A Liturgy of Walking Together
By Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Perhaps the most invisible part of Christian liturgy is walking. When we share liturgy in worship, most of the time we are standing or sitting, but there is walking, too. Arriving and preparing the heart for worship is done walking. Waiting for someone to read means we wait on another who is walking. Let’s recognize how able-bodied our perspective can be, too—and ask those who traverse their days in wheelchairs or with canes to also serve in worship, and to make worship accessible as a way of walking together. Walking together means enduring together. Christianity is not a solitary enterprise. Now in a time of pandemic, journeying together as Christ’s disciples means we have plenty to endure. For a season, it seems, we are called to serve not in an unbroken sea of stability, but in the white-capped waters of instability. We are offering spiritual leadership in a time of pandemic, polarization, human migration, ecological instability, as well as in defining times for The United Methodist Church. Walking together may seem invisible, but it is a spiritual practice for we who share the practice of worshipping in community.
The way Mark tells it, the relentless widow walked her offering to the temple treasury. Jesus called his disciples to pay attention to her, not because the two small copper coins were enormous in value, but because her example, her endurance, was greater because she offered it despite her economic, social, and personal place of challenge. Luke’s telling is longer and ends with Jesus saying, ‘by your endurance you will gain your souls’ (Luke 21:19). Jesus calls us to endure in ways that define our witness.
Regardless of our stances and locations, our opinions, and our histories, we are a community shaped by the cross that reveals a suffering God who can redeem and restore. We watch and pray for what God will do. I trust the Holy Spirit will turn our divisiveness into fruit.
The relentless widow’s witness and the power of walking together as a worshipping community reminds me of my season as a district superintendent in Wisconsin while Sharon Rader was bishop. Rev. Karen Ebert was one of my pastors and serving First UMC, Green Bay. Each week she offered the Pastoral Prayer in worship and those prayers were compiled in a book called, What I Tell My Heart. One of the prayers was for Advent and entitled, ‘How Long, God?’ It reads in part:
“But unlike the months that we can count off on our fingers,
waiting for the wind to break,
we have no way of marking how long
until some other forces in our life will let go--if they ever will…
These forces, and more, swirl and taunt, and push.
We have braced ourselves against them.
We have tried to shake them off.
But our shouts are thrown back in our faces,
and our hands are useless in pushing back.
Some forces even seem stronger than can be borne.
How long, God?
We turn to you, the Maker of All Winds that Blow,
the One Whose Strength is Greater than All,
and we ask,
How long do we have to wait?
This is what we tell our hearts and so renew our hope.
A God who can tilt the earth
to catch the warming rays of the sun
and turn the winter into spring
Can surely shift the balance
to keep us from blowing away.
Spring will come. We can hear its drip.
The pressures will cease.
I don't know how, I don't know when
But we trust you.
And even in our bleakness. We have hope.”
We endure as a praying community, finding words to bear witness to hope. We walk together without blowing away, like the relentless widow, as faithful spiritual leaders. These winds are momentary. Your walk may be humble, but it is not invisible. May we hold hands with a deep sense of trust and respect. Thank you for your faithfulness. Know that I am praying for you.
In Christ’s 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).