Sermon: David Pendleton Oakerhater

In chapters six through nine of the Book of Genesis, we read about Noah and the great flood, followed by God’s sign, the rainbow, in the heavens. We then learn that the three sons of Noah went out into the world, and in chapter ten we learn of their descendants: “These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; children were born to them after the flood.  The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal….” The chapter goes on to name the Who’s Who of the repopulated world. Each of the names listed is naming a clan of people. Or, put another way, each name listed is the name of one of the new nations of the world. How many nations would there be according to this list in Genesis? Seventy.

This number, seventy, whether literally or figuratively, would later be symbolically representative all the nations of the world. This then helps us to more fully understand the first verse of our Gospel reading today: “After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.” In saying this, Luke is hoping the reader will understand that Jesus is not just sending seventy messengers out, but is sending messengers into all the world to “Prepare the way of the Lord,” and to say to the people, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” Since that day, the Lord has not ceased sending messengers to proclaim the Good News. Today, we celebrate one He sent to the Cheyenne Nation in Oklahoma: David Pendleton Oakerhater.

Born around 1847 in the Oklahoma Territory, Oakerhater would later fight against the US Government over Indian land rights. In 1875 he, along with 27 other leaders, would be captured and sent to a military prison in Florida. Eventually he would be brought to New York where he converted to Christianity and took the Christian name, David (Pendleton is the sir name of the US Senator that assisted him), and in 1881 was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. That same year he would return to Oklahoma, first settling in what is now El Reno. His mission was the same as those first seventy that Jesus sent out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He is reported to have said to his people, “You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went First, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all He tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road, a war that makes all for peace.”

He began as a military warrior, but is now known as “God’s Warrior” among the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma. He is buried in the Watonga Indian Cemetery.

The Great Commission is a passage of scripture we hear quite often: Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Jesus first sent out the twelve, later it would be the seventy, and even later he would send those like Oakerhater into all the nations of the world, but the work is not yet complete; therefore, Jesus is also sending us out into the “nations” as well. The nation where we are called to spread the Good News is only 74.1 square miles, with a population of about 50,000. We are called to be disciples in Enid, Oklahoma. May we be as faithful as those who have gone before us.

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