Let us open ourselves to Christ
May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you.
In this last month of 2014, I give thanks and praises to God! By the grace of God, I have been able to serve my beloved Virginia Conference for another year. I am grateful to all of you for your prayers and support. When I meet people and hear that they are praying for me every day, my heart is overwhelmed by their love, and I feel deep gratitude for them. I know it is because of their prayers that I can do my ministry.
On Nov. 5 I had the opportunity to preach at the Council of Bishops’ morning worship service. It is a tradition that newly elected bishops preach at the worship services during the Bishops’ meetings. Basically, I shared the message that I preach in the churches in our conference: The United Methodist Church is at a crossroads. We have been working hard to turn around the decline of our churches, a decline that has lasted for 40 years. But so far, our efforts have not borne much fruit.
I think the time has come for us to see our issue from a different perspective. The issue we face today is more than a lack of programs or skills. The fundamental issue we face today is a spiritual issue. It is a faith issue. It is a lordship issue. Today many churches are not truly open to God. Dr. Graham Standish points out this situation in his book, Becoming a Blessed Church: “I have been frustrated over the years that a vast majority of the congregations in the mainstream denominations, and the denominations themselves, have adopted a functional style of church that cuts off their spiritual cores. What I mean is that too many churches focus only on function, on doing activities of church…
The problem in many of these churches is not so much what they do, but the spirit in which they do it. They worship, but not necessarily with an eye toward leading people to an encounter with God. They meet to do God’s work, but not necessarily in ways that include prayerfully seeking God’s will and way in their work. They offer prayers, but not with the expectation that prayer will do much more than offer comfort and consolation…. Many churches simply are not open to God.”
But opening our churches to God is not easy because that means giving up our agendas. That means giving up our ministry for Christ’s ministry. That means dying in Christ that the Lord may be risen, indeed, in our churches and reign in our life and ministry. That means we take a risk of uncertainty in our future. That means truly giving up our lordship and surrendering ourselves to God.
For a new future we need to open ourselves widely to God. Jesus Christ should be born anew in us and in our churches. We are now in the Advent season. Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem is coming to us through the Holy Spirit. And in the end, He will come again for the consummation of history. Are we ready to open ourselves to God? Are we going to radically welcome Jesus anew in this Advent season?
I would like to close my article with John Wesley’s “Prayer of Submission,” a prayer that has deeply touched my heart. In this prayer John Wesley gives to God his understanding, his will, his affection, his body, all his worldly goods, his credit, his reputation, himself and his all. Let me share with you the part in which Wesley gives his will:
“… I give you my will. May I have no will of my own. Whatsoever you will, may I will, and that only. May I will your glory in all things, as you do, and make that my end in every thing. May I ever say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.”
May I delight to do your will, O God, and rejoice to accept it. Whatever threatens me, let me say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” And whatever befalls me, let me give thanks, since it is your will concerning me….”
In this busy month of December, can we pray this prayer? Can we live out this prayer of submission? May the peace of Christmas and the hope of the New Year be with you all.
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho