And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?' Matthew 8:23-27
Our world, our culture, our church – so many sources of anxiety, discomfort, fear and anger. Truly, people of faith have rarely been more tested than today. Yet, this is what it means to be a people of faith – to stand fast in the conviction that God is in charge, and “even the winds and the sea obey him!” We may not like what we see with our eyes, but in our hearts the Spirit of the living God prevails. We may shake our fists in outrage at the injustices, personal or shared, but the Prince of Peace abides. We may worry about our own future, the future of our church, the future of our country, or the future of our world, but the grace of the Redeemer has the final word.
Would Jesus address us as “you of little faith,” or as faithful disciples living in the power and assurance of gospel truth? I wonder. I hope it would be the latter, but I sense for many it would be the first. We seem to be in a place of reactivity where we walk more by sight than by faith. This is not meant as criticism or judgment, but as observation. We are making huge decisions with lasting implications from a place of anxiety, division, and uncertainty, instead of a firm faith foundation.
So, what can we do?
First, let us take our eyes off the storms and turn them back toward Jesus. Let us pray. Let us immerse our emotions, reactions, energies, and passions in prayer. Let us pray with and for each other, not about each other. Let us actively look for the Jesus in every other human being, especially those with whom we disagree.
Second, let us refocus on our baptism, our connection, and our call. Let us give the greatest measure of our energy to doing all the good we can. The elegant symmetry to doing all the good we can is that is leaves us no time to do harm. There is no limit to the good we can do, only so long as we cease to engage in harm-producing behaviors.
Third, let us work hard for the future in which we want to live. We may never become “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world,” as our Communion liturgy calls us to pray, but we can continue to align our discipleship and commitment to the transformation of the world. Virtually no one believes the world we have is the best of all possible worlds. We know we can be better. We know we can be more loving. We know we can be more caring. We know that the world will not change if everyone demands their own way puts their own needs above those of others. Wanting to be better is not enough; taking steps to continuously become more Christlike is a full-time pursuit.
Last, let us simply be kind – kind to ourselves, kind to each other, kind to the stranger, and kind to our opponents. If we should find a way as The United Methodist Church, let us be kind in our differences. If we are to separate, let us be kind in our parting. No matter what, my beloved, beautiful Wisconsin siblings, let us be kind as our basic witness to the world of the love and grace of God. We will face many more storms, but let us do so in the assurance that the Christ is with us.
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).