Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
Pandemic fatigue, election fatigue, Zoom meeting fatigue, social distancing fatigue. Fatigue is the word of the day. 2020 has been an exhausting learning curve; a paradigm change forever redefining "normal." It is so easy to be swept away in anxiety, frustration, irritation, and despair. But for God’s people, and especially the followers of Jesus the Christ, this is a call to decisive response: will we allow the earthly troubles and disappointments to define us or will we renew our covenant with God to live in hopeful and grace-filled faith?
I love Joshua’s declaration – "as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." This should be our declaration. Inconvenienced by masking and social distancing? Not a problem, for "we will serve the Lord" and put the health and well-being of others before our own wants. Facing economic difficulties or the fear of what might come next? We will survive this – together – for "we serve the Lord," and we will look to the needs of our neighbors and communities and we will be ready to assist. Feeling disenfranchised and dishonored by the results of the recent election? We will rise above, because "we serve the Lord," and we will do everything in our power to break through the walls that divide us, refusing to think in terms of "winners" and "losers," striving to care for and understand the hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns of all people. Feeling beaten down, oppressed, violated, disrespected, and misunderstood? Do not allow these feelings to define you – recommit to the covenant, "we serve the Lord," and together we can work to address and resolve the injustices, the policies and structures that continue to do harm to the most vulnerable among us.
Wisconsin Conference – and every member of our United Methodist Church – face threats, challenges, and dangers that might divide us and poison the unity that God intends for us all. The reality is that many may choose another covenant, and it is our role to part from them with grace and love, wishing only the best for those who no longer feel a part of our connectional faith communion. No matter the divisions – moral, ethical, religious, political, social, or cultural – God is God, and we are one in Christ Jesus. As we face tomorrow, no matter what it might bring, our declaration is firm, "as for us and our household, we will serve the Lord."
Prayer: Covenant God, creator of the universe and all it contains, maker of every precious human life, receive our faithful declaration – we serve you. Guide us, teach us, fill us, and send us, so that every person we meet might come to know the Christ who blesses us, who saves us, and who redeems us. We are the body of Christ in this world of hurt and brokenness, send to heal and unite. We praise you, O Lord, and we recommit to serve you in all we do. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Christ. 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).