and to guide the hands of those who tend to them. And we beseech you, comfort us as a Mother soothes her beloved children. May we rest now, and arise in the morning strengthened by your presence. Amen.(From St Andrews Thanksgiving/Agape liturgy)

If you are looking for Thanksgiving prayers here are some of my favorites – prayers from all traditions including beautiful Jewish and Native American prayers.

And for more Thanksgiving resources, check out our resource page on Thanksgiving and Harvest.

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Renee T Notkin November 25, 2020 - 7:52 am

Thank you for all the ways you journey alongside us, keeping our hearts and mind focusen on the LIGHT as we seek to live our daily neighborly lives. We are grateful for all of you who sustain us through your words and images that draw us to the WORD and remind us we are made in God’s image.

Christine Sine November 25, 2020 - 9:18 am

Thanks Renee. zhope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Look forward to when we can get together again.

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