Wednesday, November 01, 2023


Walt Wiltschek

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” —Psalm 9:1a (NRSV)

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.

When the majestic hymn “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” was written by Anglican pastor Henry Alford in the 1800’s, it was for use at village harvest festivals, according to, “when the life of the village during the winter depended on the bounty of the autumn harvest.” While it eventually moves into end-times theology—a more metaphorical take on “the harvest”—it begins with very real thanks for God’s provision in the nitty-gritty of life.

Much as I enjoy that liturgy and this season, it can be hard to feel thankful right now. Many difficult things are going on in our church, in our country, and around the world. The evening news or online updates are difficult to take in. It’s sometimes challenging to make much sense of it all, and hope often seems elusive.

During this year’s pre-district conference workshop, spiritual director Chris Douglas led participants in a variety of exercises related to contemplative prayer—ways to slow down and make better space to encounter God. One of those exercises came in the form of lectio divina (“divine reading”), a deliberate and meditative way to approach scripture and let it speak to one’s experience.

Before reading a Gospel passage aloud several times, Chris urged us as we listened to pay attention to anything in the passage that “shimmered” for us—a word or phrase that caused us to pause or tapped for our attention. It was a familiar text, but I did find within it words that shimmered, fascinating bits to which I had never paid much attention previously.

And likewise, when I pause long enough to breathe and look around the troubling landscape with fresh eyes, I also see blessings everywhere, from brilliant autumn colors to the most unexpected places. There, too, God is shimmering. I’ve appreciated good visits with congregations all across the district this fall, the good spirit of our district conference, and stories of individuals and churches doing fantastic things in their communities. Beyond our church, too, stories persist of people doing good, sometimes against all odds. In the glimmer of the divine, life finds a way.

And for that, I’m a thankful person.