May 2011 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo




"Bridges Not Walls" 


"Puentes No Fronteras"



Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus as we enter 2018 together!


We are on the bridge - on many different bridges, to be frank. Transitions and changes surround us. So, I invite you to look back with me at two parts of our life together as a Synod that will have lasting impact. 


The Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, "Reformation 500: Committed to Unity in Christ", on November 1 and in a variety of other events, marked this great year. At this Eucharist, we turned a page in our ecumenical and interfaith relationships. The response from various communions has pointed to a desire to join us on this bridge and work at tearing down walls that divide. I am pledged to lead us in these efforts drawing on the great spirit experienced at our remarkable commemoration. 




The second part of the new vision I have coming across the bridge into 2018 is our renewed and renewing commitment to various issues of immigration and welcoming of all people into our country and our churches. The SENT Committee is working hard at making the renewal happen and I pledge to be at the center of these efforts. Not only are we called to build bridges; we are also called to break down divisions by active participation in our communities at all levels. Lutherans have been central to the work of immigration justice for decades; it is an even greater need today. 


These two gifts from 2017 will continue to guide our efforts in 2018. Our unity as a Synod is a tremendous gift from God and together we will, by God's grace and power, cross these bridges into a bright future together.


A blessed New Year to all of you!



+ Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA


















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




On the road to Emmaus

May 23, 2011


Easter 3, Cycle A

St. Luke 24:13-35


St. Luke’s story of what happened on the road to Emmaus is one of my favorites in the Bible, one of seven post-resurrection stories in the gospels. I have tried to come up with a word to describe it and the only word I can use is “ghostly.”  


Think about it: the stranger whom the disciples do not recognize at first turns out to be the Messiah and then vanishes from their sight – poof – as soon as they know who he is. It’s ghostly. The crucifixion stories are not like this. They are one hundred percent solid. Jesus is nailed to the cross with a nameplate tacked above his head, where he dies in front of scores of eyewitnesses. No case of mistaken identity here. No sudden appearance and disappearance. His death is real.


His resurrection, on the other hand, is largely rumor. Someone said that someone said his tomb was empty, but that could mean anything. Maybe his body was stolen. Maybe he revived and walked away. Even those who saw him in the flesh had a hard time convincing anyone else it was true. Seven post-resurrection stories do not go very far. Jesus did not appear to everyone before he ascended to heaven, which left plenty of people to weigh the evidence for themselves, to listen to the testimony of those who were there and to decide if and what they would believe.


That’s pretty much our situation in the post-Easter church. None of us was there, for the real death or the rumored resurrection. All of us have a decision to make about the truth of what we have heard. But if it is all true, then we have more than hearsay to make up our minds. If Christ is risen indeed, then we may base our decision on our own encounter with the living God. The question is, what is the address?


For St. Luke, the answer is: Somewhere on the road between here and Emmaus. Luke is the only gospel writer who tells us the story of what happened on that road, but everyone has walked it at one time or another. It is the road you walk when your team has lost, your candidate has been defeated, your loved one has died – the long road back to the empty house, the piles of unopened mail, to life as usual, if life can ever be usual again.


It is the road of deep disappointment, diminishing numbers, fear and scarcity, illness and disconnect. Walking it is the living definition of sad, and many in this assembly have been walking it just like the two disciples in today’s story. It takes two hours or so to walk seven miles, and that is how long they have to talk-over the roller coaster events of the past three days. The trial, the crucifixion, the silent procession to the tomb for burial. And then the women’s vision of angels, the empty grave. Real death. Rumored resurrection. Even the disciples thought it was an idle tale.


Cleopas and the other disciple are talking it all over when the stranger comes up behind them and asks them what they are talking about so that they stop in their tracks to look at him. Who is he? Rip van Winkle? “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Cleopas asks him. But the truth is they are both glad for his company and so they walk with him, matching their stride to his as they tell him everything they know. They tell him how things had looked so promising at first, when Jesus impressed everyone with his eloquence and mighty acts, when they had hope. And then they tell him how things had gone wrong, bad wrong, so that there was finally nothing left for them to do but to go back home, dragging their feet in the dust.


“We had hoped he was the one to redeem Israel,” they say to him, admitting their defeat. “We had hoped.” Hope in the past tense is one of the saddest sounds a human being can make. We had hoped he was the one. We believed things might really change, but we were wrong. He died. It is over now. No more idle tales. No more illusions. Back to business as usual.


And that is when their walking partner explodes at them. “Oh, how foolish you are and how slow of heart!” he says to them. If you had read your Bibles, none of this would come as a surprise to you. Listen, Cleopas and all of you walking with him, hearing now, the other disciples walking the road, listen. It is right there: The Christ is not the one who wins the power struggle; he is the one who loses it. The Christ is not the undefeated champion; he is the suffering servant, the broken one, who comes into his glory with his wounds still visible. Those hurt places are the proof that he is who he says he is, because the way you recognize the Christ – and his followers – is not by their muscles but by their scars.


Which means that they are not to despise the painful parts of their lives anymore. Which means that they are not to interpret their defeats as failures anymore, not even death itself. Contrary to all good common sense, they are to follow their leaders into the ghostly, scary, most dangerous places in the world armed with nothing but a first-aid kit, because they, like him, are not fighters but physicians – wounded healers – whose credentials are their own hurt places.


