The Rev. John McFarland, pastor, Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road:
Yes! You want more: For such a simple action as “saying grace” before public meals, there are many principles at work, some in apparent conflict.
The “Tebowing” debate tackles us at supper: “Didn’t Jesus command us to pray invisibly, in our closets?” Since hypocrisy is so tempting, can’t we see that public “returning of thanks” makes us Pharisees instead of Christians? Do some of us actually believe our food must be ritually blessed or it will harm us?
On the other hand, Christ’s disciples are to be ambassadors for the master who is oft ignored in our times, especially in public spaces.
If we are properly grateful for the bounties which come to us from God’s hand, isn’t it appropriate to praise and thank him? After all, God is present, even at Burger Barn! A bowing of the head is a simple recognition of this basic Biblical fact. Over-loud table conversations convince us that our neighbors are not ashamed of Jayhawks and political positions; am I ashamed of my maker and redeemer — giver of every gift? Righteous Daniel insisted on praying, thrice daily, before an open window, such that neighbors could observe his devotion. The controversies surrounding this simplest action commend humility: “O Lord, even when I seek to do the religious thing, mixed motives surround and infect me. Am I bowing to be admired by men or to honor you?”
Though “table grace” in a restaurant may be brief, include a plea for more grace, undeserved mercy from God’s throne, through the sacrifice of Jesus, that even our religious actions will be cleansed on their heavenly flight. “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me … See if there is any hurtful way in me.”
Oh … and thanks for the food!
— Send email to John McFarland at JMMLawrence@aol.com.
The Rev. David Rivers, senior pastor, First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.:
My first memory of “saying grace” traces back to my grandfather, Clem. I suppose I was 4 or 5 years old as my family gathered for the Thanksgiving meal. My grandmother asked him if he would like to say grace.
Everyone lowered their heads, folded their hands, and waited for him to say grace.
Then he started to eat. My grandmother shouted across the table, “Clem, I asked you to say grace.” And to this he responded, “I did. Let’s eat!”
Though comical, it was a statement of the importance of saying grace in my family. I would imagine that my family isn’t all that unique. For many, saying grace is the barrier between the present moment and the consumption of the food. Yet for others, this time is a chance to slow down, even for just a few moments, to give thanks and ask God’s blessings on the food, those that grew it, and for the gift of being in each other’s presence.
In our faith community, I am told that “we say grace at every meal” by many. Certainly many do, yet in the high paced world of today, meals have lost the sense of an experience of gathering to share life and build relationships to a task that stands before the next task. We have abandoned a slowing down and catching up with one another around a meal.
What if we reexamined the “why” of saying grace? Why is it important to you? Why should we even consider saying grace? What if, for just a few moments, you paused to acknowledge God’s provision, another’s hard work, and the joy of being together? Would it change the meal? Perhaps the food wouldn’t taste any different, but our reason for gathering may be enriched.
— Send email to David Rivers at firstname.lastname@example.org.