Editor’s note: We are sharing the following transcript from the Progressive Asian American Christian 2019 Conference’s Sunday morning plenary session. We are delighted that we are able to share this message from Rev. Cisa Payuyo with our Diverging and PAAC communities.
Good morning siblings in Christ!
I want to thank Pastor Sam for this opportunity to share with you all. And I want to thank Liz and Lydia and all who’ve made this PAAC conference an amazing experience of radical hospitality. I thank everyone who is here today to make this weekend and this morning a blessed time together.
I bring you greetings from Chapman University, the Fish Interfaith Center and the Office of Church Relations where I am the Associate Director of Church Relations. I’ve been there for sixteen years this coming August. I get to take care of amazing young adult Christians and get to mentor their path to being effective church leaders, and I’ve just enjoyed doing that.
I bring you greetings from my home church, All People’s Christian Church Disciples of Christ and my pastor Rob Blair, a church where its name “All Peoples” truly means “all means all.” It is my joy to be part of First Progressive Church of Los Angeles with Pastor Eula and Pastor Sam.
I bring greetings from my tribo, Donovan, Nicholas, and Nina, who think their mom is cool, and I think that my kids are amazing, fierce, dragon kids. Mother of Dragons, yes [laughter]. I bring greetings from my beloved spouse of twenty one years, Ed. I bring greetings from our puppy, Mo.
Siblings in Christ, we have learned and experienced so much this weekend that I want us to savor the sacred space and sacred time for a few minutes more. So will you pray with me?
God, we just thank you so much for this opportunity to be together as siblings, to be together as lovers of you, as lovers of each other. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be a joy and a delight unto you. My rock and my redeemer, amen.
So our theme is caring for our community, and I was looking at our theme and I was so excited to read caring of our community. [Reading:] How do we care for the most vulnerable among us? How do we take care of ourselves in the midst of complicated family and church relationships? We’ll have progressive worship, learn from PAAC experts, hear the stories of LGBTQIA+ family, lift the voices of unheard and oppressed, celebrate our unique identities as progressives, Asian Americans, Christians/post-Christian/Christ-exploring people, laugh and cry and eat lots of good Asian food together.
We did that. Amen and amen!
I want to take a look at just this weekend, it’s really more of a reflection of this weekend than a sermon, but let’s go into it.
How do we care for the most vulnerable among us? Well, if you’ll indulge me, I can read my notes that I took this weekend. Some are quotes and some are paraphrased:
“We are not fractured but multiplied.”
“We are people living in the diaspora, we create new relationships, we need to build community.”
“Pro-tip: do not use normative language. Present preferred* pronouns and be mindful of our words instead of normal, use ‘common’ and ‘shared experience’ instead.”
D told us to make room in your families for those who don’t have families, and that really opened my heart.
I went to ask a PAACstor, and Pastor Tuhina intrigued us about being religiously promiscuous. Being a person who is continuously redefining faithfulness.
She told us to remember what are our nonnegotiables. I’m like, Yeah. In looking for a church, in looking for a community, what are the things we will hold fast to? Cause there’s never gonna be a perfect church out there. But we need to know what will we take in our heart and what will be able to be in community with.
“As a pastor of color, it is not my job to absolve white folk.”
Protest theology – We’re supposed to stay angry. Holy righteousness is good but don’t idolize anger. Joy is resistance. Resistance is joy. Claiming radical joy is a movement of resistance. It’s a measure of resilience. We are made for joy, not suffering.
“Defending gender identity has brought me closer to God.” Amen.
“Make friends with anger, cultivate anger.”
Lunchtime was great. So was dinner! [Laughter] Looking around the room and I was sitting with Christine, who I made friend with, and we said there are such rich layers in this room. Of what we see and what we don’t see. What a blessing it is to be together with each other in all these multiple, multiple layers.
There’s still a lot of work to do within the Asian community. We can’t overestimate the damage colonialism has done to all of us, but we live here and we live now.
