NEWS – WMC Geneva Secretary Extends New Year’s Greeting

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Geneva Secretary of the World Methodist Council, extends a new year’s greeting to Methodists around the world.

We have to take many hardships with us as we are facing multiple crises: wars and violent oppression all over the globe; an ongoing pandemic in several world regions and post-pandemic struggles in other places; food insecurity and hunger for millions of people; and foremost the climate crisis and the ongoing exploitation of mother earth, which is a main root cause for armed conflicts, hunger, and forced migration. What gives us hope? In Germany, where I live, an ecumenical working Group selects a watchword for any particular year. The watchword for 2023 is taken from Genesis 16:13. Hagar said: “You are the God who sees me.” Look at this painting done by the German artist Stefanie Bahlinger me.”

Hagar is crouching at the floor. She was in a crisis. She had been forced to become the biological mother of the far to long-expected offspring of Sarai and Abram. Hagar was Sarai’s slave. Hagar’s pregnancy caused troubles between her and Sarai. When Sarai decided to use her power, Hagar ran away straight into the desert. Here she is: Somewhere in the wilderness, alone, in disparity. Yet, in Stefanie Bahlinger’s painting, we don’t see Hagar in a dark environment. There is a bright ray of light over her. Hagar doesn’t seem to realize it. Yet she is seen. More so: Hagar, a sexually abused slave, and a refugee, is the first woman in the Bible to whom God speaks through an angel. Hagar is listened to, and she receives God’s promise: “I will multiply your offspring.” And her son shall be named Ismael – this means “God hears.” This did not end Hagar’s crisis. She had to go back to Sarai and Abram. But Hagar knew she was found by God. Like on Hagar, God has an eye on the oppressed and sees billions of people who are overlooked, misused, rejected, and kept in all kinds of precarious circumstances.

God is a God who sees. What a promise for 2023. And what a calling to recognize the image of God in the faces of others. We – the people called Methodists – live in very different places. Some are rich; many are poor. Some are powerful; many are struggling for dignity and basic human right to be kept. We are called to share God’s love with all, yet we are often caught up in unjust structures and are causing harm to one another instead of becoming agents of healing and hope. But God has not given us up. God sees us, hears us, speaks to us, becomes our friend in Jesus, and transforms us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can stand up and become ambassadors of justice, peace, and reconciliation. The colors used in the painting of Stefanie Bahlinger remind us of the rainbow colors. God, who became human, is with us. Making space for God’s transforming grace, we begin our journey through 2023 with hope. Seen by God, we can sing with Charles Wesley:

Come, let us anew our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.
His adorable will let us gladly fulfill,
And our talents improve by the patience of hope and the labor of love.