A Shift in Seasons — guest post

Three voices today. First is R. Matthew Stevens of First Nations Canada with a prayer for the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. (Note that I put here the version that Pilgrim Press really wanted in the book Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community because it translates Anishinaabe words. Feel free to leave those translations out of any version you may share!) The second is by Erice Fairbrother of Aotearoa as winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere. I have found this poem to be deeply meaningful in the last three transitions in my life. (And I much prefer the method for handling explanation)  The third writer is Sharon Benton, pastor in Bellingham, Washington, USA. She writes it for a blessing of the animals service and I thought to myself that it could rightly be any service!

A Gathering Prayer On A First Summer Morning
Gizhe-manidoowiwin,
Indeed your divine nature is revealed and evident to us on this, the longest day of the year. In the pre-dawn darkness we lite our sacred fire, and we were ready to welcome mooka’am (spirit of the sunrise) with prayers. Our waabini manidookewin (Sunrise ceremony) is meant for celebrating this special day with hearts full of thanks for all you give your people.

All around us Omizakamigokwe (Mother Earth) sings her summer song of activity. Our four-legged brothers and sisters are bring forth their oshki-ayaansag (literally “new ones”, figuratively “newly born”). They venture from their burrows and lairs under the watchful eyes of their parents, with so many teachings yet to learn, and yet so much playfulness in their learning. Even the way wabooz (rabbit) mirthfully hops through the tall grass reminds us that it is good to celebrate this day.

We look up, G’zhem-mnidoo (Creator God), and our winged sisters and brothers are soaring and swooping, their tiny hearts bursting with the song of freedom. In their nests mottle feathered little-ones stretch wide their beaks, endlessly seeking more nourishment to flourish and mature. Soon they too will dance in the skies, joining their parents in celebrating all you give to all living things – great and small.

The Zhaganaash call this day “Summer Solstice”, and celebrate it with thoughts of the warm days to come. Those who are growers look to be on the land, turning the rich dark soil, planting seeds redolent with promise, and tending the delicate shoots that are even now burgeoning forth from Omizakamigokwe’s (Mother Earth’s) breast. Already we can recognize the first mandaamin (corn plants) embarking upon their journey toward the sun, and our mouths water at the remembrance of how sweet those kernels will taste. Oh yes, it is a good day to celebrate.

Do you ever wonder, Creator of all things, with all this joyful activity prospering in nature, why your sentient creatures often seem so sluggish and listless in the summer warmth? How often you must ponder, that quick as we are to moan and complain when a few things don’t go as we suppose they should, we silently take all multitude of good things for granted as if they were somehow our due?

G’zhem-mnidoo, we come together this morning in the circle of our church, brimming-over with awe for all of your creation. Even though we can be such facile and fickle creatures, we also have more than sufficient capacity to be filled with amazement and appreciation for your wondrous gifts. In our worship this providential morning, hear our words and songs as celebration from hearts overflowing in thanks and praise, for all you give your people.

Chii-miigwech, (literally: “great/many thanks”, but also stands in place of “Amen”), G’zhem-mnidoo.

Taking leave
When the trees are shaken and bending
And my head is pressed to the wind;
When the sun falls and my heart is in shadow
And the earth is hard under my feet;
I leave for the track through the foothills
For the bush that is silent and still,
Where totara* lie ancient and fallen,
At peace with their scars and their death;
Where the ferns have no fear of unfolding,
Nor the sky, of the kauri* and beech;
I find in this bush that is wordless,
Where light is at ease with the dark,
A greening on paths that are endless
And earth that gives speech to the heart.

*totara- a confer prized by the Maori for its timber’s durability and length
*kauri also an evergreen, the world’s oldest wood

Call to Worship for Blessing of the Animals
One: Come and worship God with a “happy tail” that slaps glasses off coffee tables and thumps the linoleum like timpani!
Many: Come and worship God with easy purrs emitted from a puddle of sunlight!
One: Come and worship God with coils slipped around comfortable shoulders!
Many: Come and worship God with pink noses and delicate paws and bright wings and fluid fins!
One: Come and worship the God of all creatures great and small!
Many: Come and worship God as one creation!

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