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June 2016 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

 

 

 

Prayer for Orlando

Jun 24, 2016

Bishop Rimbo preached this Homily at the Prayer Service for Orlando at St. John's, Christopher Street. The texts were Isaiah 40:6-11 and John 14:27.

  

 

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Bishop Rimbo preaching at the June 24 Prayer Service.

There are so many words that come to mind, prompted by these days since the murders at Pulse, prompted by the amazing recognition of the Stonewall Inn, prompted by these readings from Isaiah and John, prompted by these prayers. But I think Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony sonnet says it best: "And Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love cannot be killed or swept aside…" It’s about love and for me that means it’s about Jesus.

 

See: the Orlando tragedy, horrific, is an old, old story. We grow weary of it. And the rage, frustration, pain we feel pulsing in us can only be healed by Love. It’s about Jesus.

 

Love comes into the world like a little child, fresh from God. When Love grows up, Love feeds people, Love heals people, Love turns things upside down, Love loves. Which doesn’t sit well with the people who think they are in charge. They warn love to leave well enough alone. Love meets hate, meets politics, meets fear. Love goes on loving, which gets Love killed – by people like us: clergy, God-fearing folk. What brought them together in Jesus’s case and in the case of the innocents of Orlando was rage, not far from the rage of the current presidential campaign. It’s the rage that rises when someone is not what you want them to be, or maybe more than you want them to be, or, maybe, too much like yourself. In any case, they kill for it: Matthew Shepard, the Newtown 26, the Charleston 9, the Orlando 49. Baltimore, Staten Island, Aurora and San Bernadino.

 

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49 candles were lit and as the names of lives lost were read, they were blessed with incense. 

They were killed because they were not who someone wanted them to be, or maybe because they were.

 

Love came to us in Jesus Christ who was a good man – complete, whole – that sense of good. He resisted the temptation to be more than a man, although it was clearly within his power to do so. On the whole, he limited himself to what anyone made out of flesh and blood could do, obeying the laws of gravity and mortality just like the rest of us so we could not discount our kinship with him. He did not come to put us to shame with his divinity. He came to call us into the fullness of our humanity, which was divine enough for him.

 

He was survived by his mother. There was no one else in the family, though some people said there were brothers and sisters, but they weren’t around. He was survived by John, the disciple whom he loved. He had no children, although he showed a real fondness for them. He called his friends "children" more than once, although he was about their same age, I imagine. They seemed to know what he meant. He never wrote anything, except with his finger in the sand, but many of his words were remembered. You can find them easily today, on all sorts of things: t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers.

 

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Music was offered by friends and members of St. John's, Christopher Street.

It is more difficult to find people who have some idea of what they mean. Witness what people who claim to follow this Love, people in the Church, have done to the Queer Community.

 

He was a good man, but he was not such a good god, if being a god means being big and strong and out of reach, in control of the violence, the rage. He was a suffering god, which no one had ever heard of before. He meant to transform the world by love, not by control, and that made his life hell a lot of the time.

 

Compared to the founders of other religions, he had a rough time. Jesus was not very lucky. But if Jesus were luckier, what would he have had to offer all those who die too soon, who suffer for who they are, who are punished for the capital offense of loving too much? His hard luck, so to speak, his suffering, makes him our best company today, when we run into our own suffering and horror and pain. He knows. He has been there. He was there at Pulse. There is nothing that hurts us that he does not know about. His love was the fierce kind of love, love that would not put up with any kind of tyranny, that would not stand by and watch a leper shunned or a widow hungry, love that turned over the tables of those whose entire purpose in living was to make money so they could live in marble palaces with gold doorknobs. His love would not allow God to be made into another commodity. His love embraced those on the margins.

 

He was a ruler, but his reign was not of this world. It broke into this world from time to time – it still does – and this world could use a whole lot more of it. But we are also afraid of it, even we who call ourselves Christian, who claim to live following him. Our world is built on who is up and who is down, who is brown and who is white, who is gay and who is straight, who is in and who is out, who is last and who is first. His world turns all that upside down, and we simply cannot function like that. So we run this world our way and we make noise about wanting it God’s way, but we do not really mean it or we would. If we ran the world God’s way there would be no guns of any caliber, any description. In America, we are still trying to build a world in which the tragic is passe’, only the tragic will not lie down and die. It keeps popping up again, and all our efforts to avoid it simply make it worse.

 

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The light from candles spread as we neared the end of the service.

Orlando calls us to another way. Call it the way of the cross. It is the way of those who understand that suffering is part of life – some of it to be fought and some of it to be endured but none of it to be run from, as if running ever changed a thing.

 

It is time for us in the Church to take on the suffering of the Queer Community, of the Latino/Latina Community, to take on the suffering of all whose lives matter, to take it on in the name of Love, in the Name of Jesus. We cannot curl up into some fetal position in the wake of this great tragedy among so many other tragedies. We must, rather, see Orlando as the means by which we discover the shape of our humanity, including our relationship with God and one another. And that shape is the shape of a cross, the shape of Love.

