November 2011 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

The Rev. Dr. Robert Rimbo shares regular thoughts and reflections about our life together.

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