Bishop, Young Jin Cho gave a unique present this Christmas. A sculpture made from terra-cotta clay of someone in the midst of prayer created by professor Eui-Seok Oh, who teaches Environmental Sculpture at a University in South Korea. In an interview in the Grand Rapids Press, Professor Oh said: “Terra-Cotta has meaning to me… man shaped from clay, like me. After shaping, the sculpture is tested by fire, like man is tested by the providential fire. You may make good works but if you fail in the firing the sculpture will be gone. Before the last process of the fire, the artist should be humble.”
For me, the sculpture represents an image of Young Jin Cho himself; humbly bowing his head in prayer before God, his life and faith tested by fire but remaining strong. Bishop Cho’s leadership from the beginning has emphasized the importance and the power of faithful prayer. He said many times: “I think The United Methodist Church, faces a spiritual issue and a faith issue. This is the reason I say, ‘No spiritual vitality, no vital congregations!’ If we do not truly honor the Lordship of the risen Christ, there is no way for us to move toward a fruitful future. If we are not connected to the true vine of Jesus, we cannot bear much fruit. Apart from the Lord, we can do nothing.”
One pastor remarked: “Young Jin Cho is the first Bishop to challenge me to pray one hour a day and to be more mindful of spiritual disciplines.” Another wrote: “The presence of God’s Spirit cannot be missed. Bishop Cho’s humble servant leadership is evident and his emphasis on prayer is a powerful witness.”
Scripture continually emphasizes the importance of prayer. For example: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.” – James 5:13-18
Six times, prayer is emphasized as a critical component of healing and faith:
• Is anyone suffering? Let him pray.
• Is anyone sick? Let the elders pray.
• A prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.
• Confess your sins and pray for one another.
• Prayer of a righteous person has great power.
• Elijah prayed fervently that it might not rain and it did not.
Young Jin Cho as a young man, experienced a five-year long struggle with tuberculosis that nearly killed him. During his first lung surgery in 1967 he laid in a hospital operating room for 28 hours losing blood. Over 25 pints of blood were added during those hours and by the grace of God internal bleeding was gradually reduced and he returned to the recovery room. But his recovery did not go well. He suffered from many complications and infection for three months. In the midst of pain, suffering and questions about God’s love, Bishop Cho heard the voice of God saying: “Are not sparrows sold two for a penny? So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” The peace that came to him in that moment led Bishop Cho on a journey toward ministry. There would be more difficulties ahead but Bishop Cho through prayer gained an assurance of God’s presence and a freedom from any more fear. (Adapted from the Advocate)
• Prayer is a critical component of healing and faith.
• Bishop Cho himself received assurance of God’s presence.
• If there is no spiritual vitality, there can be no vital churches.
“When I was elected Bishop, I challenged the clergy and laity to dedicate at least one hour daily for their spiritual disciplines. My hope and prayer is to spread the culture of prayer and spiritual discipline to the churches in our conference because I believe that it will be impossible for our churches to be turned around without rediscovering spiritual vitality.”
As 2016 nears, we acknowledge that our churches are in crisis. What if everyone reading these words were to dedicate themselves this year to devoting more time for prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines? What if we were together to pray for God to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ, strengthen our commitment to our church and inspire greater witness in our community?
Just before his election as Bishop, Young Jin Cho urged everyone to join him in a prayer spoken by the former Yankee second baseman, Bobby Richardson. At a gathering of Christian athletes, Bobby offered the following; “Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”
“Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”
“The promise of God is the foundation for us not to be afraid,” Bishop Cho proclaimed. “Friends, we are not alone on our new journey. The risen Christ is and will be 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 who will lead us. Thanks be to God!”