This article was originally published by The Mennonite

The kin-dom of mi abuelita

The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food. … This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.—Isaiah 25:6, 9

When the prophet talks about life with God, he describes a table with delicious food.

Salvation is a meal, an abundant feast, where people from everywhere eat and drink as they form relationships and deepen friendships. That’s what salvation looks like, Isaiah declares. God’s kingdom looks like chairs crowded around a table, plates and bowls piled with food.

arroz-con-polloWhen I was a kid and visited my grandmother, she always had a pot on the stove, cooking chicken for her arroz con pollo. I’d show up in the afternoon with my sister, and my grandma would offer us arroz con pollo. I’d show up in the evening with my cousins, and she would serve us arroz con pollo before we went out for the night. When I was at her house, more often than not someone would stop by, and she would insist that they sit down for a bowl of arroz con pollo.

“The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast”—when Isaiah describes salvation as a meal, I think of mi abuelita, my grandmother, who always had a pot on the stove, ready to add another guest at her table. If the kingdom is like a feast, and if the Lord is the host of that heavenly meal, then God is like mi abuelita with her arroz con pollo. God is like my grandmother, waiting for another visitor to pull up a chair at her table.

“Mi casa es su casa,” she would say. My house is your house.

Her table was a glimpse of “the kin-dom of God,” as the mujerista theologian Ada María Isasi-Díaz puts it. In her book En La Lucha, Isasi-Díaz describes la comunidad de fe as la familia de Dios, the community of faith as the family of God, where we are all kin, part of God’s “kin-dom.”

“For us Latinas,” Isasi-Díaz explains, “salvation refers to having a relationship with God, a relationship that does not exist if we do not love our neighbor.” God’s kin-dom looks like my grandmother’s house—a house where there is always room around the kitchen table for another neighbor, another stranger, another guest, as God expands our vision for who are our kin, for who belongs in the household, for who can be served a bowl of arroz con pollo.

Salvation looks like my grandmother’s table, where we learn how to belong to one another, where we learn how to love each other, where we can look around the Communion table and catch “eschatological glimpses, part of the unfolding of the kin-dom,” as Isasi-Díaz puts it. To be together as a church is the gift of salvation. To fellowship together is a glimpse of the kin-dom of God. To commune at the Lord’s Table is to live into Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food. … Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Salvation looks like a meal, an unending Communion feast, prepared by God for us, all of us.

When I teach seminary classes in prison, we always end the semester with a meal.

My students from Duke Divinity School bring the food: casseroles and collard greens, potato salad and fried chicken, pies and cupcakes, lemonade and sweet tea. The incarcerated students call it “the last supper.”

Around the table in the cinder-block classroom, we talk and laugh and eat. None of us wants the meal to end, because we know we won’t see each other again.

We want to hang onto our friendship, to dwell in the love flowing among us, God’s love—a taste of salvation, the ever-unfolding kin-dom of God.

“The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food,” Isaiah declared. “Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Every Easter my congregation celebrates Communion with a potluck meal.

If mi abuelita was in charge, she’d bring a steaming pot of arroz con pollo, enough for everyone, and she’d insist that you be there, too, even though she doesn’t know you, and I’m sure she’d figure out a way to get that prison warden to let my locked-up friends join us.

That’s the kind of meal promised by God.

To feast at that table would be to taste salvation—grandma’s arroz con pollo, my friends in prison, you and whoever you could persuade to join us.

Isaac Villegas is pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Menno­nite Fellowship and serves on the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA. This Grace & Truth column ran in the April 2015 issue.

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