You are our community.
And then I wrote, “Unicorns unite!”
And my unicorn is not the pretty, pink or white unicorn. It looks like a water buffalo with a big big horn. And I hear there is such a thing as a Siberian unicorn. Look it up! [Click here to read about Elasmotherium Sibericum] I don’t know if it’s photoshopped, but that’s my unicorn.
So how do we take care of the most vulnerable among us? We find it in the Scripture today, allow me to deconstruct it.
For I was hungry — for community, for touch, for solidarity, and you gave me food. You gave me lots of food. You fed my soul, you raised my spirits.
I was thirsty — for knowledge, for understanding, for compassion, and you gave me something to drink. You shared with me your stories about your life, your joys, your struggles, your resources, your hospitality, about where you experienced a God who quenches your thirst at this time.
I was a stranger — I was queer, straight, nonbinary, South Asian, Pacific Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, and as Ali Wong would say, fancy Asian and jungle Asian. Multiracial, different abled, and you welcomed me with open arms of hugs. You laughed with me and cried with me.
I was naked — in my vulnerability, in my fear, in my doubt that I was not good enough to be with you, and you gave me clothing. You covered me with God’s grace and mercy, and I knew you had my back.
I was sick — with dis-ease of body, mind, and spirit, and you took care of me. You held my hand, you honored my stories, you affirmed I was wonderfully, knowingly and lovingly made.
Our hearts, our souls, our ears made room to the experiences of each others’ tears, to hear each other’s laughter, to feel each other’s fears.
I was in prison — in isolation, thinking there was no one out there like me, and you visited me. You shined your light, you became my friend on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter [laughter], and you followed me. You looked me in the eye and said, I am here. I am present with you.
And the righteous will answer him saying Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink, and when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing. And when was it that we saw you sick or imprisoned and visited you.
And the king will answer truly, truly, just as you did this for one of the least of these, you are doing it to members of my family. You did it to me.
You did it to me.
Siblings in Christ, we have lived out the scripture in its fullness, Amen? [Amen!]
How do we take care of ourselves in the midst of complicated family and church relationships? That was the other question that was posed for this conference.
And again, looking at my notes, Mickey taught us that self care is important. Donuts are the bomb. Liz Lin thinks that brioche are pretty. And being in prayer, however you practice your spirituality, being present for yourself, that’s self-care.
How do we take care of ourselves?
One way is by doing our best to take care of each other. Matthew 7:12 says in everything you do to others, do as you would have them do to you for this is the law of the prophets.
We take care of each other as we want to be treated.
Felipe Mendoza de Leon was a professor of the University of the Philippines and former director of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines spoke at a babaylan conference a few years back
Babaylan as Michael Campos said last night is the indigenous faith healer, faith leader in the Philippines before Spanish colonization. He taught us at this conference about the Filipino core value, and this is it, listen:
“Treat the other person as you treat yourself because the other person is yourself.”
Treat the other person as you treat yourself because the other person is yourself.
The word that expresses this in Filipino is kapwa. Can you say that with me? Kapwa. It means share inner reality. Share inner identity. The other person is also yourself. It’s a shared goodness, it’s a shared divinity.
The core of Filipino psychology. It is humanness at its highest level. It implies unique moral obligation to treat one another as equal. Treating yourself as equal. So for Filipinos, taking care of each other as we would take care of ourselves is both self and group care.
John 13:34-35 says I give you a new commandment that you love one another just as I loved you. You also should love one another.
So in the midst of complicated family and church relations, know that your God given, God known, God loved core is sacred to you. And no one can take that away from you.
Honor the sacredness of yourself. Honor of the sacredness of others. Even when it means walking away and doing no harm.
Let us continue to take care of our beloved community. Let us continue to take care for each other as Jesus taught us. Let us take care as we use our indigenous core values and live them.
May it be so.
* Ed. note — Many of our trans and non-binary siblings have asked us to simply use “pronouns” rather than “preferred pronouns.”