Monday, November 21, 2005

Hebraic table prayers for Thanksgiving

Deuteronomy 8:10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which He hath given thee.

Advent begins in Thanksgiving

How does the Lord appear? The prophet Isaiah tells us that the glory of the Lord will be revealed…as the rough places of our lives are made smooth, our mountains of hardness of heart brought down, ‘every valley shall be exalted and the mountains and hills made low.’ Then shall the glory of the Lord be revealed!

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’


Historically, Christians have emphasized Advent as a time of leveling the mountains, making smooth the rough areas of our hearts. But we have forgotten that such prophetic preparation comes straight out of our Judaic roots. And, little do we realize that it all begins in Thanksgiving.


Hebraic table as pattern of Thanksgiving

The Second Temple Jews understood that unless God was thanked in practice, He wasn’t thanked at all. So they would prepare their lives by bringing God to their very table, at formal meal in the evening. And this is one of the most moving things I’ve found in all my studies…

They would begin this “advent meal,” or meal of preparation, with a blessing prayer, praising God in creation and provision. Then they would bless the food to each person as it was passed, and the cup, praised to God for the fruit given of the vine, and then to the health of the family by name.

Following the meal then, after being filled, they would praise God in a three-fold pattern: a blessing for God filling the world with good things, a thanksgiving for God’s law and inheritance, and then a prayer for God’s city, God’s people.

Listen to a portion of early Jewish table liturgy, where the Holy God is welcomed into the home, at the sacred table…in accordance with Deuteronomy 8:10, et al.

Leader: Friends, let us bless.

Group: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.

Leader: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.
With your permission, friends, let us praise God for we have eaten of God's bounty.

Group: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten, Whose goodness is our lives.

Leader: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten, Whose goodness is our lives. Praised be God and praised be God's name.

The Table Leader would pray: Blessed are You, LORD our God, Ruler of the universe, Who sustains the whole world in goodness with grace, kindness and compassion. God gives food to all creatures because God's mercy is eternal…Blessed are You, LORD, Sustainer of all.


Thank you, L
ORD our God, for this good and spacious land that you have given our ancestors as an inheritance, and for the food that sustains us always, every day, every season, every moment. For everything, LORD our God, we thank you and praise you. May praise of Your name always be on the lips of every living being, as it is written, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God Who has given you this good earth.” Blessed are You, LORD, for the earth and for the food.


Early Christians understood this table aspect of the presence of God…obviously, since they were all Jews! The first Christians understood that the real meal of faith was a communal meal in the presence of God. And they followed this pattern of table thanksgiving, powerfully.


What would happen if we recovered this integral aspect of thanksgiving, and again allowed God at our tables…not just in some rote prayer drowned out by the roar of TV football – Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys! – in the background…followed up by people gorging themselves beyond common sense, and then leaving the table not thankful, but overly-satiated and selfishly fed.


This Thanksgiving, could we actually begin a real preparation for Holy Advent by thanking God at our table? In my heart, I visualize what would happen if hundreds and thousands of families across America turned down the TV and again allowed the Holy One to feast with them in conscious remembrance at Thanksgiving…


A recovery of Judaic-Christian prayers


And to that end I offer a recovered 1st century Jewish-Christian table liturgy.


Here is a pattern of table liturgy faithful to the Judaic ‘meal of prayer.’ These come straight out of documents recovered from 1st century Christians and Jews. The basic pattern here is simple: communal prayers before eating, and then prayers following the meal. [The meal can be elaborated, as individuals are blessed by name at the pouring of the drink, and during the meal, but the simple pattern is shared prayer before and after.]

Table liturgy from 1st century prayers

Prayer before Eating

Leader: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for this drink which you have provided us -- through Jesus Christ, the holy Son of David.
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever
.
Leader: We give Thee thanks, O our Father, for the life and knowledge which You bring us in this meal -- through your Son Jesus our Lord.

Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: As Jesus Christ has come down from heaven to be the Bread for the world, so feed us now on this bread taken in your Name, through your Holy Spirit, blessed God forever, Amen.

Group: Thine is the kingdom, and power, and glory forever, Amen!

[individuals may be blessed by name during pouring & after eating]

Prayer after the Meal

Leader: Friends, let us bless.

Group: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.

Leader: May God be praised from this moment through eternity.
Friends, let us praise God for we have eaten of God's bounty.

Group: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten,

Whose goodness is our lives.

Leader: Blessed is the One of whose bounty we have eaten,

Whose goodness is our lives.

Praised be God and praised be God's name!

Leader: We give Thee thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name, which You have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the life in this food, given through your Son Jesus.
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: Thou, Almighty Master, didst create all things for Thy name's sake, and didst give food and drink unto humans for enjoyment, that they might render thanks to Thee: so we give Thee thanks, for Thou art great;
Group: Thine is the glory for ever and ever.
Leader: Remember, Lord, Thy people to deliver us from all evil and to perfect us in Thy love; and gather us into Thy holy kingdom --
Group: for Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever.
ALL: May grace come though this world pass away.

Hosanna to the God of David! Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Here is the beginning of repentance, preparation for the coming of the King! Here ‘every valley will be exalted, every mountain and hill made low.’ Here will ‘the glory of the Lord be revealed.’

For here is Thanksgiving!

Alleluia!


2 comments:

winston7000 said...

Eleven years ago, I was working temporarily for a Korean senior service organization in Chicago writing grant proposals. They invited me to a typical Korean luncheon (not the restaurant kind of food), which many staff and elderly had prepared.

I walked into the room to see a lovely buffet spread out on one of the side tables amidst the utter courtesy and love of these men and women for their guests of which I was one.

But before they sat down to eat, a leader seeming spontaneously started Christian grace. This grace was not the usual hasty blessing and then let's dig in, but a lengthy and profound round table of prayer offerings to Our Lord for His bounty that lasted several minutes with rapt attention. In all my years as a Christian, I had never seen such devout and elaborate thanks to our Lord. And never have witnessed it again either.

God bless you, Loy.

John Hetman
Niles, IL

Loy Mershimer said...

Thank you, John.

Great story, and good illustration of what bringing God to our table can do...to touch life where it is really lived.

C.S Lewis: "To make Christianity a private affair while banishing all privacy is to relegate it to the rainbow's end or the Greek Calends."

We can't do much about "out there," how the world appropriates [mis-appropriates and compartmentalizes Christ], but we can do something about our own tables.

We can bring that same sense, that same "profound...prayer offerings to our Lord for His bounty" at our own table, the table where we lead others.

If just those who consider themselves good Christians would grasp what the Table of the Lord really means by truly bringing the presence of God to personal table, the world would not be the same...could not be the same, imo.

Again, thank you John! Wonderful words.

And, a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

In Christ,

Loy