As predicted by our health experts, COVID-19 cases are continuing to spike after normalizing with social distancing. Thinking only of re-election, many of our politicians rushed to reopen too soon, and we are seeing the dire consequences playing out before our eyes. It is the value of blatant consumerism and economic greed over human lives. When choosing between an economic downturn or public safety, we have witnessed that there is no contest in our secular political leadership. Even waiting one more month could have made a big difference in lives lost. When I think of the friends that I have lost to COVID-19, no economic price can be put on their lives.

Blaming politicians is an easy target, and we would be well advised to look inward to our own souls as the American public. I have heard too often: “I’m going stir-crazy…I can’t stay home for another week…I can’t wait any longer for things to open up.” These are all trivial excuses, and I put much more stock into those who have to get back to work in order to feed their families, or save their small businesses.

Our American society is so impatient, and the selfish urge to shop at a mall, eat in a restaurant, or drink at a bar, overcomes our common sense. We become the alcoholic who goes on a drinking binge without thinking of the consequences. The individualism of our Western society is also a factor here. “No one can tell me to wear a mask, social distance, or not see my friends!” It is one thing to put oneself at risk, but there are very few individuals without parents, family, and friends who will be infected if I am infected. The arguments for the greater good of all are being drowned out by the demand for individual freedoms.

We as the United Methodist Church must stand for a higher value. We must put the care of others before our selfish desires. We must value human life over the economic bottom line. We must think safety first, convenience later. God demands from us a greater faith to put compassion and care before selfish desire and greed.

This is a time for us to take stock of who we are as the people of God. It is a season for us to double our time in prayer, spiritual practices and discernment. John Wesley has taught us that the quest of salvation means our love of God and neighbor increases, and our preoccupation with self diminishes. To be faithful right now means that we care more about others than ourselves, and we do everything to protect the other.

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I want to thank all of those who were behind the scenes of our virtual annual conference sessions last week. We had minor glitches, but overall, the technology ran fairly smoothly, and we were able to complete all of our essential business. There were even things that worked better than physically meeting in Redlands! So much so, that we may be incorporating what we have learned if we are allowed to return to a physical annual conference in the future. There are so many hidden volunteers who made it possible for us to pull this off. You know who you are, and I know you do it for the love of the church, not for individual recognition. However, let me share the biggest THANK YOU for all that you did for us!

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Our inspiration for the week comes from the Hebrew Bible:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. God will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6
The English Standard Version

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop