A prayer for clearing away and washing up
Genesis 18: 1-14 (NRSVA)
1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9 They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10 Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ 13 The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’
One of the most embarrassing moments of my life came at the end of a Mess Dinner on board HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. Senior officers were present, as was a small team from a television programme. The Wardroom was full. Suddenly, the Mess President struck his gavel and said “Lieutenant Macdonald [that was me], grace!” Now, usually we get told ahead of time if we are to say grace either at the start or end of the meal; not this time. I froze. I had no idea what to say. My usual stand-by of the Selkirk Grace does not work after dinner! I was panicking. Then, without me realising it, out of my mouth came my thoughts, “On my god, this is awful!”. A short pause ensued before someone said “AMEN”, after which there was much laughter and applause.
Grace after meals is not something I have come across much outwith formal military dinners (thank goodness!). But maybe it should be. Maybe we should give thanks after a meal, perhaps as we are clearing up, for all that has been experienced during that time of sharing together or alone.
Eternal God, our Alpha and Omega,
thank you for the meal just past.
Thank you for all who enabled the various ingredients to come to this place:
growers and harvesters,
processors and sellers,
buyers and deliverers.
Thank you for the skill and thought that went into forming the meal.
Thank you for those who shared it with me,
or the silent reflection I was able to enjoy.
Thank you for the knowledge that I will eat again,
before we eat with the whole company of heaven in life eternal,
alongside Christ our Welcoming Host, AMEN.