By Luke Lingle
I must admit I feel like the least qualified person to discuss Missional Inclusion through the lens of Ethnicity. Who am I to think, as a white cis-gendered straight man, that I have anything to say? Do we need another white guy talking about inclusion? My prayer is that the audacity that is the gospel of Christ might give me something to say.
I like to use the metaphor of food when thinking about missional inclusion through the lens of ethnicity because missional inclusion cannot mean missional homogenization. We long to experience the spices, the flavors, the tastes of foods prepared by folks of different ethnicities, not because we want to make them our own or co-opt them, but rather because we are better as a community with all the flavors. The table is important because we all eat. We are metabolic organisms who need food to survive, no matter what our ethnicity might be. Additionally, food is a way to experience inclusion. To sit at a table is to be included, to eat food prepared by the hands of a host or neighbor is to be included in the life, history, and future of a person’s story.
When I think about why I am still a pastor the image that comes to my mind over and over is the image of a table. Christ’s table is a table that is always getting longer—we are always looking for the table extensions, another chair. We are trying to find ways to include more people around the table. This inclusion is not our inclusion but Christ’s inclusion: Jesus sets a table for all people and no matter where we are from, what we look like, what language we speak, or what we believe, Christ’s table is for all people.
At this point some of you will say, decent thoughts, duh, we know that the diversity of the Spirit working through individuals is, in fact, the beauty of the body of Christ, but is there anything you are going to say that makes this decidedly missional?
What if missional inclusion through the lens of ethnicity is shaped by awareness. It is the inclusion of our differences that affords us the opportunity to actually create tables where all are included. Furthermore, inclusion is not necessarily always inviting folks different than ourselves to the table we are creating, inclusion is sometimes asking humbly to be included at the table of folks who are different from us. What if missional inclusion through the lens of ethnicity is about paying attention and honoring the gifts of folks from a different ethnicity? And what if missional inclusion begins when we sit around a table together, sometimes the host, sometimes the hosted, recognizing that we help set a table that Christ established, and that Christ is the ultimate host?
This is a hard topic and idea. I feel like it shouldn’t be, but I know that it is. We are not inclusive of each other the way I think Christ longs for us to be, but maybe we can start with a simple meal around a table. Is there someone you could invite to sit around table with you? Could you listen intently to the stories that are told and honor the life of those that you eat with? When someone asks you to eat with them will you say yes? May we participate in the table that is open to everyone, no matter what, without exception.