It was a beautiful fall day when Ds. Van Ooster came to call on a former parishioner, Mr. DeRoster by name. For DeRoster had not been seen in church for several Sundays and the dominee, as was his pastoral duty, decided to “look him up.”
Receiving no response to repeated knockings on the door, he wandered to the barn and, even as he suspected, found the famer there, busy with his chores.
The usual greetings having been exchanged, dominee began to inquire as the reason for DeRoster’s absence from divine services. The following conversation ensued:
“Ja dominee, it is true that I’ve not been in your church lately. And you know why? No? It’s because of that straw stack that stands just outside the barn.”
“Come, come, DeRoster, je steek mij de gek aan! How can a straw stack keep you away from our church?”
“Well, dominee, it’s this way: If someone comes by me to visit and we sit by the stove and talk crops en so forth, I tink it awful funny if all of an sudden mine neighbor says, ‘Vel Jake, how much straw did you get from dat back forty dis year?” I would look at dat guy and say, ‘Man, who’s interested in straw?’ The real farmer would ask, ‘How many bushels of wheat did you harvest and how much did it run per acre?’ and that I’d tell him right quick. And he’d maybe ask if I’d put the cement floor in the granary and wire mesh around the openings and I’d say, ‘You bet, no rats or mice are going to steal my gran!'”
“DeRoster, what in the world are you talking about? I come to find out why you haven’t been in church and you talk straw and wheat!” The dominee’s puzzled.
“Ok, ok, dominee. I’m sorry. Though maybe somebody with so much schooling would catch on. I make mineself plain. You see, dominee, I always believed that our works were a fruit of faith. I never figures that anything was a condition for our salvation. And, lately, I’ve been hearing from the kansel, that you have to do this and you have to do that. And I started to wonder. And that last Sunday I was by you in church, you had a sermon on the text, ‘Draw nigh to God and He will draw night to you.’ Ja sure, dominee, you said it was all of grace but you still tried to hold that we had to do something. And I say to mineself, ‘DeRoster’, I says, ‘What you gonna do? You don’t know nothin’ but farmin and ain’t no eddication, and besides, you’re a big sinner—what you gonna do? By you it’s hopeless.’ Oh ja, dominee, you said too that it don’t matter who you are—ditch digger or an college professor, it’s all the same. And it wasn’t ’til next day when I do mine chores that, after I get the grain for the chickens and straw for bedding down the cows that it come to me that DeRoster can’t go to your church no more.”
“Come, come, DeRoster, you talk in riddles. You know that Scripture repeatedly says, ‘Do this and ye shall live’ and ‘If ye walk in my ways’ etc. You can’t just ignore that part.”
“Excuse me, dominee, maybe I can’t say it so nice, but I try to explain once. And this is how I see it: That straw pile is my works and that wheat in the rat-proof granary is Christ’s work in me. Every day by me the Lord is threshing and every day that straw pile gets bigger. And I get kinda sick of it to hear you most always talking about the straw pile on Sunday instead of the wheat. You can see for yourself, dominee, that the straw pile out there is fifteen feet high and twenty feet across and the bin in the granary is only four by six by three. It don’t go by quantity. I don’t protect the straw and even set it far enough from the granary so if it catch fire it don’t matter too much. Some of my neighbors with new machines don’t even haul it in no more but leave it out in the field and plow it under.”
“Just a minute, DeRoster, I smell a rat. No! No! put that pitchfork down—it was just a figurative expression—you’ve been going to those meetings in that store building in town with those radicals who deny the responsibility of man and who make of men stock and blocks. Bekeer U, beeker U, DeRooster and don’t read any more of those awful publications written by a broken-minded editor. He’s leading you astray!”
A look of genuine pity then came over the face of the farmer. Slowly the pity turned to anger and disgust. DeRoster spat. Deliberately with pitchfork in hand he walked over to the straw pile and taking therefrom a huge forkful before the dominee’s eyes, he spread it into the gutter behind the cattle. And, turning once more, he concluded his sermon to the dominee with these words: “Those, dominee, are mijn goed works. Bekeer U, dominee! Goed Dag!”
George Ten Elshof