"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . . ." - Psalm 23:5a
There is a restaurant in Pittsburgh called Conflict Kitchen. Every few months the place changes its entire menu, but it always serves the cuisine of a country with which the United States is in conflict.
As I write this, the food of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, is on offer. Diners can start with succotash, then move to cranberry and juniper braised venison, and wash it down with Okdeahgi', a root tea. They can also hear Haudenosaunee "perspectives on Indigenous sovereignty, economic and environmental conflict, and cultural erasure."
I've always heard the words of Psalm 23 as a comforting invitation to a familiar feast. But what if I am the enemy at the table?
I think of the confusion and self-consciousness of sitting down to a meal I don't know how to eat. My first time negotiating crawfish or tamales. The discomfort of eating with my hands on low stools at an Ethiopian restaurant. The embarrassment of chewing on an edamame pod for minutes until I realized I was only supposed to eat the beans.
Looking in on the table of my enemy, I may see God's grace received through dishes I cannot even pronounce. De-centering my own experience, I may recognize God's goodness and mercy served with utensils I don't know how to use.
And if I am lucky enough to be invited by my enemy to sit down at her table, and wise enough to humbly eat the food of her heart, what mystery may I learn about dwelling in God's house my whole life long?
Strange One, fill my cup with an unfamiliar grace. Show me your greatness, overflowing my bounds. Amen.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.