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July 2015 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

 

 

 

How far do we go to help?

Jul 17, 2015

During the ELCA Youth Gathering, members of our synod joined together for a day of story sharing and worship. Bishop Rimbo preached this sermon on Mark 2:1-10, where Jesus heals a man that was lowered through the roof by his friends.

 

RARgatheiring15I'm so glad you are all here in Detroit. I'm so glad this great city is being raised up, and especially by your presence and witness and service. We sang it: Jesus lifted me, and we'll sing it again. And the people of Detroit have sensed that Jesus is lifting them because of you. Do not sell yourselves short. Our presence here is significant, important.

 

I know a lot of people here in Detroit. Lois and I and our family lived in this metropolitan area for 23 years. Lois taught a lot of kids here. I was pastor in two congregations and bishop here. So we've seen a lot of friends these days and they are so energized, so encouraged, so lifted up by you. There have been times when Detroit has been labeled "God-forsaken." But we're proving that label wrong. Thank you! You are the church!

 

This story from Mark tells us just how far people have been willing to go to help others. Four people helped their friend to get close enough to Jesus to allow Jesus to heal him.

 

I'm guessing these people tried other things before they tried to see what Jesus could do for him. Just like the people in this city have tried all kinds of things.

 

I imagine them saying stuff like...

 

"You should just get used to this paralysis thing, friend. It's awful, but there's not much you can do abut it. Life goes on. At least for us it goes on."    

 

Or

 

"You have to try harder to get better. Maybe if you work harder at your physical therapy, or pay more attention to your diet, or see a different doctor, or have a better attitude, things will improve.

 

Or

 

They might even have asked him: "why do you think God is punishing you? Something you did, something you're responsible for? Did you ever think of that? Maybe you did this to yourself."

 

Or...I bet they even remembered stories from the past about healings and raising the dead, even. There were more than a few of those in the Old Testament. Maybe they remembered those and were ready to do whatever Jesus told them to do. We don't know.

 

What we DO know is that, according to Mark, Jesus had just come to Capernaum after a wild tour of Galilee, calling his disciples, preaching in synagogues, casting out demons and healing a man with leprosy.

 

And maybe that was enough. Maybe the news that there was this guy who knew about God in town at that moment who could help bring healing, maybe that word was enough to energize them, to encourage them, to push them into taking steps they might otherwise not have taken.

 

And so they gathered around their paralyzed friend. And they hoped. And they lifted. And they went to Jesus.

 

I bet you have felt that your life and your witness doesn't make a difference. Have you? Do you know someone who feels that way?

 

Let's learn from these people. Don't give up. Somebody you know - like the people here in Detroit and the people in New York whom you have represented - someone has to see Jesus, get close to Jesus, despite the risks, despite the obstacles.

 

But you have faith, my sisters and brothers, you have hope, you know this Jesus. And right now we are gathered at his feet. We know how the story turns out. There is faith. There is forgiveness. There is healing. There is life. And most of all, there is Jesus. For the paralyzed man and his friends and the people of Detroit and Each one of us.

  

Rise up together, sisters and brothers. Jesus is with us now.

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