So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)
’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right. (Simple Gifts, 1848)
“Do not worry about tomorrow,” these are the words of Jesus that stretch across centuries, cultures, and geography to speak to us today in the midst of a global pandemic. This virus strains relationships; brings illness, death, and loss; separates families around the globe; causes economic and financial devastation to families and individuals; and it just goes on and on. We may never face such a systemic and widespread reason to worry in our lifetimes. We are living in very difficult days.
And yet, and yet, we know that God loves us, that God is good, and that God is ever-working for our welfare and vitality. Sure, we are tested, but we are strong. I marvel at the faithfulness of our people, of our clergy and laity leadership caring for our congregations and communities. I see the amazing grace and witness of our churches, honoring those who have suffered through COVID-19, celebrating our health care workers, our first responders, our medical teams, and our care givers. I marvel at the generous giving from so many to provide for the needs of others. I receive hope and inspiration from the virtual services, learning opportunities, and planning and preparation for what is coming next. I am truly proud of the leadership working to provide resources for COVID-19 response, for tackling the “powers and principalities” that foster and protect institutional racism and racial injustice, and to be in ministry building bridges at a time when our country and communities are so divided. We are good witnesses to the love, grace, and care of God. Truly, Wisconsin United Methodists are rising up and joining together to be Jesus’s hands and feet across the Conference.
So, worry, it is not easy not to worry, but we do not let our worries conquer us. We rise above. We carry our worries and concerns, but they do not defeat us or direct us. By faith in Jesus Christ and assurance of a future with hope, we work together to move through this pandemic wilderness time. Hope defeats worry and faith conquers anxiety.
I do not say this naively or superficially. It is not my intention to downplay the devastation of COVID-19 or to ignore the grief, loss, suffering, and pain it has caused. What I want to say clearly is this: God is greater. God’s comfort can help us through. God’s strength can provide the courage and confidence we need to care for one another. God honors us when we mask and social distance and do all in our power to care for and protect others. God guides us to new and creative levels of communication and connection. God provides the patience and perseverance we need to be church apart until the day we can be church together once more. God gives us all we need to move through this pandemic time with all its many and great challenges, and to thrive beyond our worries and cares. No matter what happens, God is with us. And you are the evidence of God’s presence in the faithful way you stay connected and committed to your communities of faith and the Annual Conference.
I ask your prayers for our first ever virtual Annual Conference meeting this Saturday, October 24. We have much to do, much to celebrate, and important worshipful work to accomplish in a very short period of time. Yet, I enter hopeful, because of the excellent leadership we have here in Wisconsin. Should I worry? By God’s grace, I do not! 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).