May 2015 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




Eucharist Sermon from 2015 Synod Assembly

May 30, 2015

Isaiah 5:15-24


That reading from Isaiah is something, right?


Not the friendliest word from God

as we draw near to the end of assembly.

The Prophet Isaiah says there are some

"who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

Not the friendliest word.


One of the most amazing things about the Bible is that it’s honest.

Nothing is hidden.

Nothing is covered over.

Nothing is too embarrassing to report.

Just like it has been here among us at this assembly.

Our mutual conversation and consolation,

our indaba,

has been at times difficult,

at times joyful,

because there is nothing romantic,


or overly sentimental in the call to genuine community.

The Bible tells it like it is

and sometimes we do it very well

and sometimes very badly.


But I like being here.

I like Synod Assembly.

I like the indaba we have had.

I like the tough questions we have asked each other.

I like our commitment to tell one another

all that God has done for us, and with us.


Still, I look at you and I realize that

I really don’t know much about any of you,

and you don’t know much about me,

at least not what I think about things,

what’s important to me,

what makes me laugh,

what hurts me,

what makes me cry other than ordinations

and when Ellen gives things to people

out of the blue.

You don’t know much of importance about me

and I don’t know much about you.

So, I wonder about how determined you are

about continuing these holy conversations,

about the causes we have spoken of and acted on,

what sorts of things will make you take a stand.

I wonder where your courage lies,

and where your vulnerability.

I even wonder, looking back at our time together,

what are the things at which you take offense.


Jesus clearly was an offense to many.

The real offense was the threat Jesus posed.

The threat he still opposes.

The question for us is,

at what points in our lives does Jesus cause offense,

cause us problems.

I suggest those points may be

where we are closest to finding what it really means

to be followers of Christ.


We tend to think exactly the opposite.


We engage in our searches for an appropriate "spirituality,"

whatever that may be,

by thinking we need to find ways to discover our true selves,

to call up love, peace, and goodwill within us.

Yet, it is often at the point of greatest offense

where who this Jesus is,

is made known to us.


The issue for us is:

what are we willing to do with the offense,

how willing are we to hear our Lord Jesus in it,

this powerful Lamb of God.

If Jesus’ admonition to love one another means anything at all,

it must surely mean that

we are called to embrace those with whom we most disagree.

That is what our holy conversations have been about.

That is what mutual conversation and consolation is about.

That is why we move forward

to a deeper, richer understanding of reconciliation.


The Holy Spirit – the paraclete promised by Jesus –

the advocate, counselor, comforter we know as the Holy Spirit,

is what we need for walking together as a synod.

The Advocate will come to complete Christ’s mission,

witness to Christ’s resurrection,

give glory to Christ.


It is an empty victory

if one wins a cause by defeating a person.


The key for people of the Lamb is to win both.


A rabbi once asked his pupils,

"How can you tell when night has ended

and day is about to begin?"

The pupils pondered for a while,


and finally one of them said,

"Could it be when you look off in the distance and see two trees,

and you are able to tell that one is a fig tree

and one a palm tree?"

The rabbi answered, "No."


So the pupils argued a bit longer,

until another brave student offered an answer,

"Could it be when you look off in the distance,

and seeing two animals,

are able to distinguish that one is a dog and one a sheep?"

Again, the rabbi answered, "No."

Finally, exasperated by their arguing, the students said,

"All right then, Rabbi,

tell us, how do you know when night has ended

and the day is about to begin?"

The rabbi slowly looked each of them in the eye and said,

"When you look on the face of any woman or any man

and see there a sister or brother.

Because if you cannot do that,

then no matter what the time of day is,

it is still night."


We thank God for letting us see the light

          in one another,

sisters and brothers.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo



Festival Eucharist Sermon from 2015 Synod Assembly

May 29, 2015

St. John 13:1-17, 31b-35 


There is a lot of "knowing" in this Gospel.


Jesus knows. Jesus knows the end is near.

The time has come to leave those he has loved so well. 

He knows one he has loved will betray him

to those who will destroy him. 

He knows he has come from God. 

He knows he is to suffer, be denounced and die.

He knows he is to glorify God 

and return to the One whom he calls Abba. 

He knows his Abba has put into his hands the blessed task

of revealing God’s own heart

and accomplishing God’s desire

to save a world that soon will crush him.


Jesus knows.


Jesus knows.

We come together now for a Festival Eucharist, 

a celebration of our life together, as a Synod,

as the church in this place.

We come after an already long day of parliamentary activity,

introductions to the busyness of being the church,

getting-to-know-you activities,

images from the Book of Revelation

and from our life as church,

intense indaba questions and conversations

and the prospect of another day tomorrow.


Jesus knows.


Knowing this… 

he takes a towel, ties it about his waist,

pours water in a basin

and washes the feet of those he loves and loves to the end.

I don’t wonder why he does that; 

I know. 

I see him, kneeling at the feet of those he has known and loved. 

Much is said of this act of humility, 

but we tend to focus on it during the Three Days, 

on Maundy Thursday, 

not at a festival Eucharist at the Synod Assembly.   

It’s the kind of thing that a Jewish slave 

would not be compelled to do; 

only the Gentile slaves were forced in their slavery to wash feet. 


So what moves my heart – 

and I think the heart of the cynical world who knows this story – 

and I hope the heart of all of you – 

is Jesus’ desire to serve in humility and love, 

to mark the reconciliation God has created with all of us.


He knows he will soon leave them. 

He knows he soon will no longer be able to touch them, 

to see their smiles 

or witness their dense, uncomprehending brows.

He knows they will turn from him, 

every last one of them,

running from him in shame. 

And knowing all this… 

he wants to touch them, 

to love them, 

to wipe the dust from between their toes, 

to feel his hand on the leathery soles of their worn feet. 

He wants to look them in the eye one more time.


So he kneels before each, 

one after the other, 

revealing to each the love in which they are held, 

showing all that he is, 

all he has done and all he is about to do is for them, 

for each one, personally. 

Watching the water roll from each foot,

Jesus dries them with the towel,


attentive to the task.




Because he wants to.

Because he loves them to the end, 

the love magnified by an eternal constant,

the relentless desire and the central identity of Jesus.

That love is the Power of the Lamb.

He loves them – and he loves you – to the end.

There are many things I don’t understand.

Just ask Lois.

Just ask our children or even our grandchildren.

Just ask my therapist.

Just ask any member of our Synod Council or our synod staff.

But this is the biggest thing I don’t really understand:

the desire of God to love us to the end.


Jesus kneels at the disciples’ feet, 

and we see all the way from Tarrytown 

to the impenetrable depths of eternity 

and into the very heart of God. 

We see past our fears 

and our despair 

and our bigotry 

and our racism 

and our pain

and our exhaustion to the one truth that is more true

than all that troubles our lives:

We see the length and breadth,

the height and depth of the heart of God, 

the One who has loved us since the birth of time 

when all the morning stars sang together for joy 

at the delight in which God has always held you… 

and you… 

and you…  


The desire of God is to give

the fullness of divine life and love to you. 

Such is clear as Jesus washes feet, 

an act carried fully forth on the cross of his suffering and death, 

when the holy intention of God’s self-giving 

is unmistakable for those with faith to see and receive.


You share this love and life of God. 

Otherwise you would not be here. 

You long to have him touch you and wash you. 

You hunger to be possessed fully

by a love as powerfully tangible

as the hands of another disciple holding your feet,

the hands of Jesus’s own body.

We are flesh and blood,

craving to be carried off by the experience of God’s own heart.


So, Jesus says,

"Blessed are you if you do these things,"

referring to his loving service and ours.

Blessed are you,

not once upon a time or somewhere in the future

but right here and right now.

In the messiness of crowded lives,

ragged nerves,

complicated relationships,

challenging conversations.

Blessed are you when you share forgiveness,

when you share the Peace of Christ, with the touch of a hand,

when you enact reconciliation

in washing one another’s feet

or watching, singing, praying as others do so.

Blessed are you when you open empty hands and mouths

to receive the flesh and blood of God’s self-giving.

Blessed are you when you touch another

with the joyous grace you have received

through all the ways the living Jesus touches you.

Blessed are you, when, like Jesus, you love to the end.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo


Call for ‘Blue’ Sunday to honor fallen NYPD Officer Brian Moore

May 06, 2015

For Officer Brian Moore, his family and friends we pray. We offer heartfelt gratitude to a family whose tradition is to put their lives on the line for the safety of others.


The Moore family is a shining example of selflessness and compassion in the service of others; I pray we all follow their lead. As long as New York City is comprised of families like the Moores, evil will never win.


As a show of solidarity against this senseless act of violence, I am asking that Sunday worship participants wear blue this weekend. Let us show the world a sea of blue. Let us show Officer Moore and his family the ‘good’ that he died to protect.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo


Statement in response to recent unrest in Baltimore

May 03, 2015

Today we pray for the residents and leaders of Baltimore and all those impacted by this week’s events. For them we offer prayers of peace, understanding, justice, and safety for all.


Let us not shrink from mutual conversation about social justice, peace, and race relations in our country. Let us grow in it and from it. Let us bring our best selves forward. Let us find a path together in justice and reconciliation.


As a church we will continue to host interfaith gatherings to discuss means of reconciliation in and around our congregations and communities.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo