Mumbling our Thanks
All across our verdant land this weekend Canadians will gather around the fatted turkey (or, for the vegans and vegetarians, the dolled-up squash substitute), to give thanks. Only, many won't know what to say, or how to say it. There may be an awkward moment before everyone dives in, as if someone should say something, but the feasting itself will take the place of the words.
When I was an evangelical Christian I would have wanted "just to thank you, Lord, just to praise your name"--the "just" making it sound like thanking God for the food was really more important than eating it. Indeed, some puritanical Christian grace-sayers could go on and on precisely to ensure that the enjoyment of the cooling bird would be diminished by the length of the prayer.
Anglicans do it in a typically cryptic, upper-crust sort of way, acknowledging God with a sideways glance, as if just another guest at the table, rather than presuming to address the Deity directly, which could sound too much like grovelling: "For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful." Not a prayer so much as a statement of intent.
However they do it, Christians have to sidestep an awkward reality in their feasting. Their bounty, and the gifts they have received from so benevolent a Creator, are not shared equally around all tables, some of which remain empty but for a swarm of hungry flies. "For food," we pray, "in a world where many walk in hunger ..." The implication is unavoidable. "Thanks for giving to us so much, when you have given to others so little."
In the end, I think a simple pause is far more eloquent than a soppy prayer. Are we grateful--for this bounty; for one another; for a world that continues to bless us; and for a world, in turn, that needs our blessing? Are we grateful? Then, Amen. Let's eat.