During a Thursday worship service filled with music from the NCJ praise band, Bishop Hee Soo Jung of the Wisconsin Annual Conference delivered a sermon entitled “Living Together Amidst Diversity”. Though he joked that as a Korean-American, he is “half kimchi and half Wisconsin cheese,” he drew upon personal, historical, and biblical examples and delivered a serious call: to love one another despite, or perhaps because of, our differences.
Bishop Jung pointed to stories of Jesus’ birth from Matthew to demonstrate the contrast between the Eastern and Western ways of thinking, and said that in the Asian mindset, everything is interrelated. “Living in the midst of diversity is our God-given reality,” he said. “The yin and the yang are not divisions between you and me, but aspects of each of our lives.” He added that the stories of creation are also a source of wisdom from a Middle-Eastern perspective: that this world was created by God, that we are all beloved children of God, and that God expelled us from any claim of innocence.
“God’s wall is unlike the walls we humans build,” he said. “God’s wall does not divide humans from each other. We believe – whoever we are – that we are superior and need walls to protect us… When did God ordain that there should be a border?” He said that walls we build prevent us from affirming the gifts of those who are different from us. “Walls we have built, walls to protect our own kind; we must tear them down. We must put a crack in them and let the Holy Spirit shine.”
He added that in the day’s scripture reading, Ephesians 4:7-11, Paul says, “But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.”
“Of course we don’t look and speak and act the same!” Jung said. “But, let’s be honest, often we become uncomfortable with those who don’t speak and act the same… I feel the Holy Spirit at work in the margin of grace. It’s alright to be in the cracks, to be in between, to not agree, to be very uncomfortable. Some say we are at a low point in our denomination, but the Holy Spirit will lift us up.”
He also talked about the Great Commission of Jesus, and said that nothing in that Commission talks about believing in Jesus – only following him. “The Gospels are all clear that the greatest commandments are loving God and loving one another. That’s it… It does not allow for us to proclaim that our personal beliefs supersede the teaching of Jesus.” He said it is a “tragic irony” that the ideas upheld by people threatening to divide the church were never mentioned by Jesus. “But do I condemn these persons? No! Absolutely not,” he said. “Their faith and insights are precious. But God asks us to set aside our own agenda.”
“We are blessed with many different gifts, perspectives, insights, races, cultures, economic classes, human sexuality, even other species - we are all blessed,” Bishop Jung ended. “Some of our blessings are seemingly in conflict with those of other sisters and brothers. Get over it! We’re part of the same faith community. Christ did not command us to agree with each other; he commanded us to share his teachings – teachings he summed up as ‘Love God” and “Love Your Neighbor.’”