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

 

 

 

We are not alone.

Oct 31, 2012

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea;

though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

   

In another example of the amazing coincidence of our lectionary with our lives, many of our churches prayed Psalm 46 last Sunday.   

 

It says, in glorious words and images, "We are not alone."

 

The waters of the sea roar and foam, mountains shake, whole communities are wiped off the face of the earth. In the midst of unspeakable disaster, this psalm reminds us that we are not alone.

 

Already I have received communications from Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson; from Pastor Stephen Bouman of our ELCA Department for Congregational and Synodical Mission; from Lutheran Disaster Response; from Lutheran Health Care in Brooklyn; from Lutheran Social Services of New York.   

 

And from other places, too. A congregation in Ohio; a friend in Finland; and this message from our companion synod, the Northwest Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania:   

 

Dear Bishop Robert Rimbo,


I am sending this message on behalf of Bishop Elisa Buberwa. He returned from a meeting in Indonesia yesterday and today he is attending a funeral of a close relative in his home village. Two main reasons he could not write personally.

This is a tough time for millions of people in New York City.  We therefore want to express our love, concern, and solidarity in the midst of the devastating effects caused by the Hurricane Sandy. We have watched painfully, through the media, the unthinkable damage, suffering, despair, and hopelessness the New York people and of other parts like New Jersey, have gone through. The loss of 18 people's lives in NYC, the flooding tunnels, the crippled NYC subways, damp, darkness, the damaged economic infrastructure, environmental effects, to mention a few.  Life is miserable, pain reigns supreme, fear and uncertainty sows the seeds of terror when an emergency of that magnitude strikes.

Bishop Elisa Buberwa, his family, your sisters and brothers of ELCT/North Western Diocese are holding you in prayer. We are praying for your quick recovery and resilience. We trust that timely response and intervention will be in place to provide the much needed psychosocial support for the well-being of the affected population. Kindly convey this message to the brothers and sisters of Metropolitan New York Synod. As companions and members of the body of Christ we feel very much touched and affected as well.

Our hearts and thoughts are with you, and above all, we commend you all in God's loving and caring hands to carry you through. Let you be reassured and find consolation and peace in the midst of such an atrocious calamity. (Psalm 121).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Rev. Christopher Mbuga
Deputy General Secretary - ELCT/NWD

 

We are not alone.   

 

In the next few days, our synod staff will be in contact with as many of our congregations and ministries as we can reach. We will attempt to assess the magnitude of this disaster. We will keep in contact with you. If you wish to help financially, I urge you to send contributions to Lutheran Disaster Relief either through our synod or directly to the ELCA.

 

In all of this, please remember God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

 

Sincerely in Christ,

 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo