In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)
How many of you are feeling that things are a bit out of control? I know from time to time I am thinking, "Come on, what is happening?” My heart bleeds for my black brothers and sisters as I watch the news. What is going on? Why is this happening? I get news of more people afflicted by COVID-19, and it makes no sense. I see people struggling with what is best to do – stay home or go out – and I am as confused as anyone. I see the faithful protesters calling for racial justice and equality, and I worry for their safety. My own heart of protest says, “no more! Things must change!” and I see that there is still so much farther that we have to go.
It is easy to lose heart. It is easy to give into anger and frustration. Many of the arguments we hear today of racial equality and justice we have heard for generation after generation. In the face of growing pandemic spread, we hear people lamenting that we cannot return to “normal.” Many well-meaning people say, “what is the problem? We don’t think things are so bad.” It is indeed a challenging time for all of us.
Christian people stand in a unique position. We have seen oppression. We have witnessed plague. We have known dispossession and displacement. We have known the threat of violence. These things are part of our DNA. We are a people constantly confronted by chaos who believe in a God of order, justice, mercy and grace.
Our United Methodist denomination has gone through (is going through) some serious struggles. Yet, there is nothing we go through today that we have not gone through in the past. Many times, we have faced the challenges to God’s love and grace for all people and we have emerged on the side of progressive acceptance and humility. We love because God loves. We make space for all God’s people because we are a denomination that believes in justification and sanctification. Through the darkest days we live continuously in God’s light.
Our God is a powerful, awesome, prevailing God. Diseases and plagues come and go. Threats to the Christian fellowship come and go. Devastating injustices and inequalities come and go. Yet, the love of God, the amazing and redeeming grace, and the incredible acceptance of God succeeds. There is nothing in this earthly existence that can overcome the unconditional love and grace of God. Chaos? Nothing but an opportunity for God to teach us new lessons. It falls to us to choose order over chaos and use our gifts, talents, knowledge, and abilities to build the peace, mercy, and justice God’s order demands.
We are God’s people, now and forever. All are welcome, all are beloved, all are children of God, and together we navigate the turmoil of chaos to emerge together into the peace, harmony, and stability of God, now and forever. Thanks be to God.
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).