Bp Bena August 2017
Are We There For each Other?
Bishop David Bena
It was late April 2000. I had one more month as rector of Calvary Church, Burnt Hills, NY before being consecrated Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Albany. Praying for a smooth landing from Calvary, I was preparing to celebrate the three Easter services without incident.
Then it happened. In Miami, 120 INS agents stormed the home of a Cuban-American family and seized a six year old boy in order to return him to Cuba. The boy had accompanied his mother in an attempt to flee Cuba; the boat had been swamped, the mother drowned, and the boy rescued as he bobbed around the sea in an inner tube. Now with his uncle in Miami, the Immigration Service and the Courts tried to decide what to do. It became a political football, bouncing around on Janet Reno, Attorney General. Probably pressured by the President of the USA, the President of Cuba, and countless advocacy groups, she took matters into her own hands and ordered the Feds to storm the house. The boy was taken and eventually returned to Cuba.
Easter services did not go as I had planned. Many were angry about what they considered government overreach the previous day in Miami; many agreed with Reno. THEY WANTED TO ARGUE ABOUT IT!!! So, in the midst of trying to "close up shop" as rector, I found myself listening to various points of view and trying to get people out of the antagonist mode regarding their fellow parishioners who disagreed with them.
A passage was given to me - 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 -
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Father of compassion and God of all comfort, who comforts us
in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
God had me use this passage for sermons, discussions, and counseling for the next few weeks. Progress was made as people began to see their fellow parishioners as people in need of assurance during an extremely pivotal time in our nation's history, an assurance given by God in Jesus Christ. We couldn't change what had happened in Miami. But we didn't need to tear each other up just because we disagreed with one another about what happened.
We lived through the emotional turmoil, and grew. I closed up shop and was consecrated a bishop in early June.
Why do I tell this story? The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have lighted a firebomb of emotions among us. People involved in Facebook have been bludgeoning each other, using terms such as Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, Alt-Right, Alt-Left, BLM, and Antifa to express their horror, and accusing each other of being too accommodating to one side or another. Perhaps, if you've been paying attention, you are torn about what happened and wondering what you can do about it.
Let's take a deep breath and follow 2 Corinthians 1:3,4. Let's be people of compassion and comfort while remaining principled regarding what our Constitution says about free speech and assembly.
Let's pray for our government officials and police forces as they try to maintain order in a very difficult and pivotal time in our history as a nation.
God is in control. He is moving His Gospel along in the midst of turmoil throughout the world. He is working His purpose out. All is not lost. Trust Jesus, friends, and offer good comfort and compassion to your brothers and sisters in Christ.