From the Bishop
Do not be afraid!
Bishop Young Jin Cho
May the grace and peace from our God be with you.
When we receive this Advocate, it will be the last day of our 2013 Annual Conference. I deeply appreciate all of you who prepared and helped us to have a very meaningful and fruitful Annual Conference this year. So many people worked very hard on the stage or behind the scenes, and more people throughout the Virginia Conference prayed for our holy conferencing. I cannot thank all of you enough for your dedication and ministries.
This is the first Annual Conference during which I presided as bishop. It was a challenge for me, but also a great joy. I thank God for the honor and privilege to serve this great conference and for the presence of our risen Christ in us and among us during our gathering. My prayer has been for God’s will to be done in this Annual Conference as it is in heaven because the risen Lord is the head and the owner of this conference. And God’s will is best for all of us. As Paul says, “… God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (I Cor. 1:25).”
Now, we will begin a new journey together. Many ministers will move and begin serving new churches after this Annual Conference. Many churches and laity will welcome new pastors. And many clergy and laity will continue their journeys without changes of appointments. Whether there is a change or not, all of us will start anew together because the future always brings us a new possibility. Every day that we welcome a new morning is a brand new day and a great gift from God.
When I served the Korean UMC of Greater Washington, the lay member of Annual Conference used to introduce me anew to the congregation when he or she made an Annual Conference report. They used to say, “Rev. Cho was appointed to our church again this year. Let us welcome him.” The congregation welcomed me with a big applause, and I usually preached a sermon focusing on the mission and ministries of the church for the coming year.
We did the same thing for more than 20 years on the Sunday after Annual Conference was adjourned. The church and I wanted to start anew every year.The future we will welcome is an opportunity, but is also full of uncertainties. We do not know tomorrow. Anything unexpected can happen on our journey, and some of those things, undoubtedly, we will not want. Because of this uncertainty, we have worries and anxiety for tomorrow. This is a natural, human response to the future. We certainly want the transitions to go well for all of our clergy and churches, but who knows?
There is a message and a promise for us from the Lord. We find this message so many times in the Bible. (Someone said it is found 366 times in the Bible.) It is, “Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous. I will be with you.” None of us knows our future, but we, the people of God, know who will lead us into a new future. We know that we are not alone on our journey. The risen Christ is with us through the Holy Spirit.
This is great news! The Lord who is still our good shepherd will not leave us like an orphan. This is not an empty promise. Truly, God is and will be with us. We have sufficient reasons not to be afraid of our future. Though we will face many challenges and obstacles on our way into our future, please do not give up and be troubled by these challenges. The Lord is risen, indeed, and is with us. As John Wesley said on his death bed, “The best of all is God is with us.”
Friends, we are not alone on our new journey. The risen Christ is and will be with us. Though the Lord is with us, we may face challenges and difficulties. But please do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous! The Lord is with us. This is the promise our faithful God has given us. While we may not know the future, we do know who is with us and will lead us. Thanks be to God!
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho