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To All My Relations: Indigenous Knowledge and the Lord’s Supper


As a server at an East Indian restaurant, it was highly entertaining to watch people eat super spicy food. My manager even told me to pass on a warning about our hottest dish, due to the fact that it was “East Indian hot” not “white man hot.” But that never seemed to deter people from trying it, especially guys on dates who tried to impress the girl with their supposed spicy food tolerances; it never worked. Beyond laughing at those red and sweaty faces came something I had not expected while serving at this family-owned restaurant: the result of being around a table of food.

Both in the customers I served and in us staff, there seemed to be an unseen forced commonality that enabled us to eat together. Perhaps it is in our shared humanity— everyone gets hungry, and over and over again, I saw how food brought even strangers together. My boss, the most amazing British-Indian lady I’ve ever met, focused on this togetherness-potential.

In her work, she brought together the elements of people, place, and story, which to me blew open all the meal scenes we come to read in the Bible. For example, I now feel the depth of Jesus eating with Zacchaeus because I have been a server for such moments.

After selling her restaurant building, she went on to host “pop-up” dinners throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia at various locations. In developing her chef skills, she came across the need to investigate how food interacted with story, people, and place. This is where I saw and learned something even more profound about the Lord’s Supper.

But I still didn’t have a way of bringing my experiences to words. I heard the stories of the vineyards and orchards, of the farmers whose produce I got to eat and drink. I felt the wind that breathed into the trees that give fruit so graciously as I stood barefoot among the gardens and lakes that centered life for the whole valley. I made new friends over perfect meals while falling more in love with the natural setting of the Okanagan. But I didn’t know how to articulate it in a meaningful way.

Then, like so many times before, I turned to Indigenous understanding and found the wisdom that finally connected my lived experiences in that beautiful place to my work as a server—and also, to my readings of the Lord’s Supper.

Indigenous peoples see the wide-ranging interconnectivity of life more than most. They use the phrase “to all my relations” as a reminder of the bonds we all have to those around us, to those that have come before us, to those yet to come, to creation and the Creator.

In the Lord’s Supper, we come to read a story of people in a place around food. Growing up, the focus I heard in sermons was on Jesus’s journey to the cross and service to others through the act of foot washing. Yet even from this wonderful understanding, one can see that Indigenous perspectives uncover more layers in this central moment of the Christian faith.

“To all my relations” shows us that Jesus’s actions point to different aspects of our interconnected reality. First is the relation to those around me. This is what foot washing is directly aimed at. From such a humbling act, we are reminded of our present daily duties to others. It is focused on building people up by submitting, like Jesus, to the role of servant. Ours cannot be a faith of power when our God washed muddy feet. When discords arise, healing must take place—healing of people and of community, toward the ultimate healing of the church.

Then, relational awareness brings us to reflect on those yet to come. Indigenous elders have guided their actions through the foresight of what kind of world we are making for the seven generations to come. So, what future is the Seventh-day Adventist Church making for its next seven generations? The Eucharist pushes us to imagine the future, working toward all those tomorrows rooted in hope. Sadly, such an orientation of the future can easily be overlooked in our Revelation seminars, which produce the all-too-common flavors of fear and pride.

Christ’s words “Do this in remembrance” pull us to contemplate the relations of those who have been. We honor the stories of the Bible, and of the land, not by printing them in books but by living them. How we understand our past shapes our present; how we identify ourselves from yesterday creates in us our self-worth today. In Canada, we’re undergoing a season of truth and reconciliation as we as a nation come to fully understand our history, so that the future may be healed. Nationally or personally, we remain in debt to those who have gone before us.

Food of unleavened bread and wine asks us what our relationship to creation truly is. Have we succumbed to the convenience of getting what we want, whenever we want it, at the cost of mother earth? Do we allow ourselves to be sedated to the cries of creation? Is global warming not bothering you yet? In applying “all my relations,” we cannot escape our role of caretakers of the living and relational world, much like how when I sat at those “pop-up” dinners in the vineyard where my food came from, I was unable to distance myself from the food’s story.

By the example set at the Lord’s Table, let us reexamine our connection to this earth. Through the wheat of bread and grapes of wine, let us recognize what has been passed down to us, both the good and bad. For in doing so, we become much more aware of our present and future relations. Then we become like Christ made real in our churches; we become whole as the Creator intended. And I will be forever grateful to the work done by my boss, and to the gracious teachings of Indigenous elders.


Kevin R. McCarty is an Adventist teacher and local church board member who lives, works, and worships on the unceded traditional territory of the T’exelcemc People of the Secwépemc Nation.

Title image: Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash and Rey Proenza on Unsplash

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