I am a born Canadian as were my parents, but all four grandparents were born in the Netherlands. My wife comes from a similar ethnically Dutch background. I am proud of my Dutch heritage, because that is how God has made me and it is where God has placed my feet in this world. Culturally, there is something still very special about stroopwafel, drop, and oliebollen on New Years. Especially the dropje taste good even if other cultures are too snobbish to admit it. Traditionally, we inherit a grand tradition of Genevan tunes, intense theologians, and stunning pipe organs. Again, there is something very important about this tradition.
Now, I look about as Dutch as it gets, I love salty treats, and I say oma and opa, but I’m a little bit confused culturally speaking. I’ll admit it… I can probably say more words in Punjabi than in Dutch. I grew up in a neighbourhood in Toronto where I was a minority even as a white person (Rexdale). I know Punjabi bhangra better than any Dutch folk dance. I’m as in love with Punjabi and Pakistani and Middle Eastern foods as I am with Dutch treats. I know at least three Christmas carols in Punjabi or Urdu. I grew up in a bilingual Reformed Church (Punjabi-English) called Hope Centre, with a piano, a tabla, and a tambourine, where we love to worship God and hear His Word. I almost have an easier time understanding Asian accents than the thicker Dutch accents (not that this is a good thing). I love being at Hope Centre as well as New Horizons in Scarborough which is also a multi-ethnic community of believers. More recently, I have enjoyed getting to know the Indonesian Reformed Church in Toronto a bit more. I love the Dutch theologians, particularly Bavinck, Kuyper, and Schilder.
One of the strengths of the United Reformed Church culture (which has deep roots in the Netherlands) in Canada that has always been part of my broader network is that it is steeped in knowledge of the Scriptures. And they have sought to be faithful to the Word of God in establishing a church government and confessions and practices in worship. I currently really appreciate and am learning many of these things from my local community of believers at Rehoboth URC in Hamilton, ON. I have found a similar desire among Scottish traditions and among my Presbyterian friends to be faithful to Biblical principles in worship and life. And now we all find ourselves in North America.
One thing that happened at Pentecost in Acts 2 was that when the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit was that everybody heard the good news in their own language (Acts 2:6). Rather than the confusion of language that happened at Babel in Genesis 11, everybody heard the good news in their own language. And under orders from King Jesus, the Apostles began to spread the gospel all the way to Rome. Their disciples spread the gospel beyond.
Seven hundred years later St. Boniface entered what we now know as the Netherlands. In the 8th century A.D., the gospel came face to face with another pagan culture. Long story short, King Jesus continues to win even though His Saint was slaughtered by a barbaric horde of Dutch guys. But before his death this great Saint felled one of the greatest gods in the land, a large tree that these barbarians worshipped. He also introduced the Word of God and the Name of the Triune God into our culture, and the Name of Jesus Christ, the only Name under heaven and earth by which we could and still can be saved.
Since then the gospel has gone to India and Indonesia and China and Korea and Africa and even Canada. The church is still younger in some cultures than others. But we now see all these cultures in North America. The question is: will the church take this opportunity to join our voices together in the praise of God as every tribe and nation and language unites in praise bringing their gifts to the Lord from every corner of the earth?
I have seen the gospel bring together radically different cultures. I have had deep conversations about faith and life under Christ with people from different corners of the world. I have learned many things from Christians from Punjab and Pakistan and China and Korea and the Middle East and of course from Dutch backgrounds. When I think about how God lead the leadership together in Hope Centre where I grew up, I am amazed at how God is faithful to those who seek to faithfully follow Jesus Christ in the swirl of cultural questions and discussion about how to worship God according to His Word in a multicultural setting. When I think about how God continues to lead and guide the leadership in my current body of believers in a culture with so much confusion, I have much to be thankful for.
I am thankful for the guiding light of God’s Word and at least 2000 years of tradition in the Christian Church where traditions could be established with Biblical principle underlying it all. I am thankful in particular for a tradition that has its roots in the Netherlands that has sought to be faithful too God’s Word from the standpoint of where God has placed them and a seminary that also seeks to be lead by the light of God’s Word. I am thankful for parents (my Dad was also my pastor growing up) who have sought to do their best to lead by Biblical principle, who sought to listen, and maintain that principle among bombardments of a vast variety of cultures and ideologies in North America.
I am thankful for the upcoming Christmas Day. On this day we can remember that God expressed His power in the weakness of a baby in a manger 2000 years ago. Here we can remember that Christ came as a light to the nations, to every nation, to those who were walking in darkness (read Luke 1 and 2). I am thankful that my identity can be hidden with Christ in God before I enjoy the fact that I have Dutch heritage. I can worship beside any culture in the earth as a fellow image bearer, and if they are a Christian, as a fellow man or woman who is being remade into the image of Christ. And because we are not in control anyways, we can lean into the multicultural challenges that this day and age in North America presents too our Churches. Of course having God’s Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, and under the leadership of King Jesus.
And then I can go and eat my dropje and drink my chai tea with joy, because I know that God has already accepted my works in Jesus Christ. I can also share my dropje with joy and watch my Polish and American friends spit it out with even more joy.