Monday, July 17, 2017
Sermons of Rev. D. R. Drukker--"A New Song" (ii)
Rev. Drukker was 23 years old when, with this father's family, he immigrated from the Netherlands. It was 1869, so he never experienced anything, first hand, of the American Civil War. Before becoming a pastor, he taught school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in a tight community of other Dutch immigrants who were, without a doubt, like-minded in theology, a community more Dutch than American and probably didn't include many Civil War veterans.
So it's somewhat surprising to hear him use such a long Civil War tale at the end of "A New Song," the second sermon in The Beauty of God. To call that story an "illustration" is an understatement; it takes up most of the final two pages.
It goes like this. Very soon after Appomattox, Rev. Drukker says, Union veterans marched in force up the street in Washington," the famous Avenue," he says. Almost had to be Pennsylvania, but probably neither he or his congregation knew.
No matter. Federal officials had all come out for the parade--"Generals and colonels, admirals and commodores, statesmen, diplomats by the scores and citizens by the thousands." The war had ended.
Then, Drukker carefully describes the composition of the paraders themselves--first, the latest to be drafted, then the yearlings, then those who'd served for two long years, at which time people "could feel a thrill pass through that mighty host of applauding citizens."
The climax of this lengthy sermon illustration follows, when he describes the final corps of vets: "Their uniforms were torn. Many were in rags. Some were bandaged. Others were crippled," he says, "some were walking with a crutch or a cane, while not a few carried empty sleeves."
"Tumultuous tears," Drukker says, were wiped at that moment from the faces of everyone there, he says. "The President could not restrain his tears and he with others on the reviewing stand wept openly at the sight of these returned heroes."
"A New Song" is a sermon about heaven's glories. It has nothing to do with patriotism. What's more, it was delivered to a congregation of Dutch immigrants, most of whom, like Drukker himself, probably spent the Civil War years in their native Holland.
No matter. "If the sight of these veterans who fought to preserve the Union filled the people with such enthusiasm," Drukker told his congregation, "what will not the multitudes of heaven do when they, as the redeemed, meet their Lord face to face?. . .the Crucified One, the Lord with the scarred brow, whose extended hands still bear the imprint of the nails?"
This man, this preacher, the good Reverend Drukker, Dr. Henry Beets says in the intro to this little book of sermons, "may well be called the most popular preacher of the denomination in his days."
Rev. Drukker's use of this single story from the pages of American history, maybe sixty years after the fact, may well illustrate, in part, why Henry Beets makes the claim he does. The story set on Washington's "famous Avenue" focuses our attention most powerfully on the battered heroes who gave everything for the Union cause. In this sermon on heaven's glories, if you're like me, you simply might have assumed that the illustration would focus on us, those beaten and weary from a lifetime in this vale of tears. But it's Christ who is wounded and hurting. It's his scars we're witness. We're the people crying in the reviewing stand because he is the hero.
His audience was, I'm sure, anti-slavery; the Dutch people who came in mid-19th century deliberately avoided the American South. The illustration Rev. Drukker uses to conclude the sermon on Heaven is drawn from a history that isn't as deep for a congregation of immigrants as it might have been in what those immigrant people would have called "an American" church.
It's simply a memorable story with universal appeal and a deft reversal that features a crucified Jesus as a war-weary Civil War vet.
Even today, it's not only incredibly strong, it's still vital. Even today it would be memorable.
There have to be dozens of reasons why Henry Beets makes the claims he does for Rev. D. R. Drukker's preaching. But I think his skilled use of that striking story at the climax of "the new song" he says we'll all be singing at heaven's gate, bears some witness.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:22 AM