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September 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 Wounds Remain

Sep 08, 2011

Originally written for LivingLutheran.com

 

I was not in New York City on September 11, 2001. I did not feel the terror of falling towers and broken bodies and tragic death as many in this City feel to this day. At least not in the same way many feel it. I can assure you: the wounds are still there, especially on this day. The wounds remain.

 

There are the wounds of loss for those who were directly impacted by the deaths of friends and family members. There are the wounds of first-responders who suffer still from the damage to their bodies and souls. There are the wounds of those who have been sent to far-off places to fight unseen enemies in what might be called a state of perpetual war. There are the wounds of those yet held in places like Guantanamo and immigration detention centers because they are Muslim. There are the wounds of fear perpetuated by our culture, our politicians. There are the wounds of the tortured. There are the wounds – even in this amazingly multicultural metropolitan area – that evidence themselves in rampant racism and deep fear of “the other.” The wounds remain.

 

We worship the Risen Christ whose body is wounded even now. Jesus healed many others of deforming diseases and physical flaws. He made many broken bodies whole. But on his own transformed, risen body, there were scars. The holes in his hurt hands and feet. The wound in his side. By these wounds we who have seen Hiroshima and Auschwitz and Vietnam and Ground Zero with towers falling to dust – we are healed. We see Jesus and the permanence of his wounds. We see him and believe that the Christ who could not come down from the cross to save himself, could not be raised from the dead without his wounds, the marks of his dying. Those wounds convict us still but also give us life. By the authority of those wounds he speaks a message of hope to our wounded lives and our wounded world and, yes, our wounded City.

 

Against all reason and all natural law, Jesus rose from the dead, wounds and all.

 

We need to remember that and live that with all of our wounds intact. Cynics argue that, even if there were such a thing as resurrection, the scars on many of us would be so numerous there would be nothing left to be raised. They resist the temptation to hope. They shake their heads at our faith and are sure that they are right as they ask “Who believes in resurrection?’

 

Our faith says, “We do.” This is the heart of the Christian mystery, our faith. Jesus is alive, wounds and all. Alive now. Alive for us and in us. This is our hope. It is not wishful thinking. It is not a stiff upper lip. It is the confident expectation that God is faithful and will always be there with us and for us. This is the hope that marks a follower of Christ.

 

Every anniversary of the tragedies of September 11, I reflect on the wonderful hymn “All My Hope on God Is Founded” (ELW #757). It is a sturdy text and tune that carries me, supports me, and calls to mind the ultimate hope we have in God. Two stanzas say it all for me, especially today as I write:

 

            Mortal pride and earthly glory, sword and crown betray our trust;

            What with care and toil we fashion, tow’r and temple, fall to dust.

            But thy power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tow’r.

 

            Great thy goodness, e’er enduring; deep thy wisdom, passing thought;

            Splendor, light, and life attend thee, beauty springing out of naught.

            Evermore from thy store newborn worlds rise and adore.

 

Here is my hope today, as we mark this anniversary. I hope we will continue to hold on to the wounded Christ, acknowledging all the terrors and sorrows and pains we bear. I hope we will never forget the stories that have shaped our lives in this metropolitan area. But I also hope we will move forward from here, holding on to the story of the wounded Jesus, crucified but risen. While there remains sadness, I hope we will turn now and walk into a newborn world in which all will live in hope.

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

 

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