Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

The Rev. Dr. Robert Rimbo shares regular thoughts and reflections about our life together.

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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