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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




A fresh awareness of Christ’s presence

Dec 10, 2012

Sermon from the ordination of Jonathan Recabarren, Emily Scott, and Rodney Smith

Saturday before Advent 2-C

Luke 3:1-6


Dear Friends in Christ, especially dear Jonathan, Emily and Rodney: I am honored to preside as you are ordained to the Holy Ministry of Word and Sacrament. I know it has been a long and sometimes tedious process, but we are here today – with thanks to St. Peter’s Church, to Candidacy Committees, to those friends and families who have supported and challenged and sustained you and to God. It is good to gather this morning in the Name of Jesus with ecumenical friends, members of congregations you will serve, and rostered leaders from throughout our synod. We rejoice today.


I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, so when I think of John the Baptist I often have a kind of hippy-esque image in mind. A sort of Woody Allen vision, half-clothed in camel hair, with a leather girdle from Daffy’s or Target, munching locusts from heaven-knows where, standing with the Occupy folks outside the Stock Exchange. Amid furious, frustrated talk about euros and yens, he shouts like a mad man: "Repent!" Most of the buyers and sellers don’t hear him; the trading is deafening. Most don’t see him; their eyes glued to the screen watching numbers.


The few who do notice him ignore him or shrug their shoulders or summon security to tell him to get lost. It is, after all, New York City. We’re used to people acting out and we have the security personnel to deal with them. He screams: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"


Now they’re sure he’s nuts.


Then he pleads: "Prepare the way of the Lord" and they reply "The way of who? Get out of here!"


Bizarre? I say no. Call it anachronistic. Twenty some-centuries separate Wall Street from John. But not bizarre, as if it had no relation to reality. Through John –and through you, dear Emily, Rodney, and Jonathan – the Church is proclaiming "Prepare."


The church’s year, the season of Advent, and your years of anticipation and preparation for this day and the days to come,  leave no room for argument. The Lord is coming, and we are to prepare his way. But it doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Nowhere near the sense it made for the prophets and for John. After all, for us the Lord has already come. First, in swaddling clothes, omnipotence wrapped up by his mother. And each day all over the world in, with and under bread and wine, Godhead here in hiding. And in your inmost being, friend, as long as you love. And in sisters and brothers, like those gathered this morning, like those you – we – are called to serve, people of God at St. Lydia’s, and Fordham, and New Hope, people in this synod,people who are his living images.


The Lord is here – in you, in front of you, all around you. Why all the shenanigans about preparing the way?


Because it comes to crucial questions for Christians: How aware am I of Christ’s presence? Is Jesus Christ the one person who gives ultimate meaning to my life? What we need in Advent, what we need from our pastors including the three of you soon to be ordained, is a fresh awareness of Christ’s presence, an awareness that works a ceaseless change in our lives. We need, from you, that rapturous feeling the Virgin Mary had as she felt the Word made-of-the-flesh-of- her grow within her. We need the emotions that swept over John the Baptist when he recognized the Savior he had been selected to precede.


Which is lovely rhetoric, Bishop.


But how? How do you put flesh and blood on this skeleton, especially we pastors, rostered leaders, you – Rodney and Jonathan and Emily – how?  Several suggestions that I hope will trigger your thoughts and prayers today and in the days and even years to come.


The magic word for Advent and for ministry is not "Awake" but "Aware." So I want to suggest a kind of examination of conscience, a year-end-and-beginning inventory: Where does Christ really rank in your life? In the Top Ten of your thoughts? And this is not only directed to the ordinands or the rostered leaders among us. I’m talking to all, everyone. Where does he rank? Not abstractly; very concretely. In shared time, in real interest, in reflection, contemplation, discussion. Where does Christ rank?


And, more: time is indeed your enemy and, dear pastors, it will continue to be so. I am not asking for extra time off from your congregation, but maybe something as corny as an occasional coffee break for Christ, a little break from the frantic pace of this life to ponder on the God who ought to be the center of your existence.


And more: worship is the center of our life as the Church and the Eucharist is the heart and soul of our spiritual life. There is no better way to welcome Christ within you. Each Eucharist, including this one, is an advent, a fresh coming of Christ into your inmost being, including yours as you preside at Christ’s Table.


And, you know, more: be aware, all of you and especially you three, be aware that Christ comes to you in others. When we feed others, clothe others, care for others, visit others  - we meet Christ and Advent is no longer four weeks long but every day.  For Christ can come to you, dear friends, wherever and whenever your eyes meet another person’s eyes;  for your eyes are meeting Christ’s eyes, if only you have the eyes to see.


More, still: the toughest one in many ways, let Christ come to you in your crosses. I doubt that any one of you beyond the age of two has not encountered some kind of crucifixion. The nails have countless forms, from the acne on an adolescent’s cheek, through the schizophrenia that severs the human spirit, to the terminal cancer, to the ruined houses and dashed hopes in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. I beg you – especially you who are pastors – do not try to carry your cross alone. I’m not saying you cannot; I am saying it’s a lousy idea. A cross makes Christian sense only if you meet Christ on it along with other Christians, other pastors, me, and only of on your cross you are transformed into Christ. I pray that, every day each one of you, will become more and more you, the unique person Christ died to shape.


You, dear Jonathan, Rodney and Emily, are gifts to us. Know that. Feel that. Remember that.

We are so thankful that God has brought you to this day and this place and our synod.


So today, in this Advent Season which is already filled with gifts, celebrate what you have:

the gift that was first given to you from a stable in Palestine, the gift that has been given to the world throughout these centuries, the gift that rests within you and now comes to you again in this Holy Communion: God’s own Son, God’s love in flesh. This is the one gift you will enjoy most fully if you realize that you already have it, the gift which you are privileged to share – all of you – as with John and Mary and Jonathan and Emily and Rodney you prepare the way.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

disaster relief
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