By Debbie Butler
Working in MOCHA Café, I hear and say the word thank you a lot every day. So much so, that I started thinking about how I give thanks to Jesus as a Christian.
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving Day meant one thing, getting up before the sun, eating breakfast with my dad, grabbing our shotguns and going pheasant hunting. We ate our family meal late in the afternoon with whoever was joining us that year. In our home “Giving Thanks” was not the point of the day.
With Thanksgiving Day approaching I was curious about the blessing given at meals. Today many Christians say “Grace” before their meals. I know the Jews have a lot of blessings, so I felt sure they have one for meals. Jesus said a blessing over the loaves and fishes in Matt 14:19. Even non- Christian families say blessing on Thanksgiving. I have a bit of digging to do so let’s get to it.
First, I perused the original Greek and Hebrew words for clues, what I found was giving thanks means to bless, profess, confess, or praise. These words all mean thank, thanks, etc. Then I sat for a while with the Lord working to wrap my head around these ideas and meanings for thank you. He whispered to me that as long as He is the subject of each of these actions and that they are offered up to Him, we are giving Him an offering of thanks or thankfulness.
Next, I wondered, surely the Jews have a blessing for their meals. Incredibly, I found that they do not have one blessing but many blessings. They do not bless their food generally do here in America. Let me explain. They pray a blessing before each food group eaten. For example;
1. “Blessed are You , LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
2. “Blessed are You , LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates varieties of nourishment.”
3. “Blessed are You , LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.”
4. “Blessed are You , LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.”
5. “Blessed are You , LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the ground.”
6. “Blessed are You , LORD our God, King of the universe, through Whose word everything comes into being.”
As you can see the entire and complete focus of the meal is the Lord. There is no question that they Bless God for the food. The food is blessed because of the Creator.
After the meal is finished the most important prayer takes place: the After Meal Grace, the “Birkat Ha-Mazon.” It is one of the very few prayers that the Bible commands them to recite, and is never recited during synagogue service. This prayer is much longer and considered much more important. It is a prayer of remembrance and seeks to satisfy the physical craving of our spirit, and binds the participants into a family alter of gratitude of thanks to the Lord.
Matthew 14:15-21 talks about when a multitude of people followed Jesus out of their cities into the desert after the death of John the Baptist. Jesus had great compassion toward them and healed the sick among them. Evening began to fall when His disciples’ asked Jesus to send them all home because they have no way to feed them. Long story short, Jesus asked them for whatever food they have. It was five loaves and two fishes. He asked everyone to sit down and he took the 5 loaves and two fishes.
Here is where a lot of us tend to apply whatever form of blessing we are familiar with when we read it. It is important to remember Jesus was a Jew. He grew up celebrating all of the Jewish Festivals and Holidays, and he would have seen and heard Joseph, his earthly father, bless the meals at the family table.
Now, back to the hillside: “And he gave orders for the people to be seated on the grass; and he took the five cakes of bread and the two fishes and, looking up to heaven, he said words of blessing, and made division of the food, and gave it to the disciples, and the disciples gave it to the people.” (Matthew 14:19 BBE)Notice He looked to heaven toward his Father, said words of blessing then broke bread and passed it out. Remember we read earlier that Jews bless the maker for being who he is and for creating the food. He does not bless the food itself.
In our society, Christian or secular, thanks or thank-you can often carry little reverence instead of the meaning God intends it. Remember, profess, confess, praise or bless. Like love or awesome, it has been overused until the meaning becomes watered down.
Here are some short common meal time prayers we might pray.
• God we thank you for this food. For rest and home and all things good. For wind and rain and sun above. But most of all for those we love.
• God is great, and God is good, And we thank him for our food; By his hand we all are fed; Give us Lord our daily bread.
• Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
• Father of us all. This meal is a sign of Your Love for us: Bless us and bless our food, And help us to give your glory each day Through Jesus Christ our Lord!
With the Thanksgiving Holiday approaching this might be a good time to take a quiet moment to find out; How do I offer thanks? How shall we offer the blessing over the meal? Before or maybe after, to see what it is like. Be led or recite in unison? So much to consider then I had before.
The most important thing of all is to remember that it is God, our Lord, the Creator of the Universe that we are to bless, confess, profess, and praise as we give Him all thanks this Thanksgiving holiday.