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November 2011 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Finding Faith in an Age of Terror

 

This time of year, in a culture facing terror of all sorts, many people are wanting to find faith. I think a better way to approach this is to be in places where faith can find us. I’m not simply writing to invite you to a mosque or synagogue or church – although it would be great to see you there. I’m inviting you to places where people of faith gather. And, just to be clear, those are by no means restricted to houses of worship.

 

To be sure, there are plenty of those places available. On Christmas Eve I expect churches to be full. And I expect many who will sing "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" will be those who are simply wanting to be faithful, if only for an hour…or wanting to be more faithful because of what they are fearing. And that will be true not only of the Lutherans I represent.

 

The faith we seek to make available to people, the faithful community we will enter, are gifts from God. This faith and these people are marked by certain characteristics we need for the common good.

 

You may know that Lutherans are completing a year of grand celebrations surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. What I am hoping is that in the coming years we will move from that historic grounding we have commemorated toward greater cooperation with people of faith in ecumenical and inter-religious movements.

 

There is a great commitment among leaders of various communities of faith to engage progressive advances at the grassroots level, to promote tolerance, and to encourage people to flourish in a new and needed age of community. The amazing strides between Lutherans and Roman Catholics point to this.

 

There is a strong desire and willingness to work on welcoming all people in a spirit of generous hospitality. As a Lutheran I can say that many of my tribe are engaged in ministry with the LGBTQ communities. In our own Synod here in Metropolitan New York, we are working to address the systemic racism which is America’s original sin. We are strongly speaking out in opposition to the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia all around us. We are engaged with faithful people in our own country and around the world in addressing the abuses of power we see every day.

 

There are remarkable efforts at offering God’s welcome to immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, though we certainly look for more such opportunities in the face of governmental resistance. We will work actively to participate in inclusive welcome, as our Lord Jesus was himself a refugee.

 

There are local congregations in which people of faith are welcoming people of all races and nations, one of the great gifts of the amazing communities in which we live. We are striving to welcome the stranger without fear but with the same kind of faith that our ancestors experienced when they reached these shores and were welcomed by the first nations people.

 

There is a commitment to practicing a faith that is intimately connected with "peace on earth," the gift of wholeness that is truly the meaning of shalom.       

 

There is, in our churches and in many other religious communities, a welcome to the open table of God’s Reign where all can gather together.

 

And while we do not have all the answers, of course, we are faithful in responding to the terror all around, knowing that God is with us and guiding us into a new day of faith when war and hardship and suffering and oppression will be no more.

 

This is pious language. True words. What I am calling the synod I serve as bishop to do is to put these words into action for such a time as this. And I invite you to join me as faith discovers us together again and again.

 

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

 

 

 

The gap

Nov 07, 2011

No, this title is not an endorsement for a certain brand name. I’m getting no commission for using it! Nor is it a reference to the British exhortation “Mind the gap” or the LIRR’s less luxurious “Watch the gap.” It’s rather a little bit of a reflection on my increasing sense of disparity in our world and the despair that accompanies it.

 

It doesn’t take very long for us to react when someone mentions the disparity between races and even between cultures within races. The media is a little less attentive now to the disparity being pointed to by those who occupy Wall Street, but they are still there. (People who ask my opinion about that are quickly referred to the ELCA’s social statement on economics; you can find that wise and balanced statement here: “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.”) Even the All Saints’ Day gospel from Matthew 5 points to gaps in our world; it’s even more acute in Luke’s telling of the beatitudes and his accompanying “woe-itudes.”

 

Jesus turned the world upside down that day on the hillside. Those who had been fighting for breath at the bottom of the human heap suddenly found themselves closest to heaven and those who thought they were on top of things found themselves flat on their backs looking up.

 

I don’t want to sound sacrilegious, but, seriously: Blessed are the meek? The mourning? The poor in spirit? Who is he kidding? There is nothing blessed about that at all. What is so blessed about hungering and thirsting for righteousness? About being reviled and persecuted? “Rejoice and be glad”? Excuse me, Lord, but gimme a break! No one with an ounce of common sense would endorse that kind of thinking. No one with an ounce of common sense would consider that the good life. But that’s exactly what these nine short verses constitute: a new portrait of citizens in the reign of God, people previously known as losers, victims, fools, dreamers, and pushovers. These are the chosen. These are the saints. These are the ones who will see God face-to-face.

 

Mind this gap, friends: The blessed shall be satisfied not because they’re winners but because winning is the farthest thing from their minds. The ever-unpredictable Jesus presents a list of losers. And we are among them. I’m reasonably certain that these descriptors can be used to describe you: The merciful who keep forgiving their enemies so their enemies can trounce them all over again. The pure in heart who believe everything they hear and empty their bank accounts to help the needy. The peacemakers who hear the nagging voices of politicians and decide to step in and promote a cause that can change the world. These are the blessed of God – the ones who cannot compete and who would not know success if it came up to them and handed them a trophy. The blessed ones would insist that there must be some mistake. The blessed ones would give the prize away to someone who needed it more. The blessed ones would put that trophy in the closet so they would not be tempted to think too highly of themselves.

 

There are great gaps between people, gaps we need to mind, to watch, to be aware of and attentive to. It’s part of our calling as Christians, I think. The blessed ones – us – can mind them, watch them with the eyes of Christ, give care to them with the heart of Christ. That’s what it means to be a saint. And that’s what we are. 

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

disaster relief
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