Sunday, September 23, 2012

Go! Go! Bishop Cho!

Hundreds of United Methodists, two retired United Methodist bishops, other faith leaders from throughout Virginia and heads of educational institutions gathered at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Reveille United Methodist Church, 4200 Cary Street Road, Richmond, to celebrate the assignment of Bishop Young Jin Cho to lead the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church for the next four years.

The service was filled with music, liturgy and pageantry to welcome Cho, the first Korean-American bishop to serve as the religious leader for the 1,196 local churches and 334,764 United Methodists in the Virginia Conference.
The service began with a colorful procession of nearly 200 participants, including clergy wearing robes and red stoles, educational institution presidents wearing academic regalia, participants carrying symbols of the office of bishop, and acolytes carrying candles and banners. Scriptures were proclaimed and Bishop Cho washed the feet of Lucy Thompson, a ten year-old girl adopted from Aktobe, Kazakhstan.
Music was provided by combined choirs from Reveille United Methodist Church and Trinity United Methodist Church of Richmond with brass ensemble, a 50-member choir from Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington, classical guitar, soloists, and congregational singing.
Retired Bishop H. Hasbrouck Hughes, Jr. of Williamsburg and retired Bishop Ray W. Chamberlain Jr. of Winchester led the covenant service, and leaders from the Virginia Conference presented symbols of episcopal ministry to Bishop Cho.
From Bishop Cho:
This morning I stand here in deep gratitude to God and to you, who have supported me with your prayers and encouragement all along the way. Many of you know that the journey here, which began in July of last year, has been filled with surprises, drama, and excitement. The Lord worked very hard for “thy will be done.” And I truly confess that it is by God’s grace that I am what I am now. Thanks be to God!

I also cannot thank you enough for your love, prayers, and support. Since the beginning of my journey as an episcopal candidate, many people joined me in seeking God’s will in the election and assignment process. I am grateful to the members of my advisory committee, co‐chaired by Dr. Steve Jones and Mrs. Shirley Cauffman, and to the many prayer partners, led by Rev. Kristin Holbrook. I am also grateful to the Asian clergy in the Virginia Conference, guided by Rev. MJ Kim, and especially to the Korean UMC of Greater Washington in McLean, VA for their prayers and support. It has also been a great joy to walk this journey with my family, my best friend and better half, Kiok and my beloved children. All your prayers and love have led to me standing here before you this morning. Thank you very much.

Since moving to Richmond and beginning my ministry as your Bishop, many pastors, churches, and conference staff have shown me the meaning of radical hospitality. Kiok and I have been overwhelmed by your love, your prayers, and your warm welcome of us. This warm welcome began in a tent erected outside the auditorium of Lake Junaluska with singing of the hymn, “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling... Come home, Come home.” Thank you very much.

This morning I washed Lucy’s feet. In the Bible our Lord Jesus Christ washed his disciples’ feet and said, “Now, that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you (John 13:14).” Jesus also said, “...whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant (Mk.10:43).” These lessons have changed my definition of success. My own understanding of success was born again by these verses of scripture. Now, greatness of life is not in being served, but in serving.

When I responded to God’s call to ministry, it was in order to serve, not to be served. I want to continue to keep this spirit, the spirit of servant leadership, during my years of ministry here at Richmond. The office of the episcopacy has authority and many responsibilities, but I want to do ministry as a servant. This feet‐washing of Lucy will help me to remember what the Lord said of servant leadership and the example he set for us.

During my journey as an episcopal candidate, my message was simple and clear: “Let Jesus Christ be the Lord!“ The issue we, the United Methodist Church, face today is more than a restructuring of general boards and agencies or a lack of adequate programs or training resources. The issue we face is foremost a spiritual issue. It is a faith issue. Without addressing this fundamental issue, all initiatives or programs will not and cannot turn around our declining churches. No spiritual vitality, no vital congregations.

The essence of spiritual vitality is letting Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives, our mission, and our ministries. In his memoir The Pastor, Eugene Peterson talks about the typical American church: “Salvation is God’s business. It is what God does. And then he turns it over to us. Church is our business. It is what we do. God, having given himself to us in Jesus, now retires to the sidelines and we take over. Occasionally we call a time‐out to consult with God. But basically, we are the action.”

This is not a biblical church. This is not an authentic church. We are not in charge. Jesus Christ is in charge. Ministry is not my ministry or our ministry, but Christ’s ministry. The Risen Christ is still alive and doing His ministry in us and among us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mission is not my mission or our mission. We are taking part in God’s mission. If we humbly open ourselves and seek and obey the will of our Lord, we will have a different future. We need radical hospitality not only for visitors and for the people in our communities, but for our Risen Lord. Jesus Christ is still the owner of our churches and is with us through the Holy Spirit. He is our hope. He is the solid rock on which we stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

And this rediscovering of our spiritual vitality must begin with the bending of our knees in prayer. We human beings cannot create spiritual vitality for our churches. We are not Messiahs. Spiritual vitality is God’s grace and gift to the church. This is the reason we need to pray. Prayer is more than asking God to give something. Prayer is the opening of ourselves to God. Prayer is fellowship with Almighty God. Prayer is seeking after God’s will to be done on earth and in our churches. In prayer we will be changed. We will be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I cannot give thanks enough to God and to our delegates to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. They responded to my challenge, which asked for the devoting of at least one hour daily for spiritual discipline, and covenanted to this discipline. This prayer movement has been spreading online, and many churches and pastors are taking part in this covenant. This is a great sign of a new beginning.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, how many hours do we spend daily before our computer and television screens? Why can we not devote at least one hour in fellowship with our God? Why can we not open an email from God before we open the many emails from others? If we cannot devote at least an hour for God, what kind of God do we believe in? What does it mean that Jesus Christ is our Lord?

My hope is that this prayer movement will last for more than 90 days. I told Jurisdictional Conference delegates I wanted to be a praying Bishop. I will visit all churches and pastors in the Virginia Conference in my prayers at least once a month and pray for their renewal and revival. I invite you to join me in this prayer. Let us pray for a renewal and revival of the Virginia Annual Conference. Many people worry about the future of the United Methodist Church. But I have never heard that these concerned people seriously and earnestly prayed for a new future for our churches.

I think one reason we do not pray enough is because we have lost our first love for the Lord. If we love the Lord, we will have no problem being with our Lord for an hour. Have you ever loved someone dearly? When I dated Kiok, one hour daily was never, never enough. If we are not interested in spending time with the Lord, we need to ask ourselves how much we truly love the Lord. If we truly love the Lord, devoting one hour daily for the Lord will not be a problem. We will make sacrifice willingly for the kingdom of God. Ministry will no longer be a burden but a joy. We will serve the Lord with gratitude.

This is the reason Jesus asked the same question three times to Peter at the Sea of Galilee: “Do you love me?” He did not ask Peter, “Do you believe in me?” The risen Lord asks the same question to you and me, “Do you love me?” As I ask us all to pray more, I want us to ask the same question to ourselves: “Do I love the Lord?” If we love Jesus, devoting one hour for our spiritual discipline will be a joy, not a burden. The hour of prayer will truly become a sweet hour of prayer. And this is why I asked that we sing “More love to Thee” as our closing hymn for this service.

More love to thee, O Christ, more love to thee! Hear thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to thee; more love to thee, more love to thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; now thee alone I seek, give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to thee; more love to thee, more love to thee! 


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