OUR church, last Sunday, postponed our Father's Day celebration to call for a congregational grieving service to mourn the tragic death of a good friend, Architect John Riz Fortuna. He was murdered by a hate-filled assassin in-front of his apartment Saturday morning, June 20, 2015.
His death brought the whole church to a state of congregational brokenness. "BROKENNESS" is a familiar term in our church. Each of us in this community of faith has our unique experiences of being broken that have led us to different depths in our spiritual lives. The death of Arky (as we fondly called him) brought along a whole church going through a very painful brokenness.
As the Pastor of God's flock and along with my co-Ministers serving at Davao Chinese Baptist Church, we have generally suffered a direct hit from the enemy. Our shields were all down when the arrow of the evil one came. No one could be prepared for this event except by prayer. As I look back and as I write this column, a battle within me rages, yet, at the same time, the need to express forgiveness. By now, as this article sees print, Arky will have been buried already.
Today, I ask myself, if God is in control, what should my response be? A response that will not make me hide within the religious clinches but a response that is a Godly response to a devilish blow. Many options are on my mind, lead a protest, criticize authorities, and subtly inspire vengeance. As my thoughts flow, the more evil my options become.
What sermon is fitting? Or can I even gain the strength to prepare one? By God's grace and the fervent prayers of God's people, we have been brought through the first half and it will also be by His grace when the storm passes by. It is here that I am confident that a godly response would be to, BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD. It is not about doing anything, it is about not trusting human effort, giving way to God's unmistakable ways. To do this requires SILENCE.
Becoming still is so hard. This needs a special kind of spiritual brokenness that nullifies all our strength. It is here we go through the process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then finally-acceptance. The process is long, no short cuts are allowed. Grieving together as community proves to be of great help.
Here, I shake hands with silence. If possible, literally shutting my mouth for a long period of time, the practical application of being still and knowing God requires SILENCE in the heart. It is here in solemn and silent prayer that God is speaking; restraining excess emotions; going through a Divine process of purification of our grief.
Yes, we cry a lot, but the silence of the heart opens a whole fresh way to see the perspective of Heaven in the midst of tragedy on earth.
Silence becomes the miracle, the inner strength of the powerless. Arky, in no way, can parry 8 bullets, yet in this powerless death, God is awakening something sacred in the hearts of the people of Davao who is so used to seeing dead bodies and that has made us numb about how people feel.
The response of 'being still and knowing that He is God' is slowly transformed into a powerful voice that is now a powerful testimony, a unique ministry that has brought timely reflection and timely repentance, a ministry to the wounded family where they are the recipients of our timely restraint from asking questions. A hug or a practical help; silent presence; proves to be better gifts than asking more questions and giving unsolicited suggestions.
Silence is a timely gift, sparing the wounded family from answering our questions. 'Be still and know that I am God' leads us to a cruel discovery -- that we have become alien to the miracle of silence. The second part is as important as the first, it says "and know that I am God". Here, we surrender our anger to God who can handle it well.
As this storm grows stronger, choose to avail of the gift of silence and extend the same gift to others so that we might clearly hear God. Goodbye John Riz, enjoy the fullness of your Redemption, face-to-face with our Redeemer. You can read the word REDEEMED on John Riz' tombstone.