A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones…. the discerning person looks to wisdom. (Proverbs 17:22, 24)
During my episcopacy, I have taught at a seminary, churches, and various organizations. While I have been the teacher, I have found that it is through the act of sharing and participation that true learning happens. It is my belief that learning and teaching are simultaneous acts that continue throughout one’s life.
It was my joy for two weeks in August, to offer an intensive lecture at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. It is an honor to be named as McDonald Chair from the Candler community. The seminary course was “Christian Spirituality in the Global Context.”
My interest is in exploring the newest movements of Christianity in the Global South and to ask the question, “How do we identify and join this exciting flow of spirituality?” I carefully studied the spirituality changes in the world so that in teaching and learning, we might grasp the mighty Holy Spirit’s direction for a more intentional missional focus.
For instance, I like reading about the symbiotic power of teaching and learning as lived out in the faith development in China, where the socio-political context inhibits religion and yet Christianity continues to expand. I furthered my studies by paying attention to the coexistence of various religions and faith expressions in the multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-racial world. This, then, impacted how I led and participated in inter-religious dialogue and encounters in the classroom. It has been through these educational experiences that I gained a broader sense of human rights issues and the beauty of human complexity. Indeed, interreligious dialogue and encounters have taught me true listening, serious questioning, and effective ways to stand on different sides of an issue and yet develop a relationship respect, care, and growth.
It is by critical listening, learning, and loving that we might have our eyes more open, our ears set for deeper listening, and our hearts more receptive to truly care for each other. This all begins by grounding ourselves in the tasks of conversation that include respectful dialogue that allows for the Creative Holy Spirit to work. All this I experienced when I encountered the young theologians and seminary professors this summer. With them I was challenged with new questions to ask and diverging conversations. It was in the enthusiasm and joy of our discourse, that drove me to pursue a different level of God, humanity, and creation.
The Scripture text from Proverbs invites us to live with a cheerful heart as we live our lives. I see this as an invitation to be cheerful when we enter tough conversations; to purposefully invite the Holy Spirit to join in the conversation and to seek wisdom – not necessarily being right. Imagine what a change this would be in our world today!
My hope is that this fall will bring a fresh wind of cheerful hearts and blessings to everyone. May we encourage one other in our church families, to learn courageously, practice love, dream anew, and seek wisdom.
May the Lord bless you.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
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).