What if the table unites us?

The kingdom of God is a table— a global and eternal potluck, bountiful, pressed down, and overflowing with all the goodness of comfort food from a billion cultures, all prepared with scarred and loving hands. The compelling aroma of home wafts down hard streets and draws us in— spiced steam from our favorite dishes awakening our senses with the promise that we are nearing the place where our bodies will be nourished, and our hunger satisfied. Even more so, even as our hands reach out to embrace the table’s first offerings, our souls reach out also— knowing that, as our bodies sink into smooth chairs or well-worn cushions or warm sand, that it too will be restored in this space of infinite welcome and good-hearted conversation.

All human bodies enter the world eating and drinking—simultaneously craving and grasping for physical sustenance and the simple and profound knowledge that we are safe in the arms that hold us—and with the hands that feed us. There is a sacred and earthly vulnerability in the awareness that all bodies are created to experience need. At our best, this vulnerability brings us together. At our worst, the fear that drives our desire to protect our portion of power or resources or perceived dignity, drives us apart.

John Paul Lederach, a pioneer in conflict transformation, observes,

It is as if, when a space is created that incites the broader use of sensuous faculties, people become more human. It is also why, in many instances, some negotiators refuse and even fear the space of eating, preferring the formality of a process that protects interests in the negotiating agreements, processes that are reduced almost exclusively to the senses that interact with the written or spoken word (Lederach 110).

Last October, a recording was leaked from a Los Angeles city council meeting of four members of the council (now former President Nury Martinez in particular) using some particularly egregious racial slurs against another council member’s Black son and other BIPOC constituents (Staff). Community backlash was passionate and swift, prompting a different kind of discussion about racism— Who do historically resilient communities—all with unique histories and struggles and relationships with one another, the land, and a white, colonial government—choose to be as the nation draws closer to a non-majority culture society? And… will BIPOC communities choose to be that way together?

The rage of BIPOC pastors and community leaders who have worked diligently for years in Los Angeles to build tables across cultural lines is both encouraging and humbling. The betrayal of government officials matters deeply to this group because relational work is usually slow and vulnerable work. However, because their work is rooted in relationship, it also has higher potential for recovery and sustainability. The question is, now that the damage has been done, will they have the humility and courage to lay aside the swords of division so carefully installed in racialized colonial government systems, and return to the relationality of the table? For cultures that are so rooted in hospitality practice, I believe that there is hope that exceeds the expectation of white divisionary politics. The table unifies.

For centuries white folks in America have had little to belong to other than whiteness. We forsook the hearths of our origin and set up walls and barriers and divisions; we destroyed homes and massacred families and swallowed land and tore skin to protect the fragile illusion of white supremacy. White supremacy culture has difficulty understanding the nature of genuine hospitable welcome because, for 400 years, we have hidden a gun under the table or proudly displayed our terror above the door—and anyone who has accepted and/or embraced the culture is bound to its relentless hunger and diabolical fatigue.

My faith compels me to ask, what if the “tie that binds,” the force that unites, the Spirit that draws us is that which has been from the beginning—an invitation to the Table?

By Naphtali Renshaw


Lederach, John Paul. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Panel. Addressing anti-Blackness in Latino Communities Tiffany Cross. 15 October 2022. <https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/addressing-anti-blackness-in-latino-communities/vi-AA1305Xp>.

Staff, LA Times. “Inside the room: The entire L.A. City Council racist audio leak, annotated by our experts.” 21 November 2022. Los Angeles Times. 13 January 2023. <https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-21/la-city-council-racist-audio-leak-transcription-annotation>.

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