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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

 

 

 

Reclaiming our call as servant leaders

Mar 23, 2015

We in the church have used the phrase "servant-leadership" so often that it seems to have lost its impact. So let’s reclaim it. Let’s look to Jesus as a model for the kind of leader I want to be and want you to be.


I’m writing during Lent, while the story of our Lord’s temptation is fresh in my mind and heart. That story shows us some of the great temptations to leaders, like false pride and fear. These things make it easy to rely on ourselves and block God. Instead, Jesus points to God as the focus of our worship, the source of our security and self-worth, and the "audience" of our lives and our service.


Even if you do not view yourself as a "leader," God as our focus is essential for every believer’s life. You interact with others, you constantly make choices and decisions. With God as our focus and guide, we can be at our best and stay the course. ("Trust in the Lord and do not rely on your own insight…" Proverbs 3:5-8). This applies to every one of us, in all of our lives, and all of our decision-making.
 

I’m assuming that you who are reading this are Christian, and as a Christians, are seeking to keep Jesus as the central focus of your life. I’m assuming that we want to stop blocking God in our lives, and that all of us want to follow Jesus as our true leader.


Yet there are many things that prevent this following from truly happening. Chief among them are pride and fear, the two great temptations and distractions for servant leaders. They separate us from God. They keep us distant from other people. They even prevent us from truly knowing ourselves. Giving in to pride and fear prevents leadership from happening because they are breeding grounds for cloudy thinking and misdirected actions. Pride and fear always generate unhealthy judgments because they lead us to base our own lives on the successes or failures of others. Pride and fear always distort the truth into either a false sense of security or a lack of confidence and diminished self-worth.


Whenever anything becomes more important to you than God, you are in effect bowing to it, adoring it, giving yourself to it. In short, you worship that thing. It may be an object, such as money, a house, a business, or even a new job. It may be a desire for power, recognition, or even appreciation. It may be a habit, an obsession, or an addiction. The story of the temptation, among many things, reminds me that I have to choose what is most important to me: that thing, or a right relationship with God.


We are called to worship God above all, and to rely on God as the source of everything including our own self-esteem and security. Our Lord Jesus is the supreme example of this kind of servant-leadership.


Leadership begins with us on our knees before the God of all creation. In that place, pride and fear disappear and we realize again and again that we are called to serve. Then we can be true leaders.
 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

 

This article originally appeared in the spring 2015 issue of The Lutheran New Yorker.

 

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