Weaving Life Together
By Bishop Hee-Soo Jung*
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.… Be at peace among yourselves.… See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 13b, 15-18
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung at the opening worship. PHOTO CINDY MACK
We are in the holy season of Easter Spirit! The Easter invitation from Jesus is life: the mystical life, the life after life, life beyond our imagination. The Easter message from Jesus is: “Don’t be afraid, don't be afraid…do not worry, do not worry.…”
The Easter message is a powerful invitation for you and me to a deep celebration of transformation! I hope we will celebrate this powerful witnesses together as Easter people.
Staff participating at the opening worship for the spring board meeting. PHOTO: CINDY MACK
I had a wonderful time visiting Seoul, South Korea, for the Asia Regional Office opening, with Thomas Kemper and other agency leaders in our connectional church.
It was followed by a very special time with the National Council of Churches in Korea and the World Methodist Council leaders. I cherished opportunities to get to know leaders there as brothers and sisters in Christ. While we were there, our mission and ministry were blessed as both a gift and a passion for our new vision.
At that meeting, 1 Thessalonians 5 was much in my thoughts and heart, and it was this passage of scripture that framed my vision of our church and our board community. It speaks to us, who are fortunate to be leaders in the Church, of God’s will for us as the people of God.
In Paul’s vision for the Church, there is simply no place for “us and them” thinking. We are in this together. There is no possibility of a split or division, for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family, and you can’t choose your family. It is yours whether you like it or not. Siblings may bicker, fight, and see things completely differently, but at the end of the day, family is still family.
This is where we are as a covenant community. First, as the covenant community, we are all part of the leadership team defined by God’s call. I joke in my teaching with Wisconsin folks that we are stuck with each other—you are stuck with me as your bishop, and I am stuck with all of you—like it or not.
But I choose to like it. You are my community. You are my people. I am your servant, a servant to all of you. This is the spirit that binds us together.
Even when we have problems—and there will always be disagreements and conflict—I look forward to being with you so that we can all work together toward a solution. I laugh with you; I mourn with you; but in every way, I wish the very best for you. We are a community in Christ, bound forever by our baptism and our confession.
Because of our service and dedication the kingdom of God will expand, and our leaders, the General Secretary, staff, board members, and those in the mission field will be blessed, and even encouraged.
I believe it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to build one another up, to be at peace, and to strive always to do good to and with one another.
Not because we deserve it. Not because we earn it. Not because we agree about everything, but because we are one in Christ Jesus.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing… Be at peace among yourselves… See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”
I do not expect that we will ever agree on every point of theological reflection, biblical interpretation, or understanding of our doctrine and polity. I do not ask anyone to accept a way of thinking or behaving that they believe deep in their heart is wrong.
What I do ask- – and I believe this to be the will of God-- – is that we accept each other.
Does this mean that we will accept flawed human beings? Yes.
Does this mean that we will forgive beyond measure or reason? Yes.
Does this mean that we will celebrate each brother and sister as a gift from God? Yes.
Will this be easy? No, not always.
But our faith is never about being easy. To be Christian is to be counter-cultural. To be Christian is to sometimes defy common sense. To be Christian is to “seek to do good to one another and to all.” From the book Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway, retired Yale University chemist:
“....Our task is to make trouble, to stir up to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, of stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make a future for coming generations. Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.”
Our Creator is at work in us to weave us together in love. Jesus teaches us all that we need to know to become one. The Holy Spirit is alive in and through us to knit us together to be the body of Christ for the world.
So, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
May it ever be so.
*A sermon given by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung on April 20, 2017 at the Global Ministries Spring Board Meeting. Bishop Hee-Soo Jung is the president of Global Ministries.