Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The sermons of Rev. D. R. Drukker--iv

Casey Kuipers became a missionary right here, just outside of town, when Dr. Henry Beets, spoke at the First CRC Mission Fest, somewhere around 1910. The same Dr. Beets became Kuipers' boss when Kuipers moved--and stayed--at the Zuni Christian Mission, Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.

Casey's father made him go to the Mission Fest that year, about the same time Rev. D. R. Drukker delivered a sermon titled "Missions," the fourth sermon in The Beauty of God, this little old collection of his sermons I've been reading.

"Made him go" sounds as if the old man hog-tied his son. Not true. Mission Fests featured games and races, and a cow tank full of  cold pop, mountains of sandwiches, pies and cakes, all kinds of goodies. A mission fest was a church picnic. Little Casey Kuipers didn't have to be dragged to that grove just south of town. He was itchy to go all week long.

He heard the challenge at the Mission Fest, where his life's calling and mission were sealed. What Dr. Beets said is not recorded, but then I'm sure he was explaining motivation to an audience who already knew the inspired dreams of bringing the love of Jesus to ends of the earth. Right there, just outside of town, Casey Kuipers got the call. And he answered with his life.

Just a couple of years ago, in Haiti, I talked with a whole fleet of "missionaries," men and women, most of them Haitian, who are supported by Casey Kuipers' denomination. Only one of them was a pastor, only one or two ever stood in front of a group of locals, Bible in hand, and read John 3:16. Most were in service professions--literacy education or health-related occupations. All of them were serving, but only a couple "preached the gospel."

What Casey Kuipers heard at the First CRC Mission Fest a century ago, what ordinary people assumed "mission work" to be took place under some oddly-shaped tree, where a white man or woman, Bible in hand, stood above a gathering of little dark-skinned kids or adults cross-legged beneath them, eagerly hearing about Jesus. 

That image was likely what drew Casey Kuipers to mission work, or something like it, the Great Commission in his heart.

After Rev. Drukkers' sermon titled "Missions," I'm quite sure no one went home and complained about the sermon over their boiled potatoes.  In the years following the turn of the 20th century, the cause of missions empowered thousands of believers, even if they knew little English and hadn't yet adjusted to a culture where no one wore wooden shoes. Mission Fests were popular church picnics all right, but no one forgot the cause they were really about--missions. 

There's very little remarkable about Dominie Drukker's "Missions" sermon. I continue to be surprised by illustrations he uses, drawn as so many are from American history--Edison, George Washington, Philadelphia's Liberty Bell all make cameo appearances here. He makes allusion to people and events I'm surprised his congregation caught.  "Less than two centuries ago, Carey rang this same gospel bell," he says at one point. That's William Carey, a man known as "the father of Christians missions." Didn't know that? Neither did I.

And then: "Do we not recall the scene of the Hay Stack Prayer Meeting, where students of Williams College wrestled with God in prayer for the coming of His Kingdom and for guidance in their own careers?"

The Hay Stack Prayers Meeting (all caps)?  I had to go to Wikipedia.

Rev. Drukker's determined use of illustrations from American history make him feel more cosmopolitan than I might have guessed a preacher of his era in Christian Reformed church history might have been. And I can't help thinking that's a strength: a sermon whose heart is the Gospel but whose references to American culture creates opportunity for cultural education. 

One moment early in the sermon sticks with me more than anything else. "The Pharisee asks, 'Is it possible that God can love a wicked, rebellious, repulsive sinner?' Rev. Drukker says, "The Christian replies, 'I am proof that God does love such folks.'"

I like that.

There are no mission fests anymore--or few, at best. The entire mission enterprise doesn't find a place in kids' hearts as it once did in the heart of Orange City's own Casey Kuipers, or any of hundreds of other kids who grew up here and departed around the world to preach the gospel.

I can't help but think that too often missionaries marched out as saviors themselves, bringing the gospel to the lost, marched out to do a lot of preaching and not much listening.

When the humility of what Drukker calls "the Christian's response" is not in evidence in even well-meant Christian mission, then things will not go as dreamed. Today, for better or for worse, Christian missions are too often seen as a agent of cultural terrorism. 

"I am proof that God does love such folks." That line I'll remember from Drukker's "Missions" sermon.


Audrey B. Torrey said...

This brought back lots of memories of Mission Fests in Sheldon, Iowa CRC! Also of Casey Kuipers and his ministry in Utah.

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