Prayer of Gratitude
Giving thanks is an invitation. Giving thanks invites people, experiences, places, ideas, and other ways of being into our lives. When we give thanks, we acknowledge what makes the world a diverse and interesting and holy place. When we give thanks, we appreciate in a sincere and deep way the many gifts of life. We welcome and make space for them.
This is an act of great inclusion. Being grateful connects us more deeply to others and to the sacred. Gratitude makes room for everyone and everything.
Sadly, some people’s gifts are not met with gratitude but with fear or neglect. Not only aren’t they thanked for what they have to offer, but they are rejected for the gifts they have and for being who they are.
I’ve been reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This is the first book in the Harry Potter series. How many of you have read the book--or seen the movie? This is a make-believe story and a story of great wisdom. Harry is a wizard with magical skills who is raised by his aunt and uncle. His aunt and uncle fear and dislike Harry’s special skills, which they don’t see as special at all. They try to prevent Harry from using these talents. They reject anything they see as strange or mysterious. And they find Harry rather odd. They are not thankful to have a nephew around whom strange and unexplainable things are always happening. Like snakes breaking through their glass cages at the zoo. Or after a haircut, having Harry’s bushy head of hair grow back overnight.
Because of his aunt and uncle’s lack of acceptance—their prejudice—Harry spends much of the first 10 years of life treated like a misfit and outcast. Then something amazing happens. Harry is accepted into a school for wizardry and witchcraft called Hogwarts. “This is where it all begins.” (“Room at the Table” Carrie Newcomer). Harry goes off to Hogwarts school. There his gifts are encouraged and celebrated. He makes friends. Harry and the others at the school learn to explore the magic they have, to value their gifts, and are taught to use them for good. The school’s motto is: “Whoever, or whatever you are: you’re welcome.” (www.pottermore.com/features/how-hogwarts-taught-us-its-ok-to-be-an-outsider)
Our Unitarian Universalist religion is kind of like Hogwarts. We teach that “whoever, or whatever you are: you’re welcome.” We teach gratitude, appreciation, and justice for people of different abilities, races, religions, and genders. For people who excel at doing science or making music or teaching or being kind.
Rather than seeing our differences as something to be afraid of or as something that is wrong, we try to appreciate each other because we all have something important to offer. We believe “There is room at the table for everyone.” (“Room at the Table,” Carrie Newcomer). Making room is not burdensome. Adding a space at the table is a joyful occasion for all of us.
This morning I want to thank you each for being here. Thank you for the gifts you bring here and that you bring into the world. I thank you for being you. And for making space for others to be who they are. There is room for you. There is room for you here. There is room for us all. There is room for everyone. In the words of Carrie Newcomer in her song, “Room at the Table”:
Let our hearts not be hardened to those living on the margins.
There is room at the table for everyone.
This morning, let us recommit ourselves to make space at the table for each other and for those beyond our gathering. There are times when we may not be sure we know how to be open and inclusive. But even so, even when we don’t yet know how or even may think it’s nearly impossible, we pledge ourselves anew.
We recommit ourselves especially to making space for those who live on the margins. “This is where it all begins. This is how we gather in.” (Newcomer)