GENEVA - As the new year 2003 approaches, the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko hopes that it will be a period that brings transformation in people's lives both spiritually and materially.
In his new year message, Noko points out that God's grace is bestowed without prejudice, and expects that the coming year will "afford us the opportunity to see the face of Christ in others."
The full text of the New Year Message from the LWF General Secretary follows:
New Year Message from the Lutheran World Federation General Secretary
The tradition of exchanging greetings on special occasions such as New Year is common practice everywhere. It provides an opportunity to renew friendships, reconnect with family and heal broken relationships. Within the Christian community, greetings of good wishes and prayers nurture our bonds of fellowship.
As the year 2003 approaches, I greet you, sisters and brothers in Christ. Let us remember the instructive and insightful words of the Apostle Peter before an audience in the house of Cornelius, a Roman military official: In Acts 10:34-35 (NRSV) Peter is quoted as saying
"Truly I perceive that [God] shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to [God]."
This Petrine public confession conveys something profound and radical about God and divine grace: God is just; God's grace is bestowed without prejudice; God has no designated favorites. Divine grace is not conferred according to race, gender, nationality, age or descent. Everyone who pursues justice and lives accordingly finds acceptance before God regardless of social status. The significance of Peter's statement can be better understood when it is recalled that he had been nurtured in the belief that God's salvation was strongly linked and restricted to Abraham's descendants. To meet with a God who truly so loved all nations of the world not to consider individual descent was indeed the dawn of a "New Year" in the life of this leading apostle. His worldview was changed radically, his spiritual horizons extended beyond imagination, and his theological enlightenment deepened. The audience in Cornelius' house was suddenly transformed into a congregation of God's people called together with Peter to participate in God's mission of grace and love for the world.
As the year 2003 draws near, may it bring a transformative experience in our lives, not only materially but spiritually. May it afford us the opportunity to see the face of Christ in others. Let us bear in mind at all times that God is always ahead of us, doing and putting things together in a manner that goes beyond our human understanding.
May God grant you grace, strength and abundant hope to work toward a just and humane society.
Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko General Secretary
December 2002 Geneva, Switzerland