Pastor Greenbean has been away for the past week.  He spent the last week in an undisclosed location—deep in the heart of Texas—to work on a forthcoming book.  (SPOILER ALERT:  It is awesome).  Even though I was gone, I still went to church.  I have found that worshiping in other faith communities and other traditions beside my own are helpful to me, so when I am away that is what I do. 


The church I went to was a relatively small Episcopal Church.  Before I had ever gotten into the door a kind man told me, “Good morning” and then after entering the door no fewer than three people told me, “Good morning,” or “Welcome.”  It was both nice but also a little startling.


The over-welcoming motif continued as immediately after that a person, who I am sure is well-meaning, insisted that I sign the guest registry.  I really do not like signing guest registries.  Ever.  Yet this man positioned himself between me, the registry and several other people standing around talking in such a way that I had no escape.  So I signed the book, thinking it was large enough to serve as the Lamb’s Book of Life.  I know they were trying to be nice; but they were trying just a little too hard. 


I found my seat in the worship center.  The service began right on time with the opening anthem and then proceeded through the usual pageantry of an Episcopal service.  Episcopal worship is so dignified and proper it automatically makes you sit up.  After some praying and kneeling the priest gave his homily which was interesting, but brief and in no way tied to Gospel reading he used a launching point it.  But everything he said was true, so that is good. 


Following the sermon there was a collection which amazed me because it seemed like everyone was putting money in.  Episcopalians must be faithful stewards.  The hard part of their collection was that they had a special offering they were ingathering today and they collected it at the same time as the regular giving, but they used a separate basket for that.  The effect was one had to negotiate the two baskets and apparently figure out which one to put your check(s) into.  That is way too many logarithms for me.


My favorite part was the Communion time.  Those who know me are aware that for me, the Lord’s Supper is one of the endearing and intensely meaningful parts of personal worship and consecration.  During that time at the altar, kneeling, several thoughts and emotions came over me.  First, I thought how different it was to be on the receiving end of worship ministry.  It is a humbling and unique place for me.  Second, I missed my church family back home.  Next week we are scheduled to have communion together and I was thinking of them.  But also, I was stirred in my spirit that through Christ Jesus, these Episcopalians who in many ways have different emphasis and doctrines than I affirm are still my brothers and sisters.  We are one.  When the acolyte bent over to give me the drink from the common cup, these were all swirling around inside my soul.  She must have seen it on my face because she smiled at me.  I think I needed that.


This weekend I got a great idea for a new book.  I thought about it all day as we drove off to Long Beach, Washington to spend some time for spring break.  But here is what I was thinking—a prayer book for everyday life—with written prayers for all kinds of everyday things and events.  One section of the prayer book would be “Prayers Before Eating Food” and under that there would be some collects, maybe some original material but also some familiar prayers everyone knows.  But then there would be sub-sections.  I’ve included some subsections and some sample prayers.

Prayers Before Eating Food Prepared at Home

Dear Lord, we affirm the ancient creed said by Dorothy from Kansas—there is no place like home.  Thank you for a wonderful home in which to eat our meal together.  As we eat today, may the warm love of friends and family burn brightly in our hearts.  Help us to speak peace around this table and to edify ourselves in you.  Bless the food, as it is a reminder of your provision and a faint hint of the bread and cup we partake of at church.  Amen.


Prayers Before Eating Food Prepared By Unskilled Hands

Dear Lord, Dad (fill in name here) cooked tonight.  Please help us all to have the courage to fake that this tastes good.  May whoever has to clean up the kitchen after his mess be blessed with solid, hard-working dish soap.  We love our dad (name), but open his/her eyes to the realization he/she can’t cook.  Amen.


Prayers Before Eating Food in a Restaurant

Dear Lord, the food has arrived and doesn’t look nearly as tasty as it did on the menu.  Please let it not taste as bad as it smells.  We give you thanks that so far the restaurant looks clean, but we’re still uncertain about our server.  May none of us get sick from what we are about to eat, and that the cook actually washed his/her hands before returning to work.  Amen.


Prayers Before Eating Food of Uncertain Provenance

We don’t know who made this food Lord.  It looks yummy, but as you have taught us looks can be deceiving.  We pray that it has been prepared by skilled hands with good intentions.  We ask that it be sanitary and meet all health department regulations for food prepared in our nation.  Amen.


Prayers Before Eating Food Outdoors—For a Picnic

Jesus, eating outside reminds us of the Children of Israel who ate manna from the ground and quail from the sky.  But they often grumbled about their meal, so we ask that our potato salad and fried chicken taste better than manna and quail.  We also pray that you see fit to keep the ants away, the bugs at a distance, and the birds from soiling our spread.  Thank you for this wonderful place to eat and for the many hands that made these dishes.  Amen.

Okay, that is about all I have time for here.  But I think I might include “Prayers Before Eating Food While Traveling,” and “Prayers Before Eating Food at Athletic Events.”   I wonder if I might not need a special category for pre-packaged food, something like, “Food Bought at the 7-11.”