“THE FOURTH KING IS GONE”
(Meditation delivered by Rev. Dr. Ruben L. Dela Cruz on October 17, 2015 at UCCP
Midsayap, Cotabato during the Necrological Service for the Celebration of Life :
Remembrance of a Life Journey of Rev. Dr. Eliezer Dulay Mapanao)
Good morning! Naimbag nga bigat kadakayo amin. Members of the Mapanao Family, brothers and sisters in Christ, relatives and friends of the Mapanaos: Greetings of Christ’s Peace!
I stand before you today to fulfill a “last will” of Sir Ely and wish of Ma’am Portia to take charge in this necrological reflection. I thought all the while that last will is only about properties. Now I know that last will can also be about necrological liturgies – so you can now choose who will officiate during your own necrological service. Thank you Ma’am Portia for this assignment. I am pleased to join you and everyone today in this celebration of thanksgiving for Rev. Dr. Eliezer Mapanao’s life.
Last October 8, on Facebook, many us received an update from Mario about Sir Ely’s fast deteriorating health condition. His update was preceded by these lines: “Keeping his sense of humor intact even in the midst of pain, Dad/Lolo Ely asks?: ‘Who are the 4 kings?’ Answer his own quest, he goes: ‘Melchor, Gaspar, Baltazar and Gaspar.’
On the surface it may appear pure humor if not an early sign of Alzheimers that there is a fourth king that is Eleazar, but there is some sense and similarities to it. After all, it may not only be a humor but a declaration of faith. Not a self-recognition and self- bestowment but a humble statement of belief. Like the three kings of the Orient, Sir Ely left the comforts of the urban center, that is, Manila and Ellinwood Malate Church, to respond to God’s call to come to the countryside that is Midsayap and SCC. Like the three kings of old he “travelled hills and mountains” to come to a plains of uncertainly. If I may paraphrase the SCC the lyrics of the SCC song may go this way: “In the war torn fields of Midsayap, stood a school that was never heard”. Yet, Sir Ely embarked on that mission journey guided by the ‘star of Bethlehem’, bringing himself and his gifts of talents to offer to the stewardship of Southern Christian College. As Sir Ely came he penned the now famous lines of the SCC Song: “In the deep green fields of Midsayap, stands a school so brave and true…”
While writing this homily today I was tempted to have it titled: The Fourth King is Gone”. Yes, the fourth king is gone but he has left a legacy of obedience to God’s call despite the hills and mountains of uncertainties and circumstances. Yes, Sir Ely had indeed exemplified a true meaning of obedience following only the light of the star that is Jesus Christ to come into His divine presence offering a gift not of gold, not of frankincense and even myrrh but a gift of obedient self and dedicated service. Brothers and sisters, like Eleazar, we, too, can be the fourth or fifth king if we leave the comforts of our lives and journey to new frontiers where God wants us to be, bringing with us the gift of obedient self to offer to Jesus.
The other bible versions use the term wise men instead of kings. I suppose Sir Ely would also ask: “Who are the 4 wise men?”, to which he will also answer: “ Melchor. Gaspar. Baltazar. And Eleazar”.
Brothers and sisters, today, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines has lost a wise man in the person of Dr. Eliezer Mapanao. It is needless, however, it is inspiring, to bring to the fore and to memory his many significant if not unique contributions to the immense growth and furtherance of the life and work of the Church through his active involvement and exemplary leadership in its various ministries, its different judicatories, and especially the many church institutions.
In 1976 as I applied for the NBA Religion program of SCC, Sir Ely had only one question to ask – a question that may sound trivial or superficial yet actually very profound. He asked: “Why are you here?”
Yes, before Rick Warren’s soul- searching books on the ‘Purpose Driven Life’, and the “Purpose- Driven Church”, Sir Ely was already asking you and me the fundamental question of our being and of our life direction “Why are we here?”
This is the same question that perplexed the three wise men yet inspired them to journey to the unknown to seek the baby Jesus. This is the same question that inspired Sir Ely to create, to innovate, to challenge, to pursue, to pioneer, to lead. That explains his writing the lines in the SCC Alma Mater Song: “SCC lead the way”. This wisdom led to fruition thus gave birth to organization and programs like CONCORD, CORUM, MCSF, CONDORA, SHALOM, CREATE, CWACON/CWAMIN, BIHMI, or the new Brokenshire, DMSF and many more service organizations. This wisdom led to the development of ministry concepts like “Solidarity: Praxis of Identity, Soil & Soul, and many others. Before people are even discussing about it Sir Ely was already doing something concrete about it including important issues and concerns like relevant education, social development goals, service to humanity, community participation, lay empowerment, human rights, social justice, ecumenism, unity in diversity, joint effort, consortia and partnership, servant leadership and many more. At one time Sir Ely was called Doctor Acronym. Do you still remember the many acronyms of the SCC Foundation anniversaries- we had READ: Relevant Education Advances Development; we had REDEEM; we had REBUILD; we had REGAIN; we had RESPECT; and a lot more of REs. Because of this pioneering concepts and best practices in educational development, many of us had wished he became a General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. He however became Chairperson of the UCCP General Assembly. He did not become a General Secretary or a Bishop but I guess he was a bishop maker.
In 1990, Sir Ely tagged me along to a month-long youth trainers training in Malaysia. He was then connected with the United Nations ESCAP Youth Training Program. During the training, as he passionately delivered to youth leaders in Asia and the Pacific his lectures in social development goals and excellent leadership I was all the time was very proud to have a mentor- to have a United Church leader – to have a fellow worker who was revered and highly respected by young people of other lands.
Yes, more than ever, in the life and work of our church congregations, his God- given wisdom is greatly needed in this time of internal turmoil and division. Yes, more than ever, in the life and work of our church institutions, his God- given wisdom is greatly needed to help answer the question “Why are we here” and “Where are we going?” During his time the criteria to become a Trustee of a church-related institution is the ability to contribute 3Ws: Wealth, Work, and Wisdom. Today it has digressed to 3 Ps: Politics, Patronage, and Personality. Yes, more than ever, in the life and work of our communities, his God- given wisdom is greatly needed in this time of leader selection and in the pursuit of lasting peace. How we wish he is still among us, but, he is gone. The 4th wise man Eleazar has gone home to His Lord. But, let us not be totally apprehensive for Eleazar has left remains of wisdom where we can find strength. The words of the English poet William Wordsworth which was quoted on facebook by Yssa are an inspiration. It speaks about remains which can be the legacies. The lines say: “What though the radiance which was once so bright, be now forever taken from our sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour. Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind”.
Brothers and sisters, I suppose that most if not all of us had the good opportunity to interact or live life with the man whose earthly life we celebrate today. In one or more ways, in a single time or numerous times, our paths crossed and he had meaningfully influenced our lives. Yes, Ely or Daddy Ely or Lolo Ely or Sir Ely or Manong Ely – he had influenced our views; he had influenced our values; he had influenced our intellect; he had influenced our priorities; he had influenced our actions and service commitments; he had influenced our attitudes; HE HAD INFLUENCED OUR BEING. But eternally lasting, he had influenced or blessed our faith in the Almighty. As a result of our relations with this man, we became a better person, a more equipped worker, a more mature individual, a more loving partner-parent-and child, a more responsible citizen, and most important – a more ardent believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Now, even if he is greatly needed the truth is he is no longer here. But Dr. Eliezer Mapanao’s legacies of missionary- type trailblazing obedience, of gracious outpouring and sharing of wisdom, of Christian leadership, of ministry excellence and radiance will continue to live within us and hopefully live even to those who will come after us. It is for this reason that we thank and praise God – a life is lived in obedient wise stewardship. Today we celebrate with much thanksgiving for the fullness of life in Christ of our dearly beloved Eliezer Dulay Mapanao. In like manner let us all heed to this biblical call to a life of fullness in Christ like that life of Eliezer Mapanao: The Apostle Paul had this timeless admonition to the Colossians and to us as well: The Apostle Paul wrote: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2: 6-7). This is God’s/our message for today. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
To know more about Rev. Dr. Eliezer D. Mapanao, read "Tributes to 2 able men" by Domini M. Torrevillas, (PhilippineStar) http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2015/10/20/1512731/tributes-2-able-men