I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1-3)
One of the great challenges of being a Bishop is how much and how often I hurt for the people I serve. I am aware of the challenges of my pastoral leaders. I know of the hurts and sufferings of faithful people all across the Wisconsin Conference. I know when there are problems and conflicts. I know of the disagreements and arguments. I know when our congregations are struggling. I am very, very aware of the pain felt in the Wisconsin Conference.
Yet, like Paul when writing to the church at Rome, I know that suffering and struggle is not the last word. We are moving toward a greater truth and reality. In everything we face, in every possible challenge, in the face of incredible loss, God is with us. The God of the Israelites, the God of the Chosen People, the God of the Way, the God manifest in the church through the Holy Spirit – this God is leading and guiding through every situation to bring us faithfully to authentic discipleship for the transformation of the world.
I hurt for my church, for my people, and for my siblings in Christ. Yet, I rejoice. I rejoice because of our Savior and God. I have the strength to get up in the morning and face the day with joy in my heart because I know of the amazing grace and abundant faithfulness in Wisconsin United Methodists. We are traveling through strange, troubling, and challenging days. It is easy to lament and to give way to anxiety and fear. But take heart! We travel these roads together, and our God is the Lord of the Promised Land. It may feel that we are simply wandering, lost in the wilderness, but have faith that God is leading us to blessed places we can hardly imagine.
Gracious and loving God, guide us. Comfort and strengthen us. Encourage and inspire us. Help us in the darkest times to remember your light. Remind us in the times of greatest challenge that we are not alone. When we feel most alone, urge us to reach out. May we always care deeply for one another, bearing one another’s burdens, but never losing hope. Hear our prayer, O Lord. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
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).