Starting with Moses and working his way through the prophets, the stranger opens the scriptures to them and they hang on his words. He is a gifted preacher, but it is more than that. They are wounded. And what he is telling them is good, good news.


Maybe they aren’t losers after all. Maybe the rumors are true. Maybe there is reason to resurrect their crucified hope. So when they arrive at their village and he shakes their hands goodbye, they will not let him go. They have not gotten enough of him yet, so they invite him to stay with them and he does. He is an odd guest, though. It is their house, their food, their table, but when the three of them sit down together, it is he, the guest, who acts as host, who reaches out, takes the bread, blesses God for it, breaks it, and gives it to them. Maybe it is the oddness of the act that makes the blinders fall from their eyes, or maybe it is the familiarity of it – something they have seen him do before on a green hillside with five loaves and two fish, in an upper room the night before it all came crashing down. He takes, blesses, breaks, gives – and through the torn, fragrant edges of the loaf he holds out to them, they look at him and know who he is…one moment before he vanishes from their sight.


Their blindness does not prevent his coming to them. He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. He comes to those who do not know their Bibles, who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessed-ness of broken-ness.


Maybe that is only good news if you happen to be broken. If you are not, then I guess it would be better news to hear a story about how those who believe in God may skip right over the broken part and go straight to the wholeness part, but that does not seem to be the case. Jesus seems to prefer working with broken people, with broken dreams, in a broken world. And for us, too. Jesus shows us how to take what we have been given, whether we like it or not, and to bless it – to say thank you to God for it – whether it is the sweet, satisfying bread of success or the tear-soaked bread of sorrow. To say thank you and to break it because that is the only way it can be shared, and to hand it around not to eat it all by ourselves but to find someone to eat it with, so that the broken loaf may bring all of us broken ones together into one body, where we may recognize the risen Lord in our midst.


What a story this is, showing us where we can see the living God. In the closeness of the two disciples on the road. In their kindness to a stranger. In the way their hearts burned within them when he opened the scriptures to them. In the way they knew him in the breaking of the bread. These are all the ways Christ has promised to be present with us, which also happen to be the everyday activities of the church, the people of God, who attend to one another, to strangers, to God’s word and sacraments as a way of life.


A lot of it happens in other places, but the breaking of the bread at Holy Communion can break me right open. Sometimes I can be right in the middle of it when suddenly the tears well up. It is like the gates to my heart open and everything I have ever loved comes tumbling out to be missed and praised and mourned and loved some more. It is like being known all the way down to the tips of my toes. It is being in the presence of God. One moment I see Christ and the next he’s gone. One moment my eyes are opened and I recognize the risen Savior and the next he vanishes from my sight.


If you are anything like me, and I suspect you are, then take heart. This is no ghost. Do not fear. You can never lose him for good. This is the place he has promised to be, in his own body and blood, and this is the place he returns to meet us again and again.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Yom Hashoah

May 02, 2011

Dear Sisters and Brothers, especially dear Rabbi Peter, Pastor Amandus, members of this congregation gathered to mark Yom Hashoah: I greet you on behalf of the Metropolitan New York Synod

and the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and our Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson. The last time I was in Central Synagogue was on October 12, 2008. This house of God was the setting for my installation as the bishop of our synod. Thank you again for your most gracious hospitality. What grand memories!


I bring other memories, as do all of you, as we gather here this evening to mark Yom Hashoah, twenty five years of memories and they remain demanding, harsh in the pitiless light they cast.


I remember Marc Tanenbaum confronting Christians with a searing question: How was it possible “in a country which, when it vaunted its great values and its great moral traditions, spoke of itself as a country of ancient Christian culture,” how was it possible “for millions of Christians to sit by as spectators while millions of human beings, who were their brothers and sisters…were carted out to their death in the most brutal, inhuman, uncivilized ways.” I remember those words tonight.


I remember ancient prayers for Good Friday which now, thank God, have been changed to warm thanksgiving for you, our Jewish sisters and brothers, the first to hear the word of God.  


I remember ghettos structured by Christians, forced baptisms, Crusades to liberate holy places, Good Friday pogroms, exiles, Dachau and Auschwitz.  


I remember the turned backs of my Christian sisters or brothers, the shoulders shrugged, the sneers and slaps and curses.  


I remember that there is a generation of Christians who have grown up for whom “Holocaust” is a word and little more – as vague and transient as the War of 1812 or the Battle of San Juan Hill.


I remember a letter I once read in the newspaper of a Christian college in which the student writer claimed that the Holocaust never took place; it was a fiction, pure and simple.


And tonight I remember Elie Wiesel’s warning: To forget is to become the executioner’s accomplice.   


I remember these things tonight with you. I repent of these great tragedies. I rejoice in our Lutheran church’s desire to redress the terrible teachings of our ancestors and come to our Jewish sisters and brothers ever seeking reconciliation.


So this is what I pray as we gather: If our sin-scarred, tear-drenched, blood-stained earth is ever to enjoy a measure of peace, I pray that justice will be joined to reconciliation, to unity. I thank you, the people of Central Synagogue and Saint Peter’s Church, for teaching us to look at a more distant horizon where hands that have locked in hate are linked in love, where enemies are transformed into friends, and our dearest, deepest yearning is for unity, the unity of all God’s children.


Then our memories will reap their richest reward, we will show that we are faithful to the covenant God made with us, and we will hope again.


Thank you for your witness to all of us.  


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

2 May 2011