27/04/2009: Are you a Grace sort of person?
Are you a Grace sort of person, does the meal cool gently on the Royal Doulton while the Almighty is thanked, blessed and remembered, or do you feel you have moved on from the days of the school dinner? Perhaps they only said Grace in the northern schools.
We all know the traditional preparation for eating a meal mentioned above. For many though it's a lost habit confined to weddings and formal dinners and tea with the parson. In fact I have known churches eat Christmas Dinner without so much as "Ta Lord". I have also felt for those who were embarrassed when over zealous hosts declared that grace was going to be said despite the fact that some at table had already started the meal. Then I shiver at the memory of a Circuit Staff Christmas Dinner many years ago. On that evening I admit that even I wanted the floor to open up when a colleague insisted on saying Grace. Our venue was not the manse or church hall but a crowded public restaurant. He called for silence from everyone and then decreed the Grace would be sung "All good gifts around us.......".
Saying Grace is a good thing but there are dangers to remember. There is an element to all this that can touch on the unpleasant. It can be a show of piety worthy of the Pharisees. Grace can become meaningless if it's just said as a prelude to eating, like some habit that knows no scrutiny. It's a prayer that can be too long and complex depending on who is leading the praying. My Mother was only asked to say Grace when it was salad, otherwise the microwave was needed.
In the Lord's Prayer we say "give us this day our daily bread". Grace is a moment to mark an answer to that prayer. We are being provided for, our needs being met, our senses excited and with little or no effort. Today someone else has made the meal possible with farming, with technology and with mass distribution. It is handed to us on a plate, and thanks are in order to both cook and Creator.
Judaism has set forms of prayers for different tasks including getting up, washing, fasting and mealtimes. When Jesus broke bread both at Passover and with two disciples at Emmaus he prayed. There was not anything unusual in this for a Jew. It is a discipline. Should we return to such habits if they are not in practice? Well that is a choice for each of us to think about. I only say Grace once a day, perhaps it should be more often. However if you do say Grace do consult the menu first. I once said Grace for the Church Lunch Club. At the time I invariably prayed "Lord we thank you for this food and for those who have prepared it both here in the church and down on the farm. Amen". The ladies in the kitchen sniggered and Win declared "it's fish",
Best wishes Brian