Contributed by Aleese Baldwin, Pastor at Shepherd of the Cross Lutheran
on behalf of the Muscatine Ministerial Association

There must be thousands of tables in the greater Muscatine area. Dining room tables. Conference tables. Altar tables. Collapsible card tables. Places where people gather together to work, play, and eat.
As often as possible, my husband and I eat dinner together. It’s our time to share about our days and grow in our relationship together. And there, having gathered around the same table time and time again, it’s nearly impossible to not care about each other after eating, talking, dreaming, crying, and laughing together. Tables unite us together in relationship, with our families, friends, and even with those who are different from us. Those tables might be a literal table with a slab of material and four legs. But those tables might also look like a gathering around a basketball court or a game on the floor.
Throughout our community, these kinds of tables exist all over. Tables that gather different people together for events at the library, local restaurants, schools, and neighborhoods. Places where people of varying backgrounds can come together to truly look at each other and begin to truly care about one other.
As we look to the presidential inauguration, some might suggest that the divisive political rhetoric of the election season has never stopped. Having heard about the transition from both the Obama and Trump administration, some citizens look forward to the upcoming presidency with great expectation while others remain apprehensive. But in the midst of seemingly continued divisive rhetoric, as a community we have an opportunity to be different. We have an opportunity to gather together around tables and to grow into the reality in which we truly care for those around us.
So what does all this have to do with violence? Everything, really. Because when we gather at these tables, there isn’t violence but community. There isn’t one who is the greatest but equal servants serving each other. So in this new year, find a table near you. Not sure where to look? Talk to a community or faith leader nearby. There are plenty around, and just about all of them have empty chairs waiting for another member. Come and see those around you in a new light: as people created to be in loving relationship with each other and with all creation.