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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.

Prayer for Orlando

Jun 24, 2016

Bishop Rimbo preached this Homily at the Prayer Service for Orlando at St. John's, Christopher Street. The texts were Isaiah 40:6-11 and John 14:27.



Bishop Rimbo preaching at the June 24 Prayer Service.

There are so many words that come to mind, prompted by these days since the murders at Pulse, prompted by the amazing recognition of the Stonewall Inn, prompted by these readings from Isaiah and John, prompted by these prayers. But I think Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony sonnet says it best: "And Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love cannot be killed or swept aside…" It’s about love and for me that means it’s about Jesus.


See: the Orlando tragedy, horrific, is an old, old story. We grow weary of it. And the rage, frustration, pain we feel pulsing in us can only be healed by Love. It’s about Jesus.


Love comes into the world like a little child, fresh from God. When Love grows up, Love feeds people, Love heals people, Love turns things upside down, Love loves. Which doesn’t sit well with the people who think they are in charge. They warn love to leave well enough alone. Love meets hate, meets politics, meets fear. Love goes on loving, which gets Love killed – by people like us: clergy, God-fearing folk. What brought them together in Jesus’s case and in the case of the innocents of Orlando was rage, not far from the rage of the current presidential campaign. It’s the rage that rises when someone is not what you want them to be, or maybe more than you want them to be, or, maybe, too much like yourself. In any case, they kill for it: Matthew Shepard, the Newtown 26, the Charleston 9, the Orlando 49. Baltimore, Staten Island, Aurora and San Bernadino.


49 candles were lit and as the names of lives lost were read, they were blessed with incense. 

They were killed because they were not who someone wanted them to be, or maybe because they were.


Love came to us in Jesus Christ who was a good man – complete, whole – that sense of good. He resisted the temptation to be more than a man, although it was clearly within his power to do so. On the whole, he limited himself to what anyone made out of flesh and blood could do, obeying the laws of gravity and mortality just like the rest of us so we could not discount our kinship with him. He did not come to put us to shame with his divinity. He came to call us into the fullness of our humanity, which was divine enough for him.


He was survived by his mother. There was no one else in the family, though some people said there were brothers and sisters, but they weren’t around. He was survived by John, the disciple whom he loved. He had no children, although he showed a real fondness for them. He called his friends "children" more than once, although he was about their same age, I imagine. They seemed to know what he meant. He never wrote anything, except with his finger in the sand, but many of his words were remembered. You can find them easily today, on all sorts of things: t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers.


Music was offered by friends and members of St. John's, Christopher Street.

It is more difficult to find people who have some idea of what they mean. Witness what people who claim to follow this Love, people in the Church, have done to the Queer Community.


He was a good man, but he was not such a good god, if being a god means being big and strong and out of reach, in control of the violence, the rage. He was a suffering god, which no one had ever heard of before. He meant to transform the world by love, not by control, and that made his life hell a lot of the time.


Compared to the founders of other religions, he had a rough time. Jesus was not very lucky. But if Jesus were luckier, what would he have had to offer all those who die too soon, who suffer for who they are, who are punished for the capital offense of loving too much? His hard luck, so to speak, his suffering, makes him our best company today, when we run into our own suffering and horror and pain. He knows. He has been there. He was there at Pulse. There is nothing that hurts us that he does not know about. His love was the fierce kind of love, love that would not put up with any kind of tyranny, that would not stand by and watch a leper shunned or a widow hungry, love that turned over the tables of those whose entire purpose in living was to make money so they could live in marble palaces with gold doorknobs. His love would not allow God to be made into another commodity. His love embraced those on the margins.


He was a ruler, but his reign was not of this world. It broke into this world from time to time – it still does – and this world could use a whole lot more of it. But we are also afraid of it, even we who call ourselves Christian, who claim to live following him. Our world is built on who is up and who is down, who is brown and who is white, who is gay and who is straight, who is in and who is out, who is last and who is first. His world turns all that upside down, and we simply cannot function like that. So we run this world our way and we make noise about wanting it God’s way, but we do not really mean it or we would. If we ran the world God’s way there would be no guns of any caliber, any description. In America, we are still trying to build a world in which the tragic is passe’, only the tragic will not lie down and die. It keeps popping up again, and all our efforts to avoid it simply make it worse.


The light from candles spread as we neared the end of the service.

Orlando calls us to another way. Call it the way of the cross. It is the way of those who understand that suffering is part of life – some of it to be fought and some of it to be endured but none of it to be run from, as if running ever changed a thing.


It is time for us in the Church to take on the suffering of the Queer Community, of the Latino/Latina Community, to take on the suffering of all whose lives matter, to take it on in the name of Love, in the Name of Jesus. We cannot curl up into some fetal position in the wake of this great tragedy among so many other tragedies. We must, rather, see Orlando as the means by which we discover the shape of our humanity, including our relationship with God and one another. And that shape is the shape of a cross, the shape of Love.


That is where we learn the truth that saves our lives: suffering will not destroy, killing will not destroy. Our fear and our evasion destroys. Suffering puts us in league with Jesus, the Crucified One, Crucified Love, whose own heart battered the heart of God and caused God’s heart to pulse with abundant life. That is the promise. The cross points the way.


We Christians allegedly have committed ourselves to a life of repentance and return that will not give up on ourselves or the world. No matter how many times we have to repeat the process. We will keep telling the truth and turning around, every day. We will never say never – I’ll never recover, I’ll never get it, Congress will never act courageously, the gun lobby will never stop, people will never learn – we will never say never. Why? Because we look, not in a mirror that reminds us that we are all miserable sinners – a revolting sight to say the least; rather we keep looking at Love, crucified and risen from the dead. We believe in Love. We believe in God’s goodness more than we believe in human badness. We believe in God’s power to make new. Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love . . . . . .


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


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