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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




Love governs all our relationships

Jun 09, 2014


Luke 1:39-57; Romans 12:9-16b

Preached at Synod Assembly

May 31, 2014

In one of the many wonders of the church’s calendar,

today, just a couple of days after we marked our Lord’s Ascension

and a week before we mark the Day of Pentecost,

we go back to the beginning in a sense

as we celebrate the Visit of Mary to Elizabeth,

the story that recounts how the pregnant Mary

went to visit her cousin Elizabeth

who was pregnant with John the Baptist,

which says that we also have tones of Advent

in our worship this afternoon.

We don’t often hear this story told,

but now, for two years running,

it has been the Gospel for one of our Assembly celebrations


of the Holy Communion.  

I’m glad for that.

Exactly one year ago today,

at the Opening Eucharist of our Synod Assembly,

I preached about how Mary and Elizabeth

demonstrate that we need each other.

That has not changed.

We still need each other.



Especially as God the Holy Spirit calls us

to ever-new ventures,

ever-new opportunities

to love.


I have always loved this story.

There is something so intimate, sacred, and profound about it.

In their mothers’ wombs,

babies are declaring that Jesus is the promised One…

Elizabeth utters words that will be recited over and over again

in the "Hail, Mary"

which we Lutherans don’t use so much

even though Martin Luther was devoted to the Mother of Our Lord…

and then, at the end of the Reading,

Mary sings a song that has been sung in thousands of ways

by thousands of communities

over thousands of years, the Magnificat.

As we will soon sing ourselves,

it’s unexpected and mysterious…

to say the least.


Because, see, all of this happens in the most unlikely context:

between two women who had little power,

one woman who is pregnant and unwed,

and another who is too old to be having children.


In these unlikely characters,

something revolutionary is taking place.


I have often wondered how much we miss about God

because we look in the wrong places.

We look in safe places.

We seek truth and intimacy with God

by consulting scholars or religious leaders.

We are so accustomed to experiencing God

in particular ways and places

that we can miss God speaking to us

or the Holy Spirit circling around us and stirring within us.


We are quick to label a kicking child as just a kicking kid –

not the Spirit speaking truth.


To encourage us to live in ways that access God

in unexpected and mysterious ways,

we get Paul’s words to the Romans.

It’s quite a list.

Paul knows that we often experience God in encounters with others,

in what Luther calls that mutual conversation and consolation

of brothers and sisters

to which we will be giving attention as a synod

over the next twelve months,


but also with those not valued by society or even by us,

those whom we would not necessarily name as brothers and sisters.


That reading from Romans

seems to be an unconnected series of commands,

a "rag bag" of miscellaneous exhortations,

things the Paul thought up on the spur of the moment.

But a closer examination

reveals how our need for one another

takes on flesh and blood and bone

as these verses declare what love looks like in the Christian life

with the central message that love governs all our relationships.


Let love be genuine;


hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;


love one another with mutual affection;


outdo one another in showing honor.


Do not lag in zeal,


be ardent in spirit,


serve the Lord.


Rejoice in hope,


be patient in suffering,


persevere in prayer.


Contribute to the needs of the saints;


extend hospitality to strangers.




Bless those who persecute you;


bless and do not curse them.


Rejoice with those who rejoice,


weep with those who weep.


Live in harmony with one another;


do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.


With Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and Elizabeth her cousin,

with Paul and Luke and Luther,

with you gathered in this Assembly,

with all who have been and will be engaged

with our synod’s Strategic Plan for God’s mission –


you knew I would get there eventually, right? –

we know that it’s all about relationships

and the love of God that governs and guides them.


The most powerful characteristic of any congregation

and, by extension,

the most powerful characteristic of any synod,

of the whole church is this:

that we love one another!

The world pines for this.

People are drawn to this.

When visitors and strangers are asked

what they are looking for in a church home,

the answer is nearly always the same:


Not just a friendly bunch of people,

not just a relevant church

or a church with plenty of programs,

not even a church that takes the Bible seriously

or is faithfully Lutheran,

and, I can’t believe I’m saying this,

not even a congregation

that celebrates the Eucharist every Sunday.

As good and essential as those things are,

they don’t touch the deepest desire of people:

they want to be loved, truly and deeply,

and they’ll do the darnedest things to get that,

like join a congregation.

When people find such a place,

one filled with love,

they stand in line to get in.



God helps us grow in this love

by putting us in situations that force us to practice it.

God calls us to love by dealing with unlovely people.

I have seen it happen between spouses and partners,

parents and children,

between co-workers, neighbors, colleagues,

and students and relatives.

I have seen it happen between congregation members

who couldn’t stand each other.

I have seen people who start out disliking each other

end up as dearest friends.

Because it’s God’s love that binds us together,


not our own. 


Knowing what we know about how God works –

revealing truth in unexpected ways

and through unexpected people –

our invitation today is to be a people actively seeking God

in those unexpected and mysterious places.  

We will risk scary encounters.

We will cast seed where it’s unlikely to grow.

We will step out of comfort zones.

We will be attentive always.

Because when we do,

the reality of God’s revelation is an awesome ride.

When that happens,

along with Mary,

we will see the world differently


and we will declare the Mighty One has done great things,


shown strength,


scattered the proud,


brought down the powerful,


lifted up the lowly,


filled the hungry with good things,


sent the rich away empty,


helped us and all the world in mercy.


Let’s practice this love

for such a time as this.



Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo


disaster relief
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