For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (Isaiah 55:12-13)
How do we keep our spirits high, our faith strong, and our commitment firm in the face of such tragic and terrible events? We are still threatened by the world-wide COVID-19 plague, and we have been painfully shown that we live in a world where beloved children of God must remind us that Black Lives Matter. We have witnessed the contrasting images of heartfelt peaceful protest in support of equitable justice at the same time we have witnessed rage and frustration boil over in riotous violence and looting. It is very clear that we are far from God’s vision.
Do we still believe that the “mountains and hills can burst out in song?” Do we have faith and confidence that the theological vision for a “peaceable kingdom” might be realized in our world? Are we truly a people who believe that “God works all things together for good for those who love God?”
I do believe these things are not just possible, but they are the will and intention of God. I find great hope and encouragement in the young people I speak with who are not constrained by the same limitations of race, ethnicity, language, and sexual orientation that seem to continue to cause older generations such difficulty. I am inspired by the idealism that is not focused on what cannot happen, instead channeling great energy and drive into creating new opportunities and possibilities. These young people remind me that our faith is never passive, but always active. Discipleship is the ongoing process of putting into practice what we learn and believe. We are God’s agents of change, redemption, and healing on the earth. Am I hopeful? Yes, even in the face of such traumatic and tragic current events, I know that God desires to send us out in joy so that we might be led back in peace – for all.
God of restoration, redemption, and resurrection, we call upon your Holy Spirit in faith. Fill us with your Spirit that we might stand up in faith and act. Let us join hearts, minds, and hands in faithful Christian service that we might soon also join our voices in song. We trust and obey, Lord. Amen.
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).