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The Pastor’s Pen             November 18, 2015

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it…” Psalm 24:1

         Every family shares common recipes for this harvest season of Thanksgiving. Whether or not the food was actually eaten at the first Thanksgiving in New England, many of us wouldn’t dream of gathering with friends and relatives without partaking of turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade rolls and pumpkin pie. The year I tried to make a delicious cranberry relish created mutiny. My boys thought me a heretic when I tried to skip my special cranberry jelly with the little ridges in it. Little did they know it slid cleanly out of the can like that. The cherished “old family recipe” amounted to their working mother cutting corners to get the meal on the table. Now that they’re grown and know the truth, they still prefer it, passing it along to the generations that follow.

         When Jesus gathered with his disciples in their homes, the host would have shared one of several blessings that always began by asking permission to partake from God, the source of all of life. After ritual washing to come before the Lord with clean hands, the blessings were shared. There were different blessings for grains and fruit of the vine, for vegetables, wine and meat. As an act of humility, the vowels were left out of prayers to God, as if we humans do not have sufficient language nor authority to approach the Holy One directly.  If you were to ask Jesus, your Thanksgiving guest, to share the blessing for turkey at your feast of gratitude, he would say these words: Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, by Whose word all things came to be. Baruch atah A-donay, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam shehakol nihiyah bed'varo.

Grace After Meals in Jesus’ tradition consists to this day of four primary blessings -- the first composed by Moses when the manna came down from heaven in the desert, the second by Joshua when the Children of Israel ate from the first harvest after entering the Holy Land, the third by Kings David and Solomon, and the fourth by the Sages in mishnaic times. The full "Grace" is recited only after partaking of a meal that includes bread, and covers everything eaten during the meal.

At the conclusion of your Thanksgiving meal, you may want to include this prayer that Jesus would have said. It acknowledges God’s gifts from beginning to end:

 “Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, Creator of numerous living beings and their needs, for all the things You have created with which to sustain the soul of every living being. Blessed is He who is the Life of the worlds.”

We enter now this last week of harvest and gratitude before shifting to the days of Advent in a week to come. If ever we needed the Advent of God with us in the world, it is in such a time as this. But not yet. First gather with your friends and neighbors this Sunday and in the week to come to celebrate God’s feast of family, the feast of faith and the feast of life.

“Come, ye thankful people, come,

raise the song of harvest home;

all is safely gathered in,

ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide

for our wants to be supplied;

come to God's own temple, come,

raise the song of harvest home.”

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you and with your family.

Pastor Verlee