Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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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

 

 

 

Advent 5

Dec 10, 2010

Dear Friends, Sisters and Brothers:

 

I write to you, the congregations of the Metropolitan New York Synod, to offer my greetings at this holy time. I write to you on December 16, the day on which our Mexican sisters and brothers begin Las Posadas, the annual enactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to rest in Bethlehem. So I am thinking about going home.

 

The reason why we’re not only merry at Christmas but also a little teary-eyed is that we think we really can never go home again. We’re all grown up. We have houses of our own. Life is not simple any more. “I’ll be home for Christmas, but only in my dreams.”

 

But we in the church have good news even as we wander with Mary and Joseph and then welcome the Child Jesus: that all of those visitors who will come among us in our churches this Christmas are Christ among us. We are honored to welcome them into our churches on Christmas and whenever else they come.

 

From all across this country and from places outside its borders, from all points on the compass and from down the street, people will gather in the churches of our synod.  I know they will really come to bring the new baby to grandma, or to be with their girlfriend; they will come because deep in their hearts they really want to see their uncle tease the dog or they know Mom simply could not survive without their kitchen help or to kiss Daddy under the mistletoe. They will come to be at home.

 

But until they walk through the door of your church on Christmas, they will not have truly been home yet. Because, to longtime member and seeking visitor alike, this place, your church, will be a welcome home for the infant Christ and for all those visitors.

 

The remarkable story will be told again: the child, the mother, the shepherds, the angels. The old story will be remembered again as one remembers a song whose words have become faint. We will remember the inn at the end of the road for tired minds and weary hearts, the manger which has become the locus of the world’s devotion, the cry of the Child. We will remember this story – the intersection of the will and way of Almighty God with our wills and our ways – as we tell it again in Scripture and in Song and in Sacrament at home in your church and in mine. 

 

This is its wild and wonderful message: God abandons heaven and comes to us, to be at home with us where life is never perfect, where people are often hurting and fearful, where even the most cherished rituals become empty at times.  God comes to us in the most unexpected ways, in the most unexpected people, in the most unexpected places...in the assembly of believers and in earthly things like words and songs and bread and wine which convey Christ’s living presence.

 

As the world turns again and again toward the worship of power, we worship by bowing before a baby.  We assemble not with the great and the mighty and the noble but with cows and sheep who were his company and with peasants who were his first congregation and with complete strangers who never otherwise darken the door of our church. This stable, this church, is the home of a different power…not the world’s power...but the mysterious power of God…for since that first Christmas night not a day has passed on which somebody would not have died for this baby who is the world’s ultimate hope, its only Savior, its true peace, its everlasting ruler.

 

That is why I say to you, “Welcome Home!” That is why I beg you to welcome Christ. That is why I urge you to see this Jesus in all those who will gather at home with you in your church. That is why I pray you will know his warm welcome as you kneel at the manger in worship.

 

Blessed Christmas.

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

 

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