Christian Unity Sermon by Bishop Jung
He Has Told You Micah 6:8, Gal 3:28-29
We celebrate the week of Christian unity together.
Thanks for the leadership and ministry of extended ecumenical community here. I am truly honored to receive a warm welcome from respected bishops, presidents, and leaders of our partner communities. Thanks for the hospitality from my beloved church, First United Methodist Church in Green Bay.
I am delighted to be a full partner with fellow travelers actualized in the unity-in- Christ (Gal 3:28-29). "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
God is present in the hearts of all by allowing every form of communication to become communion, without in any way denying what is specific to each person or tradition. Our worship tonight transforms our relationships immensely, because a unity already exists and we are setting the stage for a more complete realization of Christian unity.
We are here to answer the divine call depending on our specific role or function in the Church and the talent that God has given to each. It is true that Christian unity has been gifted to us by God.
However, our vision is not what the churches should simply do together, based on what they have done so far separately! It is rather that we should all be transform-ed in order to manifest more clearly what in God's plan the people of God is meant to be. It is not pasting together ecclesiastical institutions and simply seeking unity in Christian fellowship, but what should we be if we are listening to God's amazing demands to be God's living Church in such a time like this.
The apostle Paul reflected upon the changes that he had experienced as he grew up: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways." (I Cor.13:11 NRSV)
Each of us has changed since our childhood. We're bigger now; we have more responsibilities, we might have children or grandchildren. Perhaps our faith also changed as we grew into adulthood, or may still be in the process of changing.
I know that my faith perspective is markedly different than that of my childhood, and continues to change and mature. I grew up in the southern half of a Korea divided, not by Koreans, but by the superpowers. Prior to that division, we Koreans saw ourselves as one. As a gung-ho leader in my elementary school, I was taught to fear "The North", to fear the other. I led my classmates in military exercises. I had not yet heard the words of the prophet Micah, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" I had not yet heard the words of Jesus, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
Those in The North, I was taught, there was an enemy whom I should fear, even though many of them were part of my family. I lived close to the 38th parallel DMZ, the no-man's zone was in walking distance.
At that time, I was Buddhist-Confucian. Buddhism or Confucianism, however, did not endorse what I was taught, for what I was taught came not from faith, but from fear. "Fear the other," I was taught. Such fear was reinforced by my own experience. As I was playing with a friend one day at the sea shore, he found an interesting object in the water. He reached for it. It exploded and killed my friend. So my fear of others was reinforced.
As a young man, I became a Christian. In so many ways, the Christianity I at first claimed also reinforced living in fear of others. It told me that if I believed in Jesus, I could be assured that I'd be in heaven when I died, while others "went to hell." At its early stages, my faith had not much to do with how I should live in relation to others, but only how I could escape eternal torment.
There were many steps along the way as I grew – grew in stature and in faith. But as I grew, I began to see that what Jesus lived and taught was consistent with my Buddhist ancestry. Jesus knew that there were others who thought of him as an enemy, but Jesus treated no one as an enemy. He reached out to the poor, the outcast, the imprisoned, the ostracized, the chronically and mentally ill. To Jesus, these were all children of God, like he knew himself to be. Jesus knew, as people in recovery programs sometimes put it, "God didn't make no junk."
Our text for today is from Micah: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
Jesus grew up in a situation much like my own. Nazareth was occupied and controlled by the Romans, the power who eventually put him to death. Most of his fellow Israelites lived in fear – they were surrounded and controlled by the military force of an enemy, Rome.
Jesus grew up steeped in two traditions of his faith, often in conflict with each other, and he was clear about the one he chose to follow. Both traditions can readily be found in the Hebrew Bible. One tradition is that of zealous nationalism. This tradition teaches that God is the God of a chosen people no matter what. God is on their side. God will not let them suffer defeat. "Our nation, right or wrong" is their motto.
The other tradition, however, is voiced by Micah and others. It is the tradition of prophetic realism. This tradition does not see God as the defender of any particular nation, but as the God of all. Prophetic realism sees God as affirming every human as a child of God. Prophetic realism sees that the heart of faith in God is not do defend any particular nation, people, or ideology, "But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
Let's look for a few moments as to how these competing theologies affect how we deal with guns in this society. Someone I know has shared with me his experience with a George Webb's restaurant in the Milwaukee area. We'll call him Bob, though that's not his real name. Bob, according to his own self-identification, is "a white guy." Bob's gone to this restaurant for breakfast, several times a week over the last ten years. About two months ago, he realized that several of the regulars at the lunch counter were coming to breakfast carrying guns. Previously, he had not been put off by their right wing politics, but suddenly, seeing their guns, he concluded, "This is not a place where I feel safe. If these guys feel a need to come to breakfast armed, I feel a need to stay as far away as possible." Bob tends to see everyone as a potential friend, but when he encounters others out for breakfast with lethal weapons, he gets freaked out.
Those, you see, who believe they need to be armed, are living in fear of "the enemy." Bob sensed a much greater threat from these "guys with guns" than he would from even an armed intruder.
The NRA has publicly proclaimed that "The only thing that stops a 'bad guy' with a gun is a 'good guy' with a gun." Thus, their logic is that every public school should have guns present and ready.
All this is based upon the lie, deeply rooted in our culture, that "superior violence brings peace." That's simply not true. Superior violence brings more violence!
When Jesus was arrested in the garden, one of his disciples took up the sword and cut off the ear of a soldier. Jesus healed that soldier and refused to use violence to counter violence. We thus celebrate Jesus as our triumphant Lord, not because of his superior violence, but through his triumph over violence!
At first, it seemed to most that violence had conquered Jesus. They killed him. But the nonviolent Jesus resurrected his power a million fold.
One of my favorite Catholic theologians, Karl Rahner, said, "God is the prodigal who squanders himself." The self-giving God he described saves us by totally emptying God-self. The great Sufi mystic Rumi stated in his writing of Jesus Trajectory, "Having died to self-interest, she risks everything and asks for nothing. Love gambles away every gift God bestows."
According to Jesus, Micah got it right: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
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).