“Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'”
Matthew 25:45 (read Matthew 25:31-46)
What a truly amazing and wondrous time Advent leading to Christmas and beyond to Epiphany is. Perhaps we have become too familiar with it for it to have the incredible impact it should. God has been born on earth. A poor carpenter and a young peasant maiden have been tasked to raise the Christ child. Lowly fringe characters, shepherds are the first to visit. After a time, Gentile astrologers visit, bringing gifts and bowing in worship. This inauspicious beginning heralds the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is absurd, ridiculous, and sets the stage for a gospel we love, but often choose to ignore: God sent Jesus to give hope to the least among us.
We live in a heartbreakingly torn and battered world. About ten percent of the world’s population experiences luxury; another 20 percent experience a large measure of comfort and security; but about 50% struggle with daily necessities and basic needs; and 20% are locked in a constant struggle for survival. This should not be, and a sacred trust and responsibility rests with those of us called Christian to bring equity, economic justice, and safety to our broken world.
This call comes to us individually and collectively – as growing disciples and as communities of faith. In our United Methodist heritage, it also comes to us as a Conference and as a Connection. We never tackle the immense and overwhelming tasks of justice alone; we are in this together and it defines our purpose and the focus of our faith. Those of us who have been blessed are expected to be a blessing.
Individually, it means to be kind, compassionate, caring, and generous. Beyond feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoners, we can offer comfort and support to those in emotional need, those going through divorce or job loss, those facing financial hardship. It means finding out what people are going through and joining them on their journey.
Collectively, it means organizing our resources of time, talent, and treasure to make a positive impact on the world. We live our discipleship in concert, merging our gifts, knowledge, experience and resources to help build God’s vision and do God’s will in the world.
There is simply no place for selfishness, entitlement, inflated ego, demanding one’s own way, judgment and condemnation in our personal and shared faith. Humility, love and grace define us. The word epiphany means “appearance or manifestation.” Some Christians believe our instruction and commandments ended with the closure of the canon of Christian scripture. United Methodists believe that God’s Word is and living Word, and that the revelation of God is still active through the working or the Holy Spirit. God is manifest in the Body of Christ today, as we are constantly taught and challenged to be more loving, more giving, more caring, and more generous. By the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, we come to know some things allowed in scripture are no longer appropriate and valid, and that some condemnations and rules need grace-filled and loving updating. God is active in and through us “for the transformation of the world.” Our Epiphany reminds us: God is love. Our call and charge is to take and share this love throughout the world. I invite you in this new year to recommit yourself to the vows we make as members – to uphold the church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. We who have much also have a great opportunity to share from our blessing and abundance. Let us honor and glorify God through our gifts and service. Praise God!
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
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).