How close do you feel we are to the vision of God for a “Peaceable Kingdom?” How well do we regard those who disagree with us? How forgiving and kind are we to those who oppose us? How clearly do we reflect the love of God when we find ourselves embroiled in conflict?
As a country, we are in an election year, and as a Church, we are preparing for General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Were you aware that we are not all in agreement about our future? Believe it or not, there are competing views about our core values, guiding principles, and foundational beliefs. We disagree about the authority and interpretation of scripture. We are debating what “Christian teaching” is and what is not. We are swept up in controversies about our differences, allowing them to become divisions. In the face of such challenges to our unity of life and spirit, I issue an invitation: pray.
While we may differ in many of our beliefs, opinions, and worldviews, we hold our baptism in common. We all follow the Savior who was crucified and rose again. During this Lenten time, we walk together through a wilderness where we are tempted to turn from what we hold precious and sacred together to be distracted by worldly endeavors. In such times, it is wise for us to imitate the pattern of Jesus – let us remove ourselves to a quiet place to pray.
First, pray for our brothers and sisters in the faith. Pray that the dividing walls of hostility may be broken down by Christ’s love within the fellowship. We have no lasting witness of value for the world if we cannot get our own house in order.
Second, pray for those who have yet to know the love, grace, and peace of Jesus Christ. Pray for those whom we are called to serve. Pray for those whom we are called to save. Pray for those who live lives separate from God.
Third, pray for our country and our leadership. Pray that we may be guided by wisdom for God’s grace to prevail; that we might not be driven by emotions or political agendas that deny the value of all people. Pray that we might receive the leadership we need, not merely the leadership we deserve.
Fourth, pray for our church – for our upcoming General, Annual, and Jurisdictional Conferences. Our entire denomination is engaged in a time of prayer for these global meetings. The General Church has declared April 1 as Wisconsin Conference’s day of prayer for General Conference. Our Spiritual Formation Resource Team has produced a prayer guide for the Conference, as well as denominational resources available on our website. On April 1, Room 205 of the Conference Center will be open all day for a prayer vigil. All clergy and laity are invited to come for a short time of prayer and reflection.
Fifth, let us pray with one another, praying together to “become one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” Let us model a way of being in the world that begins and ends with prayer. Merely praying for each other – or worse, to pray about one another – lacks the deep power of transformation. But sincere Christians who join heart and voice together in prayer unleash the power of God’s Holy Spirit to transform the world! Let us lead the way in Wisconsin. And to do that, let us pray.
Grace and Peace,
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
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).