"Kumain ka na ba?”—Have you eaten yet? (Tagalog) This beautiful phrase of welcome and care and intimacy evokes and offers more than just the pleasure and nourishment of a meal. It calls out to the hunger, the thirst, and the need for love that we can greet in one another. David de Leon joins Matt Croasmun for a discussion of hospitality and solidarity and justice, applying the parable of the Great Banquet to cultures of inhospitality, and especially to the context of the increased targeting, discrimination, marginalization, and violence against the Asian American community over the past year.
Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. Visit us online at faith.yale.edu.
David de Leon: I think it can be really easy to believe that joy and justice, or even our grief–that expressing that comes at the expense of other people, that there isn't enough space for all of our joy to be together. For some reason, I think we have learned in our various communities that what is a gain for one can sometimes be a loss for others. And I think sometimes that's true, but I think about the dynamics in the family of God as being entirely generative and like a party that has enough stuff for everyone, that has enough food for everyone, that has enough drink, that has enough seats for everyone. And I'll admit that in the hopelessness of these cycles of violence, it can be easy to believe that even in our most well-meaning pursuits of justice, that they inevitably come at somebody else's cost. And so I think life together in the family of God, at the banquet of God is a denial of that lie. It's a rejection of that lie. It's a radical conviction that God has enough for us all.
Evan Rosa: This is For the Life of the World, a podcast about seeking and living a life worthy of our humanity. I'm Evan Rosa with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.
"Kumain ka na ba?" Have you eaten yet? This beautiful phrase of welcome and care and intimacy evokes and offers more than just the pleasure and nourishment of a meal. It calls out to the hunger, the thirst, the need for love that we can greet in one another. David de Leon is a graduating Master of Divinity candidate at Yale Divinity School, and is an incoming PhD student studying systematic theology at Fordham University. He's a child of Pilipino immigrants and was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for the last 12 years has worked in college campus ministry, leading Pilipino American focused ministries, and working to mobilize Asian Americans to pursue racial justice.
Today, he joins Matt Croasmun for a discussion of hospitality and solidarity and justice, applying the parable of the Great Banquet and Jesus' teachings on humility and hospitality to cultures of inhospitality, especially with the context of the increased targeting, discrimination, marginalization, and violence against the Asian American community over the past year. For David de Leon, "Kumain ka na ba?”–have you eaten yet–is the lavish invitation of Christ to a banquet that sustains our weary, divided and broken and lonely selves. Thanks for listening.
Matt Croasmun: I'm Matt Croasmun from the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. After the March shooting of eight people–six Asian American women in Atlanta–I found myself returning to a sermon that I had heard preached in the Yale Divinity School Chapel a few weeks before the shootings. It was a powerful talk that weave together profound engagement with Scripture on the themes of hospitality and inhospitality, together with the history and present-day experience of hospitality and inhospitality experienced by Asian Americans in the United States. And we're excited to bring that sermon to you today. And I'm excited to be joined by the preacher, David de Leon.
David de Leon: David,
Matt Croasmun: welcome.
David de Leon: Thanks for having me, Matt.
Matt Croasmun: Can you set the table for us? What was the setting for this talk?
David de Leon: Yes. So it's typically a senior tradition to be able to preach a senior sermon at Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School. And so this was my opportunity to preach. Being pandemic, it was over zoom. And so friends from all over the country got to hop in–my family back in California. And it was also in the middle of Lent.
In February, it became really clear that Asian American violence was increasing and in particular violence against Asian American elders. And there were news reports coming from all over the country. And I wanted to use the opportunity to preach in the chapel, to be able to engage this particular type of violence toward Asian Americans. And at a place like Yale Divinity School, where there historically have not been a ton of Asian Americans, the Asian American experience gets very little treatment or examination at school. And so this was both an opportunity to engage with what was going on with my emotions, my heart, but also to bring some visibility to the current situation for Asian Americans and how that's dramatically changed in the age of the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt Croasmun: So can you tell me a little bit about your history with this text that you take up. I gathered this wasn't your first time thinking about these themes together with this text in Luke.
David de Leon: I'm preaching out of Luke 14 and the parable of the Great Banquet. And it's a passage that I've gotten to sit in a lot for the last six months. I've preached at another online conference about it. It's a way that I think about what ministry can and should be like. And I love the themes of hospitality that come through it. And so the theme that I thought about in light of the current pandemic, in light of the things that matter to me, is this idea of "have you eaten yet." Or in Tagalog, the word is "Kumain ka na ba?” And that's sort of a refrain that I use throughout the whole passage. And yeah, I really wanted to use the text as a way to engage things that are happening today, and the ways that we experienced hospitality and inhospitality in our world.
Matt Croasmun: David, I think I told you the day that you preached it. It felt like you had set a rich banquet and a rich a table sharing generously of your own experiences and inviting us to come and share with you. So thank you for that, and excited to share that banquet with our audience here. So we'll take a listen together.
David de Leon: "Kumain ka na ba?” "Kumain ka na ba?” As a child of Pilipino immigrants, it's a phrase that I heard growing up, both as a greeting and an invitation. Something my mom still says to me anytime I go home. "Kumain ka na ba?” Have you eaten yet? It's what your uncle or your auntie says when you show up at a family party fashionably late, as they shove a plate of food into your hands before you even had a chance to sit down. Have you eaten yet?
I'm not alone when I say that I miss hosting people. I miss cooking for them. I miss enjoying drinks and meals together, sharing the same air. Probably now more than ever, we're aware of how deep we need each other–our physical presence, our touch, our smells, our warmth, our longings to extend and receive hospitality from one another.
In our scripture today, we find Jesus at a party. And Jesus doing what he does best makes it real awkward. He calls out the guests who try to one up each other, the folks who are trying to take up space in the places of honor. He even calls out the party planner saying that he got his invitations wrong and he gives this piece of unsolicited advice: "Don't invite people to your parties who can pay you back. Invite the people who never get invitations. Then you'll have it good."
And so into the awkwardness of this moment, another party guest comes and tries to break the tension. And they exclaim, "It's going to be so good for the people who get to eat the food in the kingdom of God!" Perhaps assuming that he was included in this statement. Jesus responds to this pedestrian observation with a parable. It's the story of a guy who throws a party but no one shows up. And what's supposed to shock the hearers of this story at this actual party, and those who hear this text today is that those who initially said "yeah, I'll come" all backed out, and didn't get to enjoy the great banquet at all.
In anger and probably deep sadness, this guy throws the party anyway, making sure that the feast is not wasted. And so he opens it up to everyone, especially those who did not get the first invite. The people in town who never get invitations: the overlook, the ostracized, those who live on the margins. If I had to sum up the points Jesus is making here, it's this: blessed are those who invite lavishly into the banquet of God, and blessed are those who say "yes" to this invitation. Another way to put it is you have it good when you extend hospitality to those who often experience inhospitality. And you have it good when you say "yes" to the hospitality of God.
"Kumain ka na ba?” Have you eaten yet? It's not hard to spot inhospitality in our world today. In the parable, jesus names the poor and the differently abled as those who experienced the brunt of inhospitality. These realities are still with us. If anything, the pandemic has exposed how inhospitable, even sheltering-in-place at home has been, for those in our communities who lack financial security. We still overlook to this day the opportunities to generously accommodate for our differently abled siblings, and as a result, perpetuate a culture of inhospitality.
We see inhospitality quite literally in climate change as our planet warms because of our collective failure to care for creation. Inhospitality exists in the ever-present forces of white supremacy, of patriarchy, of greed–all the evils that create a world that is increasingly hostile, especially if you are not white or male or wealthy or cis-gender or straight or able-bodied or educated.
The racial justice uprisings of this past year remind us that this country still remains inhospitable to black and brown lives. This inhospitality is baked into law enforcement, the justice system, education, public health, housing policies. It's an inhospitality that's been built on the displacement and genocide of our indigenous siblings. To bring it a little closer to home for me, since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian Americans and–most egregious–Asian American elders have experienced an increase in racial violence. 92-year-old being shoved into the pavement killed; and uncle's face getting slashed on the subway; aunties getting spat on and robbed–taunted, being called China virus.
This is part of the long legacy of inhospitality that this country has always had toward Asian people. It's a reality of inhospitality that this country has attempted to cover up with the cheap paint that is the myth of the model minority. Even our very bodies, they're histories of inhospitality. 11 days from today is March 16th, and it marks 500 years since Ferdinand Magellan, sailing for Spain, landed on the shores of the archipelago, now known as the Philippines. I'm going to take a breath real quick, friends.
For 300 years of colonialism that followed left its inhospitable mark on the peoples and tribes and lands of the Philippines. Even those of us in the diaspora bear this inhospitality today. It rears its head in our internalized hatred and the loss of memory and story, the separation of our families, and then the incomprehension of our heart languages. For some of us, the inhospitality we may feel might be right here at school. The pressure to present yourself in ways that display your competence, your control, the need to check their whole self at the waiting room of your zoom calls, leaving pieces of yourself off the pages of the papers you write, the prayers that you pray, the conversations that you have in order to be heard or be taken seriously. For some of us, this inhospitality is much more intimate. We experienced inhospitality in our communities of faith or the religious traditions to which we belong. Maybe some of us even experience inhospitality within our own families.
And friends, it is into this reality of inhospitality that Jesus asks us, "Kumain ka na ba?” Have you eaten yet? Jesus invites us to feast with him at his lavish banquet table. I'm thinking Hook Neverland food-fight banquet table. I'm thinking of the feast at our family reunions banquet table, the food that fills our souls, the food that tastes like home. At this feast, there is space for all of our grief and all of our pain. There is space for our disappointments and the messy parts of our stories. At this table, Jesus beckons us to trust that justice is not scarce, that healing is not in short supply, but that God's abundance is for the wholeness of us all. There's room for all of our joy at this banquet.
In this season of Lent, as we await the end of this pandemic, the feast that Jesus invites us to might look different for each of us. Perhaps Jesus is inviting us to partake in the feast of rest, to put down our good work, not in resignation, but in trust that God will strengthen us and restore us for the journey ahead. Maybe Jesus is inviting us to partake in the feast of vulnerability and community to entrust our imperfections and limitations to one another. Can we choose into the feast of asking our siblings for help and acknowledging that we cannot do everything by ourselves and receive the hospitality of God this way?
Last of all, perhaps Jesus is inviting us to embody his radical hospitality to others. How might we allow the Spirit to help us meet people amidst the inhospitality that they experience? Maybe in this era of pandemic, it's going to have to look different. But if there was anytime more than ever for us to be creative with how we extend hospitality to people through our resources, our time or advocacy, or even attentiveness, now is the moment.
Friends, family, blessed are those who invite lavishly into the banquet of God. And blessed are those who say "yes" to this invitation. These two invitations are inseparable. As we take communion together today, may we hear the generous, lavish invitation of Jesus who invites us to feast with him and each other at the banquet he has prepared.
"Kumain ka na ba?” Have you eaten yet? Let's eat.
Matt Croasmun: Food that tastes like home. I love that phrase. This talk itself was food that's so clearly came from your home and so clearly helped us all catch a glimpse of what it will mean to be at home with one another on that day, and at the same time, also just how expansive home can be on the way with Jesus. What is that food that tastes like home for you, David? Literal, figurative, what are those ways that feel at home that you've seen Jesus used to help others feel at home in the communities that he's knit you into?
David de Leon: So food that tastes like home. I think about this dish that my mom made growing up called giniling. And it's a dish that's found throughout the Philippines, but it's basically like a ground meat, either pork or beef, like stir fry with vegetables, soy sauce, and lemon. And it's just one of those dishes that when I'm eating it, I'm instantly transported back to being a kid. It was definitely like my favorite dish growing up. It's still the thing that when I'm at home, like back in California these days, that my mom can make and know that this is a welcome back. She can make it and I will know that I am home, that it feels like home, that I never left home.
I think there's something about the deep vulnerability of inviting somebody into something that feels very ordinary for you, but it's very comfortable, and then having people enjoy that thing with you. I'm reminded of this Netflix series by David Chang called Ugly Delicious. And the whole series is about this food. It's about foods that aren't sexy, like foods that are just like ugly home cooked food, but it's like the food that nourishes your soul. And so I think about the dish that I mentioned as that.
But I also think about what it means to be at home with one another is inviting other people into what seemed like the most unglamorous parts of yourself. And then I think taking the risk of giving that to somebody to be enjoyed together. And so there's some deep vulnerability in that kind of sharing of life. The thing about Pilipino food, like I'm Pilipino. The thing about Pilipino food is it's taken a long time for people to figure out how to like make it pretty and like presentable to other people. And so there are some really cool, like second generation, third generation chefs who are doing that right now. But there's something about just being able to give people the food as is, and inviting people who've never had an experience with it, with that kind of hospitality and to have that person receive that, to enjoy together. Does that make sense?
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, that's powerful because it seems like the idea of home itself has something to do with that, like a home cooked meal doesn't have to be about presentation. It just is what it is and it's comfortable precisely for it not. And it's richer for it not having to be showy. And so to be at home with others is maybe to be able to be in that space where it is what it is, but it's loved so much more just for it being not impressive.
In so much of our lives these days, we're constantly managing our image and the impression that we're making–all those sorts of things. And home is that place where you don't have to do that.
David de Leon: You wouldn't take an Instagram top-down food shot of that necessarily just because it doesn't look like that.
Matt Croasmun: My wife is a Korean American. I think about her favorite Korean food, which is actually a Chinese-Korean food–jajangmyeon. It is like the least photogenic food. It's just like a bowl of noodles with a brown sauce. But that is home for her.
David de Leon: Yeah. I think there's a way that food reminds you of being nourished, reminds you of feeling comfortable and safe in the really healthy sense of that word, where it is your mom or your auntie or your uncle lavishing you with delicious food. And there's something about food that tastes like home, that points to a sort of belonging, that points to a sort of relational security, where the bond of family is what makes this food feel really tasty. Even when you eat it when you're not with your family, you're reminded of your family, and you're reminded of memories and you're reminded of parties and other times that you've gotten to share and celebrate, or even mourn something that's happened together. So I think food, as has been reflected over and over again, it transports you to a certain place.
Matt Croasmun: One of the thin ways that food has been trotted out in these sorts of outmoded modes of multiculturalism is precisely this: you have your Pilipino dish; my wife has her jajangmyeon; I have my Swedish pancakes that I'll be making for dinner tonight–breakfast for dinner. There's something powerful in that, "Oh, we all bring something to the table!" But there's something almost dishonest about the ways that can pretend that there aren't inequalities or power dynamics at work. And yet in the sermon, you dive it straight in, and you follow Jesus in on this where he's naming specifically there are power dynamics that show up at the table too. And there are histories of inclusion and exclusion that we perform when we gather around the table.
The stories that you share. They're so powerful in telling pieces of history that as Americans, we don't like to tell. As I said, you shared that actually before these shootings happened in Atlanta. How do you think differently about this talk, this side of the Atlanta shootings?
David de Leon: I think one of the initial things that comes to mind is just how gendered even racial violence can be and the particular type of trauma that was revisited by a lot of Asian-American women who have experienced all sorts of trauma, fetishization, even outright sexual assault or assault itself. Even if you look at what the statistics of hate crimes against Asian Americans have been like in this season, it is overwhelmingly Asian American women who experienced this. And I think there's a sort of hidden reality that was exposed that I'm often unaware of because of my male privilege, for example. And I think that's one of the ways that even though I share in some of the inhospitality that this country doles out toward Asian Americans, there's a particular type of inhospitality that Asian American women experience, even from men in their very own community. And so it felt just a further unfolding and revelation of just how deep the inhospitality goes.
Matt Croasmun: There was something for me when those shootings happened. Thinking back on your sermon, there was a real sense of shame and disappointment in the White American community, and in the sort of majority culture community in the U S that yours, of course, is not the only voice saying for a year, "Hey, we need to be taking note of violence that's been directed against the Asian American community, and of course, to do the work of understanding how that violence connects to a long history of how Asian Americans have been treated in this country." And it just seemed like yet another moment where we're not woken up until there's loss of life.
And that is a deep shame and that should bring something productive about shame. It might be there in the "racial reckoning"–that's become the name for it of what was happening in 2020. The slogan was Black Lives Matter, and that has been asked more than once, whether in fact, the sort of cycles that we seem to go through, especially that white folk go through in paying attention or not paying attention, actually more shows that apparently, we're eventually willing to concede that black deaths matter but it takes deaths. And that was deeply disappointing to see that unfolding with the Asian American community. Deeply disappointing is an understatement.
And yet when I thought back on your sermon, I thought here's an affirmation of life. This is what you've offered us. It is not just a "hey, pay attention to our pain." Though surely at least that. But also a sort of a picture of life together invited to a table by Jesus who invites all of us in the real messy, particular, historical natures of our histories and our place. I just wonder if you could share a little bit about what is that picture of life? And what would it mean for us to affirm that one another's lives mattered in our shared life, for our shared life together to be our orienting hope and dream, as opposed to just the quite proper anger that we might experience in response to death? Something helpful to me I heard in your sermon is that you're holding out a beautiful picture of life that we can chase after and might help white folk like me get out of the pattern of waiting for a loss of life to spur us to action and concern and engagement.
David de Leon: I think one of the hardest things to hold onto in this season, especially right now as we talk in light of the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict, in light of the Adam Toledo killing, in light of Daunte Wright, Ma'Khia Bryant and how much more life has been lost since the Atlanta shooting itself–I think it can be really easy to believe that joy and justice, or even our grief–that expressing that comes at the expense of other people, that there isn't enough space for all of our joy to be together. For some reason, I think we have learned in our various communities that what is a gain for one can sometimes be a loss for others. And I think sometimes that's true. But I think about the dynamics in the family of God as being entirely generative and like a party that has enough stuff for everyone, that has enough food for everyone, that has enough drink, that has enough seats for everyone.
And I'll admit that in the hopelessness of these cycles of violence, it can be easy to believe that even in our most well-meaning pursuits of justice, that they inevitably come at somebody else's cost. And so I think life together in the family of God, at the banquet of God, is a denial of that lie. It's a rejection of that lie. It's a radical conviction that God has enough life for us all.
Matt Croasmun: David, yeah, you're drawing us back to this sort of core theme of the sermon where you say blessed are those who invite lavishly into the banquet of God and blessed are those who say "yes" to this invitation. Because there's this abundance in the banquet, we can be lavish with our invitation. What does that invitation look like? How does it remain generous and become able to make space for the other to truly join us at the table as fully themselves?
David de Leon: The ways that my particularly really close black friends in my community extended hospitality to me in my family in the days after the Atlanta shooting is a real embodiment of that. It isn't America as a whole decided–it's not like law enforcement decided "oh, we're going to think differently about how we see black people" before my friends checked in on us, before people brought us food and meals and texted us words of encouragement, checking in, etc.
I think there's a way that the scarcity of longing for racial justice in our country can press us to withhold the hospitality that we extend to others when they're hurting, when we ourselves are hurting. And I've seen people reach out even while they are hurting, to extend hospitality for another hurting people. For me, I think that's been a really tangible way that I myself have received that sort of hospitality from other people.
So I think upon receiving this particular type of hospitality, which was really lavish from particularly my black friends, I think my initial thought was, "do I deserve this?" And I was really struck by how quickly I had turned this hospitality into some sort of transactional thing in my mind where I'm receiving this because clearly, I needed to have done this for you, or the next time something bad happens, like I need to... And so while there's something healthy about healthy reciprocity, I think what Jesus invites us into is actually something beyond obligation. It is a sort of love that is generative, that isn't just dutiful, but it actually invites us to take more risks of hospitality as we move forward in our bound together, like even more.
Matt Croasmun: David, that's so helpful. And I think for me, it's rescuing a biblical image from a sort of individualization that church cultures that I've been a part of are inclined to perpetrate. It's turning, for example, this passage in Luke 14 into a question like: are you going to say yes or are you going to make an excuse? Are you going to come to the banquet? Are you going to turn away? And that's not an unimportant question. We should wrestle with that. But what you've done is you've recaptured for me the richness of what's on offer, which is not just an invitation from Jesus to eat at his table, but an invitation from Jesus to eat at his table with those whom he gathers there and to experience a sort of belonging and mutuality, and at-homeness with the folks around that table. It's a beautiful picture. Thank you for offering it to us, extending it to us for speaking so candidly about your own experience and your own history in that invitation. And thanks for having this conversation today.
David de Leon: Thanks so much for him.
Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School. This episode featured David de Leon and Matt Croasmun, production assistance by Martin Chan and Nathan Jowers. I'm Evan Rosa and I edited and produced the show. For more information, visit us online at faith.yale.edu. New episodes drop every Saturday with the occasional midweek. If you're new to the show, so glad that you found us. Remember to hit subscribe so you don't miss any episodes.
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