Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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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. 

 

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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!

 

 Rimbo

+ Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Justice, Not Just Us

Jan 23, 2013

Micah 6:8

 

Preached at The Interchurch Center, New York City  

 

In a wonderful coincidence, this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has presented opportunities to think and pray about justice in various venues. The convergence of the Second Inauguration of President Barack Obama and the annual remembrance of Blessed Martin Luther King Jr., the promise held out with a new year of grace and the hope that at least some of us have that a new Congress will actually be able to accomplish something: all of this is about what Martin Luther identified as the Two Hands of God’s Reign, the Two Kingdoms. (I just had to at least mention Luther.)

 

The temporal order, the world in which we live, the government by which we are guided – all of that is part of God’s work and God’s will, designed to let us live in peace, to worship as we desire, to freely proclaim God’s Word to all people. But it’s not some vague, abstract idea. It is CBS and the CIA, the Pentagon and our public schools, board rooms and court rooms, media and medicine, Chase and Calvin Klein, the projects and the country club. It’s our world, this absurd little earth, where more than a billion human beings fall asleep hungry while the First Lady helps us take on the problem of obesity, where the guns in our streets take as many lives in a year as two world wars, where men and women die for one another and kill for one another, where more people of color languish in jails than attend college, where "equal justice for all" remains a dream.    

 

A small portion of the Micah reading says "What does God require of us?" and then reminds us that it’s really not just about us, but about God and what God expects of all of us: Justice. Micah reminds us that Justice is Not Just Us.

 

You see, the justice the prophets like Micah preached was not simply an ethical construct, did not mean merely giving to others what they deserved, what they could justifiably demand because it was clear from philosophy or written into some constitution. God’s people were expected to care for the orphan and the alien, to protect the powerless and comfort the stranger, not because the needy deserved it, but because this was the way God had acted toward them. In freeing the oppressed, God’s people were mirroring the God who had freed them from oppression. In loving the loveless and the unloved, God’s people were imaging the God who time and again wooed them back despite their unfaithfulness. For God’s people – and just to be clear: that means all of us – justice is not merely something we "have to do" to reflect the good will and kind hearts of women and men in a civil society, but something we "get to do" as we demonstrate the desire and intent of God.

 

Without that clear and fundamental understanding, we simply live in the temporal kingdom, trying desperately and without success, to obey the letter of the law. And human law, for all its value, cannot save, cannot make us one with God. Only God can do that, only love, loving God above all that is not love, loving our every sister and brother at least as much as we love ourselves. The equality we dispense on the basis of law is not enough to unite black and white, Israeli and Palestinian, the haves and the have-nots, the restless young and the rest-home aged, the crack pushers and the police who imprison them. Only God can do that, working through us.

 

The challenge before us as we seek to do what God wants us to do, as we seek to live the truth that justice is not just us, is to give to each what each deserves and to give to all more than they deserve. That’s how God works. And that’s how God wants us to work too.

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo 

 
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