Nov. 1, 2015
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Today we observe and celebrate All Saints’ Day! Though we may each define saint differently, I think we can all agree that saints are change-agents or “balcony people.” “Balcony people” are not those members of your congregation who sit in the upper seats! (Or maybe they are; read on).
Consider this definition from a blog I recently read: “A Balcony Person brings people to a higher place – where they can flourish, live freely, pursue their passions, and become better human beings. Balcony People encourage, help, give, serve; they are considerate, enthusiastic & joyful, quick to forgive, good listeners, diligent, compassionate. They make people’s lives better. They also make people better. They know how to encourage others to grow into the best versions of themselves.” Taken from the blog “You Are the One that I Want.”
As we observe All Saints’ Sunday, may we think about the saints in our lives who have been our change-agents and balcony people – those who have gone to their eternal rest since we observed and celebrated All Saints’ Sunday in 2014.
May I share with you four people in my life who have been my change-agents and balcony people, those who have left us in the last few months to enjoy their heavenly home?
First, Padma Punja, who was one of my earliest role models. She opened her house to people of all faiths and backgrounds, rich and poor alike. The youth, lay, clergy, and bishops who visited India always enjoyed her powerful hospitality. Even on our last Mission of Peace Pilgrimage to India, she, along with her son and his family, gave us a gala dinner. She was an inspiration to others through her humility and gracious smile.
Second, Ursula Veigel, the spouse of a missionary from Germany who I knew in my childhood and teenage years. Ursula’s radiating smile and compassionate eyes always spoke to us on our level as children and youth. She taught us how to love and care for the poor.
Third, my Aunt Betsy, a positive thinker who had the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. She always encouraged people to see the goodness in others. I still remember with gratitude her great ability to listen to others and always see the gifts they possessed. I was also touched by her radical hospitality.
Fourth, Bishop Taranath Sagar, a global ecumenical leader and bishop of the Methodist Church in India. Though I only came to know him in this last decade, he amazed me with his ability to speak the truth with a touch of humor. On my visit to India this summer, I enjoyed spending time with him. We engaged in holy conversation with one another without any fear. It was a beautiful visit where I enjoyed his and his wife Padma’s graceful hospitality. Bishop Sagar challenged me to go places I would not have gone on my own, thus enabling me to stretch my imagination and thoughts.
Friends, may I prayerfully encourage you to think about all those who have been your saints – your agents of change, your balcony people?
May we take time to talk about them and share how they influenced and changed us through their lives and their roles as children of God?
May we take time to thank our Creator for each of them and for the gifts, in all shapes and forms, they have given us that continue to make us better people?
May we also take time to write a note of appreciation to those saints who are still living, letting them know how they have influenced us for the better; let them know that we recognize them as our saints, our balcony people.
Interestingly, someone just recently sent me this quote from Albert Schweitzer: “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
May God grant all of us the power and grace to be a change agent or balcony person, rekindling inner spirits in others, filled with the compassionate love of God and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In Christ’s love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar