PART TWO – Pentecost to Israel (cont.)
I felt the Lord had let me down, if not betrayed me. How could I trust Him in anything? How could I believe Him? Why would He lead me on like this? Why would He not have told me plainly that David was going to die? What was wrong with me that He wouldn’t talk to me? I had tried to believe what God told me over a year ago, that David was healed.
I was shocked, not only with the sorrow of David’s death, but also because my own spiritual condition or position was questionable now. I had declared that David would live; others had declared that he would die, and he died. They hadn’t believed, while I thought I had; yet they were right, and I was wrong. Once again, I was the religious fool.
With all the grief, my parents didn’t want us to leave their place now. I feel badly that I wasn’t capable of loving and comforting them. I was so hard, so judgmental and unfeeling. However, so were they, and I have learned that hard draws and needs hard.
My parents asked me to help them decide what to buy for the funeral. Because everyone dearly loved David, he being that gentle, humorous, friendly soul, many would have readily done almost anything for him. What also made it so hard was that he was leaving us in his youth. Still, being the practical-minded one, I suggested they get by with minimum expenses. “Why feed an expensive oak coffin to worms and rot in the unseen world, when a cheap one would do? Would David care?” I reasoned.
They ignored me and bought “the best.”
“Why ask me if you don’t ever care for what I have to say?” I asked them.
The expense of funerals serves no good, unless perhaps to provide employment for some, but maybe they should be occupied in more worthy endeavors. To me, it is deplorable the way the undertaking industry plays on the emotions of the bereaved, taking advantage of weakness.
As well, the funereal process in Western society is worship of death and of the dead. It is an Egyptian/Babylonian pagan mentality that serves only mercenary interests and tyrannical religion. Grief can only be truly assuaged by truth and faith, never money.
When we first went to view the body at the funeral home, I recall brother-in-law Ron Hrehirchuk’s initial reaction. He fell on his knees, crying and wailing as no one else did. “David!” he shouted. “David!”
I recalled how he had often criticized David, being sarcastic with him. Ron and Barb had a dairy, something one must attend to every morning and evening, seven days a week. They grew weary of it, or were unable to handle it themselves, so they hired David to work for them for a while, and I would hear Ron complain of David’s ways.
Now it seemed a guilty conscience was coming to roost, as a vulture ready to devour. I felt badly for Ron. He seemed a delicate soul, the one who cried when I spoke to him about smoking and of turning to the Lord three and a half years earlier, while Barbara interrupted in her brutish, insensitive way, and expelled me from their home.
I recall when Gregory Oucharyk had the funeral service for David. As David lay in the open coffin, Oucharyk took a golden sprinkler of water and, with an overhand casting motion, sprinkled David. What an effect that had on the people! The crowd uttered an immediate impulsive groan and wept.
Archie, who was standing near me, was suddenly incensed and would have done something rash, had I not restrained him. I also felt angry, but wasn’t sure why. It seemed like the sprinkling brought home the realization that David was indeed dead.
Was I upset for another reason? Was the Catholic Church subtly exercising control? What was it? I’m sure someone could explain the psychology of it.
We knew God raises the dead. We red of it in Scripture and heard of it happening in modern times; not to mention that Jesus testified that His disciples would have the power to do so. We had also seen miracles and healings with our own eyes.
Could we pray for David? Was it God’s will that he be raised up? What a shocker that would be! And would I not be vindicated after all? What a vindication! Not that I would have been able to handle it then.
We considered and prayed, but it was not to be. David was taken, for a reason we would soon discover.
We had a little talk with Diane, David’s girlfriend. When I told her David was wrong about the outward and that it mattered very much what we did with our bodies, she had that sheepish look on her face and said, “That scoundrel!” I hadn’t spoken to her of fornication per se, but I gathered that was the issue, and her reaction seemed to be one of embarrassment.
In spite of the loss and sorrow, the Lord sustained Diane, Archie, Cathie, Marilyn, and me – those who professed faith. We gave thanks and weren’t morose, as is common and expected. After all, we knew that David had believed, though he hadn’t walked faithfully in the calling. We knew that where he had gone wasn’t for evil, but for good.
Our countenance and attitude surprised the undertaker, Walter Strilchuk, when he came to the door to usher us into the lead funeral car to drive us to the church. While he was performing the sorrowful, mourning role expected of undertakers, we were saying to him, “It’s alright, Walter! David was a believer. He has gone on to more, for good.”
Walter didn’t know what to make of us. He couldn’t conceal his puzzled expression or decide on an appropriate deportment to suit us.
What a funeral it was! David was a member of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic social and fundraising club. The Knights of Columbus honored him with their dress and decorum.
David was also a member of the Cossacks, a Ukrainian dancing group. They were there in their colorful performance uniforms, doing him honors. He had many friends, and our family was a large one.
Being established in the local Ukrainian Catholic Church, there were many acquaintances. David also professed a personal faith in Christ, which drew some evangelicals as well. It was standing room only, and there was hardly that.
The ceremony took an hour or so. Then a very strange thing happened. Near the end of the Mass for the dead, “Father” Gregory Oucharyk turned from the altar to the people, held up the “Eucharist” (the chalice of bread and wine), and said, “All those who come and receive this will be honoring David.” It was an open invitation.
This was strange indeed. There were many non-Catholics in the assembly. “Holy Communion,” by Catholic dogma, was only for Catholics, and more particularly, only for those who had confessed their sins. Truly, the Catholic Church teaches (at least it taught me) that if one were to partake of the “body and blood” of the Lord (bread and wine), without having gone to a priest for confession shortly before receiving communion, he sinned a great sin, which was almost unforgivable. This departure from Catholic tradition and solemn dogma was new to me!
All I could see in it was a compromising motion to comfort the mourning family and friends, if not a strategy to gain converts. Was he not adulterating that which they professed to be so sacred? “But then, what does it matter?” I thought. The whole thing was corrupt and therefore no part of it should be surprising.
People filed out of their pews and began to come forward. The lineup was endless. It seemed everyone was taking the priest up on his offer.
But that wasn’t the strange part. The next thing that happened shocked us. I began to experience the compulsion to go forward as well. I couldn’t believe it! Go forward and receive that which I had learned to be an abomination?
I thought, “What kind of spirit is trying to seduce me here? Should I perhaps not even be here?”
I struggled, but the compulsion became stronger. I began to be convinced that I needed to go forward. I knew it wasn’t for David, as “The Very Reverend” suggested, and I knew it had nothing to do with having communion for its own sake. But what was it?
I whispered my thoughts to Marilyn, Archie, and Cathie. They thought I was out of my mind! They adamantly disagreed with my going. Yet their strong disapproval didn’t have any effect on me, as it often could. My struggle went on for about 15 minutes, until the last person in the lineup received communion. The priest stood there waiting… for what, for whom? Me?
The door was closing. I knew I had to go. I also knew that all eyes would be on me, and I feared they may think all sorts of things, but I didn’t care. I had to go. I was out of my pew like a stone from a sling. I felt like those with me wanted to grab me and hold me back. Up to the front I went, laying my hands one over the other on my chest, the traditional posture for communion.
I had one more question to be answered as I struggled in this matter. If I went forward, what would “Father” Oucharyk do? There I stood in front of him now, the heretic of four years, someone who most definitely didn’t go to confession (he was the only confessor available). What would he do? I was confident that after making that offer to the public, and my family being in great grief, he wouldn’t dare refuse me.
There was stillness, with hundreds of people watching. I stood in front of him, ready to receive. He didn’t refuse me; he didn’t even hesitate. He spooned out a piece of bread and placed it on my tongue as I opened my mouth.
I received my second dramatic inner healing on the spot, a healing I had no idea I needed so desperately. Suddenly, I felt a great release, a burden lifted. I was filled with love and joy. I could have taken Mr. Oucharyk and given him a huge hug (he was a big man, with a large girth). I could have broken the stuffy, ceremonious decorum on the spot (I wish I had).
I had just been released from the fear and power of the mighty Roman Catholic Church. I hadn’t even known I was in fear of it. I didn’t know I was still in need of deliverance from Catholicism. I didn’t know, but there it was. I went back to my pew and raised my hands to the Lord with tears of joy. (Nobody ever raised their hands in that church, except to light or snuff out high candles or dust the statues and pictures!)
To the cemetery we drove. Gathered by the grave, Uncle Donald and Uncle Ernie made a beeline for me at once and gave me a big hug. “I’m sorry, Victor!” each of them passionately said to me.
Suspecting they assumed I was returning to the fold, I thought (but didn’t say), “Wait! Wait a minute! I haven’t come back! You don’t understand!” I had guessed this might be the impression people would have, and I even wondered if the event meant I was to come back.
Strange as it was, however, there was little doubt at any time that my going forward wasn’t for returning to the Catholic Church. I said to them, “That’s okay. I forgive you.” (I wondered what specifically it was they were apologizing to me for, but I suspected it was simply a gesture to “let bygones be bygones.” I don’t know that they really felt they had ever been in the wrong toward me. After all, I was the heretic. I was the one who strayed from the “Mother Church.”)
Back from the graveyard to the community hall for lunch. I have often wondered how people could eat at a time like this, but food has been served at every funeral I’ve attended. I have also eaten at them, though somehow there is a kind of psychological stigma attached to it for me personally, almost as though the dead person defiles the food.
The people then lined up to express their condolences to the immediate family. Uncle Fred Hafichuk came to me, gave me a hug, and cried on my shoulder. He could barely speak for crying. “I was so happy to see you come back. You don’t know how happy it made me, Victor,” he said.
My heart was hurting. How could I break the news to them? When should I say something? Was I right? Was I sure? I don’t recall what I said to him. I believe I said something like, “I’ve never rejected anyone in the family.”
Later that day at my parents’ home, I decided to apologize to those in the house, including Ron and Barb, for having been so aggressive with them in trying to get them to repent or mend their ways. Barb immediately spoke up and publicly upbraided me for speaking against their smoking. “What we do is our business, not yours or anybody else’s,” she declared. Suddenly I was sorrier for apologizing.
I was surprised I should get that kind of reaction at our brother’s funeral, especially just after I had apologized. I was even more surprised at her blindness and ignorance at such a time. Were we not in the very process of burying a loved one who had died of cancer? Was smoking not a prime cause of that dreaded disease? Had he not been a smoker? Was it only his business, or were we all gathered in sorrow because of his chosen habits and lifestyle?
Do we not affect one another in all things we think, say, and do? How could she possibly be so ignorant and obtuse? But she was; she surely was. I couldn’t say anything. I had nothing to say. Nobody had anything to say. Some appeared smug that I was “put in my place,” one of those being none other than… Eddy Boyechko.
Then came the moment of truth for my parents. Sunday was a couple of days away and my father was asking if we would go to Mass with them. At that point I was still pondering the meaning of my going forward and yielding to the partaking of the “Eucharist,” the central part of the Mass. For some strange reason, perhaps the Lord wanted us to be involved in the Catholic Church? If so, I was willing, and I knew that Marilyn would submit to God’s will.
We decided we would go with them, though warning them that we believed the Lord wasn’t taking us in that direction. We went, and the whole affair was entirely dead. I saw my uncle Bill there (all these uncles were Dad’s brothers); he had nothing to say, nor did anyone else, and we had nothing to say to them. By the time we returned home, we knew it wasn’t God’s will to continue with the Catholic Church. I told my parents so. My father told me I was hearing voices in my head.
Joe Arthurs, David’s employer and a member and elder of the First Baptist Church in Dauphin, told me shortly after David’s death that David had received a message from the Lord that He was taking David. Joe said David told him that he was ready for, if not looking forward to, the release. David hadn’t wanted to say anything to me, thinking that I wouldn’t accept such resignation.
I honestly don’t know what my reaction would have been had David told me. I felt badly that he couldn’t receive me as a friend, brother in the Lord, confidant, and minister. I felt so very sad for him. I also felt that the Lord was deliberately omitting me from the scene because there was something wrong with me. It was a very hard time.
During this time, my youngest brother of 17 years, Bob, was taking David’s illness and death very hard. I testified to him of salvation in Jesus Christ, I testified to his girlfriend, Marilyn Robak, to his friend, Mark Archer, and to Ann Doucette, a girl Ron and Barb adopted, who had been sexually abused in her childhood. These all professed faith after David’s death.
Bob was overwhelmed with grief, but with confession of sin, repentance, and receiving the Spirit, his life was turned around dramatically. He lost his sorrow and began to rejoice. At one point, a day or two after David’s funeral, he said he heard from David, telling him he was okay. That was it. Bob was relieved and ready to go on with life.
I had a vision in those days. I saw David, from his right side, after his death. He was on his knees, sitting back on his feet, dressed in white, shining, hands upraised, full of joy and praising the Lord.
We had been staying with my parents long enough. Rental properties were nonexistent at the time, but we contacted a realtor, Art Potoroka, who showed us the only rental available in all of Dauphin, a small home for sale in the country, owned by Bob Curl. We rented it for a month or two until it was sold.
The very day we moved out of my parents’ home, having lived with them for 3 weeks, the Lord spoke to me at our own home, saying, “I took David because he wasn’t willing to make a break with the world.”
I was floored. “Lord,” I asked, “why didn’t You tell me sooner? Why did You keep me in the dark about it?”
Then I suddenly knew why. He wouldn’t speak to me until I had separated myself from my parents’ home. After all, He took David because David wasn’t willing to make a break with the world. Why should He honor me with His thoughts and doings if I wasn’t making that required break, forsaking mother and father? I had my answer, I understood what had happened, and I was now at peace.
This Word also served as a confirmation of three, indeed, four things: one, our move away from my parents was the right thing to do (speaking of denying their desire that we be with them in the Catholic Church); two, our separation from the Catholic Church should have been David’s as well, that being part of his required obedience; three, David did have his healing, but didn’t retain it because of disobedience; and four, I was on track with the Lord, which I had been doubting.
We had a meeting at our new house for the four young converts – Bob, Mark Archer, Marilyn Robak, and Ann Doucette. I went into the customary repertoire common at home “prayer and praise” meetings. We prayed, gave thanks and praise to the Lord, and I sang some of my songs. However, they wanted to talk and express themselves, and I, being somewhat religiously conditioned, wasn’t sensitive to their needs and didn’t give them ample opportunity to speak freely.
Later, Mark remarked on how it would have been good to just talk. I agreed. I also recall, however, that they weren’t very sober or interested in following the Lord. Somehow, things weren’t right.
I have found that there are always two sides to the coin. I may fall short on something, but there is also a reason for my shortcoming. I am chastened in my downfalls with nothing lost because whatever I was “supposed to have done” and didn’t do wasn’t meant to occur. All things work for good. Therefore, as saints, our mistakes are there to teach us, and we have nothing to regret because of them. Of course, deliberate disobedience is another matter.
Having led them to the Lord, we wanted to get these four young people baptized (fully immersed in water), as an act of obedience and testimony of repentance from sin towards the Lord. No water source was available to us in Dauphin (we didn’t wish to go to some church baptismal), so we found the nearest swimming pool open in winter- in Minnedosa, about an hour’s drive south. We all went, and they were baptized in Jesus’ Name.
However, Marilyn and I were young and inexperienced. It really wasn’t our time to be nurturing the Lord’s sheep. In my ignorance, we entered the pool with our swimsuits (except for Marilyn). I wouldn’t do that again. One cannot, in holiness before the Lord, be partially naked, particularly at such a solemn time. In time to come, we would receive more understanding about water baptism itself, as well.
We knew that my brother David hadn’t been water baptized. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“Otherwise, what will they do, those being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not at all raised, why indeed are they baptized on behalf of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29 MKJV)
Our understanding of Paul’s words was that someone could be baptized on behalf of those passed on, provided the proxy was a believer and the departed one was a believer who hadn’t been water baptized. So Bob, now a baptized believer, was the candidate for David.
The moment Bob was baptized for David, the air was electrified; everyone was moved, some to tears, and we had joy, thankfulness, and peace that we had done what was pleasing to the Lord on David’s behalf. At least that was the way we felt about it then. Feelings don’t always justify.
Had we done the right thing, or were we in error on this matter of being baptized for the dead? I was well aware of the Mormon doctrine. There were, however, significant differences – most importantly, both David and Bob were believers. Mormons will baptize on behalf of anyone dead.
The only requisites they have, of which I am aware, are that the person is dead and that the baptizers have his or her name. They require no evidence or conviction that those passed on had repented and come to knowledge of the Lord. How could they? They themselves don’t know the Lord, which was the second major difference between them and us.
Though I believe the Lord didn’t fault us for what we did, and even accepted it, we now have another understanding of what Paul meant by these words:
“But when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One Who has subjected all things to Him, that God may be all things in all. Otherwise, what will they do, those being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not at all raised, why indeed are they baptized on behalf of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:28-29 LITV)
We are Spirit baptized not just for ourselves, but on behalf of the dead, those in this world without Christ. If it were just for ourselves, then we would surely be taken away from this wretched world. Why would we go on living amongst the dead, those in the world? Why not just be physically “raptured” into Heaven with Christ, away from this decadent, sin-laden world?
Why, as Paul goes on to say, do we “fight with beasts at Ephesus,” except that the dead (the beasts) are to be raised from their death?
“For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19 MKJV).
Some might ask why Paul seems to be talking about others than him, when he says, “What will they do…?” But he goes on immediately following the question to ask, in verse 30, “Why are we in danger every hour?” He is talking about all Spirit-baptized believers, who are baptized on behalf of the dead to become as salt for those in this world. Our purpose is to be here to partake in God’s great work of reconciliation and salvation of this world.