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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




Jesus is praying for us

Jan 18, 2017

Bishop Rimbo preached this homily during the Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity at Holy Trinity, Central Park West on January 18, 2017.


John 17:15-23

"I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."


wpcu17004In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


I am so grateful to you for joining us for this Service of Prayer, and especially for Pastor Jonathan Linman’s work at bringing this about.


I am thankful for the ever-growing bonds of affection and community we share as Christians here in New York. Our progress has been amazing, truly. And other Lutherans, I know, are watching us. I am grateful for the strides because I am the product of rather practical, grass-roots, ground-level ecumenism: my mother was raised in the Reformed church and my father was raised in the Roman Catholic church and they compromised and became utherans after a neighbor told them they should "get those kids to Sunday School." I have no idea what my siblings and I had done to inspire that neighbor, but there it is.


I cling to these opportunities to pray with you.


So, here we are together, sisters and brothers, praying for the unity of the Christian Church. But the Gospel just read points us in a different direction. Recall the words of the speaker in this Gospel and you will realize that Jesus prays for you, for us, dear ones.


Jesus prays for us.


What more could we ask for?


Jesus prays for us.


We are the disciples, the ones called, chosen, set apart, sanctified in the truth.


Jesus prays for us.


What more could we ask for? A voice from heaven saying, "You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased?" The disappearance of all our financial debts? Peace of mind? The desire and skill to be an unfailingly faithful witness to Jesus? Reconciliation in the church, among all religions, among all the nations?


What more do we need? It’s all there in the pure and simple fact that Jesus prays for us. Thank God for that.


And I am clinging to it this evening.


In the days and months and years ahead, how will you pray? For what will you pray? I confess that I do not know how to pray these days so I fall into the calming, familiar words of the liturgy. I do not know how to pray for a country where lies are considered truth and truth, lies. I do not know how to pray…and neither do you. Except to cry, Lord, have mercy.


It is too easy for us to listen to Jesus praying for us, too easy, because the world is what needs Jesus’ prayer and our prayer. Yet Jesus says he is not praying for the world, but only for the disciples, for us. St. John knew exactly what he was saying, harsh as it may seem. You and I are the ones who are left to pray for each other and for the world.


Although we do not know how to pray, Jesus does, and so does the Spirit which he sends to pray in us with sighs too deep for words.


The whole of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are his prayer. So also for us. Count on it. The whole of our life, our suffering and our death, and our resurrection make our prayer. When in Jesus’ name we teach one another how to live, we teach one another how to pray.


One day, while I was the pastor of this church, I took a walk up Central Park West just to clear my mind or perhaps to go to Starbuck’s. (Or as I like to call it St. Arbuck’s.) It was one of those remarkable evenings in the fall and I was looking across Central Park West toward the magnificent Park.


There, I saw a middle-aged man and woman wheeling a young man in a wheelchair. They had strapped him into the seat.


I never saw him move any part of his body by his own power, but his parents – I assume they were his parents – had wheeled him up to a large hill, near the street, somewhere in the 80s, and turned his chair to face the sunset and the glowing sky, filled with red and orange and yellow.


And his mother carefully, gently, slowly lifted the boy’s head, held it straight, so that he could watch the sunset.


I do not know how to pray for a world and a country so crippled it cannot lift its head. But every question I have ever had about God, every doubt I have entertained, every theological sentence I have ever read or written or heard, all are somehow embraced, swallowed up by that one, simple moment in Central Park.


Beauty was there. Creation. Wonder. Pain was there, too, and helplessness, and tears. Love and compassion and self-giving. My world, their world, God’s world all wrapped up together.


In all our theological musings, in all the amazing work toward Christian unity in which we have been engaged and, pray God, will be engaged, moments like this service focus the truth for us because Jesus is praying for us.


Moments as simple as a kiss or touch exchanged. Moments like a simple meal of bread and wine. Moments like LGBTQ people who are barred from the fullness of ministry. Moments like attempts to bring peace in the Middle East. Moments like any of you can name where God has chosen and called us to be awakened and sanctified in the truth by recognizing life for what it is: simply, revelations of Jesus praying for us.

Moments like this when we are together, praying that we may be together even more. These times are like lifting one another’s heads to look at the sunset and to rejoice in one another’s friendship and companionship, and, together, bearing witness to the love and life of God.


In the Name of the + Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



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