See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
Today is All Saints Day for much of our Western Protestant and Catholic traditions. This should be one of the greatest celebrations in our Christian year, for it honors the lives of those who have passed from this life into the eternal realm of God. It is a day of remembrance, often celebrated with communion – first remembering Jesus Christ our Lord, then remembering all of the significant sisters and brothers who have taught us, guided us, inspired us, encouraged us, and supported us. It is a worshipful expression of gratitude for the transformational relationships we have in our lives.
This pandemic year has been extremely difficult and painful for most of us. We are social beings not used to distancing and not as healthy in isolation and apart. We thrive on company, on relationships, on connection. Even the deepest introverts among us need human contact and community in order to thrive. Being separated is a great sacrifice, yet we do it because we care deeply for the health and well-being of others.
In this year of COVID-19 we have come to value our congregations, our community of faith, and our casual acquaintances much more highly. It is sometimes true that you don’t truly value what you have until you lose it. Of course, we have been able to stay connected through phone and Internet, Facetime and Zoom, but it simply isn’t the same thing. Im and I became grandparents this year; seeing pictures and videos of our precious Sydney Grace is not the same as holding her and being physically with her. Touching, hearing, seeing, and even the smell of her are important parts of our relationship, but for now we do what is best for her and her parents, what is safest and healthiest and smartest.
We do not have to wait until we die to become saints for one another. By caring for each other, protecting each other, honoring each other, respecting each other, and loving each other, we become saints to one another. We teach each other, inspire each other, encourage and support each other, and together we are greater than the sum of our parts. On this All Saints Day, celebrate all the saints – living and dead – who make your life so much richer, better, happier, and fuller.
Dear God, second only to the precious gift of your own son Jesus, let us give thanks for the gifts we are to one another. Help us to look for the good in each other, to expect the best from each other, and to give the very best for others. Break down in us any walls and barriers that separate us, and join us together in a glorious spiritual community of unity, harmony, and love. We ask this humbly in the name of the Christ, Jesus. Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).