Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

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

 

 

 

The sad stuff

Feb 27, 2012

Every Lent I think of Kellie. In fact, I wrote about her for The Lutheran a few years ago. Kellie was in confirmation class and had experienced rough things in her life. The death of a sibling. The divorce of parents. So I should not have been surprised by her answer. In addition to asking students about last Sunday’s sermon – threatening, risky for any pastor, I think – I also habitually asked about the service itself.

 

What was the color for the day? Purple.

Who was included in the prayers? Millie, Frank, the President.

What did you not like about the service? The sad stuff.

 

Kellie did not like the sad stuff. Further conversation revealed that what she meant was the absence of "This is the feast" and the presence of the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness, the Kyrie, and "all those sad songs." She really missed "the A word." It was Lent. Lent brings with it "the sad stuff."

 

I was frankly troubled by Kellie’s lament over "the sad stuff." There is good reason for having Confession and Forgiveness at the outset on Sunday morning, praying the Kyrie, singing "all those sad songs" and omitting the "glad" ones. We assemble to make visible the Body of Christ though we have not lived as that Body. We have not been faithful to our common vocation to offer the world a sign of hope and renewal. We have not lived a lifestyle which contradicts the individualism, self-interest and consumerism of our culture. We have failed to work for justice and peace. We have not shown that divisions, prejudice, injustice and indifference can be overcome by God.

 

We cry for mercy as our worship begins, in our intercessory prayers, as we gather around the Table singing of the Lamb of God. We plead for mercy for friend and stranger, for the whole universe and for me. And we rejoice that this mercy is for everyone and everything. At this Table all are welcome and all are fed, for all – whether they know it or not – need this mercy. 

 

I was troubled by Kellie’s lament because it indicated that she did not get the "glad" stuff that’s evident even on Lenten Sundays, the "glad stuff" offered in worship by God to the people of God. The Lord to whom we pray, before whom alone we bow, before whom the cherubim and seraphim bend their knees, before whom the earth is silent is the source of mercy.

 

Kellie needs to know (as I need to know) that God gives reprieve, release, another chance, a new lease on life, new dawn, new day, new age, repair of the broken, resurrection of the dead, smiles for the defeated, life to those who are crushed in the winepress we call living. Oh, yes, we need to lament. We need to confess. We need to plead. We need the "sad stuff." But more than that, we need to know and feel that God fills us with forgiveness, with gladness, with joy, with love.

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo