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November 2014 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

 

 

 

ELCA bishops’ statement on immigration announcement

Nov 21, 2014

As people of faith and leaders of the church, we support public policy that protects children, reunites families, and cares for the most vulnerable, regardless of their place of birth. 
 
The treatment of immigrants is a core religious value. To welcome the stranger is to welcome a child of God. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger, for "just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.’" (Matthew 25:40)

 

Each day in our congregations and in our service to the community, we see the consequences of this broken immigration system: separated families, children returning home to find their parents have been deported, and the exploitation of undocumented workers.
 
By removing the threat of deportation for many people, we are showing compassion for people who have been here for years, working hard to provide for their families, obeying the law, and contributing to the fabric of our community. 
 
While today’s action addresses a pressing need, it does not provide a path to citizenship, establish policies that prioritize family unity, or create more efficient channels for entry of new migrant workers. Our hope is that Congress will address these and related issues, including the practice of family detention, which undermines our values as a people of faith and a nation of welcome.
 
The Scriptures consistently show a significant concern for immigrants:


When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)


The positive role of immigrants in our history, economy and our community is unmistakable. We support this compassionate first step toward reforming an immigration system that is flawed and requires many of our neighbors to live in the shadows in fear. 
 
Conference of Bishops
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
November 20, 2014

 

 

Believe in God more than you believe in your fear

Nov 11, 2014

To follow Jesus is to encounter change. Call it repentance, the ancient word metanoia. It’s all about change, which is at the center of the challenging and hope-filled new ministries (as well as our long-standing ones) in which the Metropolitan New York Synod is engaged. But, truth be told, change causes the bile to increase, the acid reflux to be omnipresent. There are times when I think I should invest in antacid manufacturers. Change causes fear. And, in his typical fashion, at first glance Jesus is less than helpful.

 

He had and still has this vision to share with us, inviting us to follow him. In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus tells us that if we are not afraid to lose our lives, we might be surprised to find them. And the cross of which he spoke was not a piece of jewelry; it was a means of execution and a form of intimidation. It reinforced the idea that death was the most awful thing in the world and that people with any sense at all should do everything in their power to avoid it.

 

Rather than running from them, our Lord Jesus tells us to pick up our crosses. There are worse things than death in the world and living in fear, including fear of change, is at the top of the list. If you are going to let fear rule your life, fear will become your god and the only standard for your behavior will be how much something scares you.

 

I am convinced that fear of change is the biggest obstacle we face in the church today.

 

Fear was not the only choice the disciples had, according to Jesus. And it’s not our only option either. Instead of surrendering themselves to their fear, they could surrender to God. They could deny the panic-stricken voice inside – the same one that keeps ordering us to play it safe and take no risks – and listen instead to the voice that says, "Do not fear. Follow me." That voice has never promised safety; it has always promised life. It has never offered freedom from pain; it has only offered freedom from fear.

 

And here are some of those challenges and changes which cause fear to well up in me and you.

 

Division within the church. Right? The days of the Corinthian correspondence, for example, are still present. We should not be surprised at dissension 20 centuries later--dissension, difference, disputes within the supremely human body of Christ. I have seen Christian people claw one another like cats in a sack. The email and letters I have received from good Christians would make your flesh crawl. Passion is great, folks; hate never is.

 

Division between religion and justice. There are still two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor. In a paradoxical country of wondrous wealth and unlimited promise, where one out of every five children grows up below the poverty line, where untold thousands of young people are incestuously abused, where our elders rummage for food in garbage cans, where crack and coke stunt minds and massacre bodies, where black and white continue to live in smoldering mistrust, God asks us again, "Where is your sister, your brother?"

 

Division, driven by fear, is pressing hard on us as we continue to move into the mission God has for us in our synod and people gnaw and gnarl rather than converse and console. The Christ who died for you, dear brother, dear sister, lives in you and in the man or woman next to you. Even when change makes little sense to you and causes great fear, let it not destroy the shalom in you and among us.

 

Our own crosses – and you know what they are, don’t you? – do not have much to do with standing up to the Roman government. But fear is timeless, and my guess is that each of us has something of which we are deathly afraid. Maybe it’s the fear of admitting an addiction of one kind or another that is eating away at your life. Maybe it’s the fear of tackling a memory that still has the power to suck the breath right out of you. Maybe it’s the fear of standing up for something you believe in, or telling the truth about who you are to people who are going to condemn you for it, or challenging others to walk together into the future. Maybe it’s the fear of discovering you have an illness that no medicine can cure, or that your child does, or your friend: whatever it is that scares you to death, so that you start offering to do anything, anything at all, if it will just go away – that’s your cross, and if you leave it lying there, it will kill you. If you turn away from it with the excuse that this should never have happened to you and you deserve better, then you deny God the chance to show you that there, right there in the dark night of your soul, there that cross is the door to life.

 

Jesus tells us to stop running from it. Start believing in God more than you believe in your fear. And follow.

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

 

 

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