 

That is where we learn the truth that saves our lives: suffering will not destroy, killing will not destroy. Our fear and our evasion destroys. Suffering puts us in league with Jesus, the Crucified One, Crucified Love, whose own heart battered the heart of God and caused God’s heart to pulse with abundant life. That is the promise. The cross points the way.

 

We Christians allegedly have committed ourselves to a life of repentance and return that will not give up on ourselves or the world. No matter how many times we have to repeat the process. We will keep telling the truth and turning around, every day. We will never say never – I’ll never recover, I’ll never get it, Congress will never act courageously, the gun lobby will never stop, people will never learn – we will never say never. Why? Because we look, not in a mirror that reminds us that we are all miserable sinners – a revolting sight to say the least; rather we keep looking at Love, crucified and risen from the dead. We believe in Love. We believe in God’s goodness more than we believe in human badness. We believe in God’s power to make new. Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love . . . . . .

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Find resources for advocacy and change in the Lutheran church here

 

Be the Change

Jun 24, 2016

Printed with the liturgy for the Prayer Service for in the wake of the Orlando shooting, here are resources for you to become a catalyst for change. 

 

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

We are a publicly engaged church that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work. We do God’s work in the world, the work of restoring and reconciling communities. We pursue justice and seek peace no matter how long the journey or wide the chasm. Because we are grounded in God’s love and forgiveness, we are well equipped to live and serve here and now, in the world, with all its complexities, tensions and ambiguities.

  • Lament. Our churches seek to create safe space for naming, praying, grieving, caring for one another, and sharing the hope in God’s promise of faithfulness. There is a place for you here.
  • Learn. ELCA social statements and messages are teaching and policy documents that provide broad frameworks to assist us in thinking about and discussing social issues in the context of faith and life. They are meant to help communities and individuals with moral formation, deliberation and thoughtful engagement with current social issues as we participate in God’s work in the world. Learn more at bit.ly/faithandsociety
  • Take Action. Lutherans understand that governments are a means through which God can work to preserve creation and build a more peaceful and just society. As a public church, we have a responsibility to address issues that affect our neighbors in communities throughout the world. Through advocacy efforts, ELCA members and other Christians can work through governmental channels on behalf of biblical values. Find more at elca.org/advocacy
  • Write. Writing a letter is an effective way to communicate with your elected official. Capitol Hill offices employ staffers whose responsibility is to read and respond to constituent mail, and many of these offices start issue files after receiving merely seven letters on a topic. Find tips and samples for writting to your representative at bit.ly/writetoyourrepresentatives
  • Be Social. Tweet your political leaders. Look for calls to action. Share opportunities to lift our collaborative voices and be a catalyst for change. 

We are drawn into every corner of life, society and its institutions to bring the good news of Jesus Christ and to work for lasting, positive change that upholds human dignity.

The Lord of hosts is with us

Jun 14, 2016

pride_candleA pastoral letter to the Metropolitan New York Synod.

 

My Dear Sisters and Brothers:

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to all of you in the Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

 

There is enough evidence for me to realize that not everyone reacted in the same way I did to the horrid violence and evil we saw in Orlando early last Sunday. I was simply, overwhelmingly stunned. My initial reaction was utter silence. I still lean in that direction.

 

When chaos surrounds us and terror is profound, I fall back into the words of Psalm 46: "Be still, then, and know that I am God." At first, on Sunday, I wondered about where God was in the tragedy which could have happened anywhere to anyone. In the listening stillness, we are reminded that "the Lord of hosts is with us." And the Lord of hosts was with those people slaughtered: people named Juan, Anthony, Brenda, Kimberly, Drew. And the Lord of hosts was with that city, Orlando, just as God was with Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and Aurora. And the Lord of hosts is with us.

 

Can we gather faithfully and enter into that stillness? Can we come together to pray "in the midst of the city" as the Psalm declares?

 

I want you to know…you, our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers, who are hurting from the deep pain…you our Latino/Latina sisters and brothers, who are suffering such loss…you, all of you, I want you to know that the Lord of hosts is with us.

 

I hope you have read the letter from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. I hope you have read the letter from Bishop Robert Schaefer of the Florida-Bahamas Synod. They speak from the depths to all of us. And I hope that this experience will prompt all of us not only to speak against gun violence but to come together and work to legislate, to at least attempt to prevent this from happening again.

 

And I hope you will join us on Friday, June 24, 2016, at 6 p.m. for a Prayer Service at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher Street, in Manhattan. We need to be still, together, and know that God is God. We need to come together to be reminded that the Lord of hosts is with us, even when it seems otherwise. We need to commend one another and our world to this God who is mercy and peace and love.

 

The Lord of hosts is with us.

 

The Rev. Dr. Robert Alan Rimbo

Bishop

 

 

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