Installation Service Sermon
THE STREAMS OF LIVING WATER
John 7:37-41, Colossians 2:1-7
It is my great privilege and honor to be installed today as a servant leader in the Wisconsin Conference. I am blessed by your presence and welcome. For the many distinguished guests and judicatory leaders who are present, I would like to express my heart-felt appreciation. Thank you, Bishop Don Ott and Jan who are here representing the College of Bishops within the North Central Jurisdiction. I also greatly appreciate Bishop Linda Lee and her leadership over the last eight years. Thank you for all clergy colleagues and laity leaders, especially Rev. Gerald Morris and members of First Church UMC here in Wausau. And, I need to express how much I am blessed by our Cabinet leadership and their faithful commitment to Christ's ministry.
The task that looms before me is too large for me to assume on my own, for I am all dependent on the power of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit. I pledge my sincerest effort and fidelity to the task before me. And I ask each one of you to pray and work together for fulfilling God's amazing calling.
WE ARE A STRONG CONFERENCE
Since I was nurtured over 20 plus years by Wisconsin, I have always been proud of the faithful leaders and colleagues in this Conference. I believe we are a strong and beautiful Conference! We are committed to living the fruits of the Spirit as we practice the core value of Christian beloved community. Biblically, the living water provides powerful imagery. The river of God is neither static nor stagnant. It is constantly moving, continually reaching and touching all God's people. Sometimes it is deep and quiet, sometimes racing through narrow channels, but always it is flowing.
I was born and raised near the Han River. It flows through Kanghwa-an Island on the North West coast of the Korean peninsula near the 38th parallel. In places, the river is deep and dark and appears motionless. Elsewhere, it is shallow, and laughing brightly in the sparkling sunlight, always in a hurry. I spent many happy hours with that river. For days beyond number, I roamed its slippery banks, sometimes fishing and swimming, sometimes frightening frogs and dragonflies. Sometimes just sitting and thinking.
Now other rivers and streams are a part of my life: the Fox, Menomonee, Peshtigo, Wolf, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Black River, the mighty Mississippi, and more. You are my blessings! I am blessed by rich land and faithful people. I am ready to serve among you!
GOD'S LIFE FLOWS THROUGH US
First, as we gather here, we gather in the streams of flowing water from Jesus. "If anyone is thirsty, let him or her come to me and drink." God is inviting all of us in life-giving community in Christ.
We who are the Wisconsin Conference are comprised of many streams, all flowing together into God's river, not our efforts, our work...but God whose life flows into us and our congregations and communities. God is the source of the river of life that flows through us.
Says the Psalmist, "The river of God will not run dry; they provide a bountiful harvest of grain for you have ordered it so." (Ps 65:9)
God is our east, our west, our north, and our south. Thus, the first principle of our Conference life is that God is the center of our lives. What wonderful news! Second, we are about God's movement in our life together. As we gather, I have seen the power of God in our midst! I believe in our life together under God's leadership!
WE HAVE A NEW VISION; WE ARE ENTWINED
God's movement is multicultural and multiracial. God is breaking in with a new vision and a new reality, widening our imaginations, opening our eyes to see visions that we previously could not imagine, helping us to dream dreams that we previously thought impossible. God is breaking down the dividing walls! God intends for us to live in community, to join hands around the table in the household of God.
We are quite remarkable--people from the most divergent backgrounds. We are young entwined with old, black with white, red with yellow, Latino with Asian, male with female, gay and lesbian with straight. Our employed are woven with unemployed, poor with comfortable, strong with broken, new immigrants with those who are the descendants of immigrants. Our courageous are intertwined with disheartened, able with sick, hurt with healers.
Yet God calls us all together as a single though highly diverse people of God! In our diversity lies both our greatest strength and the greatest danger for discord and disunity. Yet it is God through Christ who has brought us together! The Wesleyan movement is a wonderful stream of living water for us as United Methodists. At the center of John Wesley's faith journey was his "heartwarming" experience. That experience did not resolve everything for him, but it clarified one thing: The heart of the Christian faith is not correct ritual or doctrine, but the experience of the love of God through Jesus Christ, however that takes place in each of our lives.
Wesleyans have found that our experience of the love of God through Jesus Christ, however varied those experiences many be, is central. Wesley said to a Catholic brother, "If your heart be with my heart, give me your hand." In his sermon, Catholic Spirit, Wesley said, "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences. These remaining as they are, they may forward one another in love and in good works…If your heart be with my heart, give me your hand." These words of Wesley are a powerful reminder to us yet today!
WE ARE INCLUSIVE
God's movement is a renewing and transforming movement of inclusiveness-- an outstretching movement of the Spirit. God helps us find our true identity as children of God. The world tells us who is "in" and who is "out," but Jesus tells us something much different--that those we judge as being "out" are "in", but those of us who think we are "in" may have some major questions to answer! God wants us to say, "Yes" to that movement of love.
Sometimes that movement comes as God reaches down to cradle us in our pain; sometimes as God challenges us in our apathy; sometimes as we are awakened to injustice and all our other certainties are shattered. Christian churches throughout the world encourage their members "to be nice," to live honorable, upstanding lives; to do no harm; to do good when possible. Who could argue with that? However, "being nice is not enough" to combat evil, injustice, and all kinds of violence today. We need to partake in God's amazing movement.
WE ARE BEING TRANSFORMED
Third, we are transformed by the abundance of God. The river of God is not an end in itself, but a means to a far greater end, as we give ourselves to serve others. A true streaming river of life, an overflowing, joyful, and living water, which will move with the flow and the wind of the Holy Spirit, bringing healing to the dry lands downstream.
Like the first disciples, we open ourselves to crossing over the human boundary, creating a Christian alternative community. Like them, we too have become filled with new wine, with a contagious power of gospel. The gospel of John said, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water."(John 7:37-41)
Here again, we come to God's abundance, though we live in the myth of the scarcity, we believe in God's abundant water without limits. We move from the scarcity mind to the litany of God's generosity and abundance, in mission and ministry of our Conference strategy. Here again we hope to focus on the witness of God's abundance, so we invest our time and passion to recruitment rather than retention.
WE NEED TO FOCUS OUTWARD
Sometimes we are good at retention, yet sometimes we fail to be relevant to those who are out there--young people, new people, and diverse people. We need to move like the streams of water to where people live. We need to be an outward faced community, so that we can go to those who are the last, the lost, and the least, so we may bring a living water, a healing water, and God's redemption will be theirs, too.
Abana Tabb, my homeless friend in Chicago downtown, asked in my farewell time, "Bishop brother, you were dear to me in this busy city, and never ignored me. Go to Wisconsin and continue to love people like me..." He offered himself to be a driver in my new life chapter in Wisconsin as a volunteer.
Jesus came to remind us who we are, and to free us from "a dry-dust religion." We are a forward thinking, biblically based, Jesus centered people. Therefore, I claim you as beautiful people in the world! Let it flow, Great God, river of unceasing, unchanging, unstoppable love and compassion! Let it flow, you who have brought us salvation through Jesus Christ! Let the power and grace of God run through us, throughout the Conference and beyond!
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).