The Sower

It seems hard to believe now, but until my first visit to an art museum, I didn’t understand why Van Gogh was considered a great artist. I had never been exposed to art…never visited a museum…never taken any art classes in school. Better late than never, in my mid-twenties my first art museum visit was to the Honolulu Academy of Art (now the Honolulu Museum of Art). Continue reading

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Harvest

 

Then he said to his disciples,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Matthew 10:2

 

Westfield With A Reaper, Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam

 

Vincent Van Gogh painted dozens of wheat fields and for him they held spiritual significance. He had a special affinity for laborers and peasants, seeing in them a nobility and a metaphor for the human struggle. Below are some of his wheatfield paintings with peasants along with quotes from the artist, who kept up a copious correspondence with his beloved brother Theo and others until his untimely death from suicide.

 

Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves

“Through the iron-barred window I see a square field of wheat in an enclosure, a perspective like Van Goyen, above which I see the morning sun rising in all its glory.”

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“One does not expect to get from life what one has already learned it cannot give; rather, one begins to see more clearly that life is a kind of sowing time, and the harvest is not here.”

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“The best way to know God is to love many things. Love a friend, a wife, something – whatever you like – (and) you will be on the way to knowing more about Him; this is what I say to myself. But one must love with a lofty and serious intimate sympathy, with strength, with intelligence.”

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“One must undertake with confidence, with a certain assurance that one is doing a reasonable thing, like the farmer who drives his plow… (one who) drags the harrow behind himself. If one hasn’t a horse, one is one’s own horse.”

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“the sower and the wheat sheaf stood for eternity, and the reaper and his scythe for irrevocable death.”

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“What can a person do when he thinks of all the things he cannot understand, but look at the fields of wheat… We, who live by bread, are we not ourselves very much like wheat… to be reaped when we are ripe.”

 

Sower at Sunset by Vincent Van Gogh; June 1888, oil on canvas, 64 x 80.5cm; Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo

“What the germinating force is in a grain of wheat, love is in us.”

The Sower by Vincent Van Gogh, November 1888, Oil on canvas 64 x 80.5 cm, Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam.

“aren’t we, who live on bread, to a considerable extent like wheat, at least aren’t we forced to submit to growing like a plant without the power to move, by which I mean in whatever way our imagination impels us, and to being reaped when we are ripe, like the same wheat?”

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Who Is My Neighbor?

The Good Samaritan, Vincent Van Gogh,1890 Kröller-Müller Museum Otterlo, The Netherlands

The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), Vincent Van Gogh,1890
Kröller-Müller Museum
Otterlo, The Netherlands

“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, 
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, 
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim, 
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37

Good Samaritan, Eugene Delacroix, 1849, Private Collection

Good Samaritan, Eugene Delacroix, 1849, Private Collection

A nice sermon on these two works can be found here.

Sowing Perseverance

Sower at Sunset by Vincent Van Gogh; June 1888, oil on canvas, 64 x 80.5cm; Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo

Sower at Sunset by Vincent Van Gogh; June 1888, oil on canvas, 64 x 80.5cm; Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo

 

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. 
“A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
After saying this, he called out,
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable. 
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, 
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,

and bear fruit through perseverance.”

Luke 8:4-15

 

The Sower by Vincent Van Gogh, November 1888, Oil on canvas 64 x 80.5 cm, Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam.

The Sower by Vincent Van Gogh, November 1888, Oil on canvas 64 x 80.5 cm, Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam.

The following reflection is from http://www.dailyscripture.net

Meditation: How good are you at listening, especially for the word of God? God is always ready to speak to each of us and to give us understanding of his word. Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at the hearers of his word. There are different ways of accepting God’s word and they produce different kinds of fruit accordingly. There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to the things of God. Then there is the shallow hearer who fails to think things out or think them through; such a person lacks spiritual depth. They may initially respond with an emotional fervor; but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else.

Does God’s word for you go in one ear and out the other?
Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests and cares, but who lacks the ability to hear and understand what is truly important. Such a person is for ever too busy to pray and to listen and reflect on God’s word because he or she allows other things to occupy their mind and heart. Whose voice or message gets the most attention from you – the voice of the world with its many distractions or the voice of God who wishes to speak his word of love and truth with you each and every day?

A receptive heart and mind that listens attentively
Jesus compares the third type of hearer with the good soil that is ready to receive the seed of his word so it can take root and grow, and produce good fruit. A receptive heart and open mind are always ready to hear what God wants to teach us through his word. The “ears of their heart” and the “eyes of their mind” search out the meaning of God’s word for them so that it may grow and produce good fruit in their lives. They hear with a listening ear and teachable spirit (Isaiah 50:4-5) that wants to learn and understand the intention of God’s word for them. They strive to tune out the noise and distractions of the world around them so they can give their attention to God’s word and find nourishment in it. They listen in order to understand.

God’s word has power to change and transform each one of us if we receive it with trust (a believing heart)  and allow it to take root in our inner being (the depths of our heart, mind, and soul). God’s word is our daily food to nourish and strengthen us on our journey of faith to his everlasting kingdom. Do you hunger for God’s word?

“Lord Jesus, faith in your word is the way to wisdom, and to ponder your divine plan is to grow in the truth. Open my eyes to your deeds, and my ears to the sound of your call, that I may understand your will for my life and live according to it.”

Wheat Field by Vincent Van Gogh, June 1888, 55 x66 cm.; Honolulu Museum of Art.

Wheat Field by Vincent Van Gogh, June 1888, 55 x66 cm.; Honolulu Museum of Art.

The Goodness of Creation

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh; 1889, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh; 1889, oil on canvas, 73.7 x 92.1 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In The Starry Night, perhaps Van Gogh’s most famous and beloved painting, he has poured out his feelings of awe and wonder at God’s creation. He depicts The Starry Night as a swirling mass of deep blue space punctuated by blazing stars. This violent energy erupts above a peaceful, idyllic village with the cypress tree at left twisting upwards to connect the earthly and heavenly realms. Be sure to click on the painting to look closely at the larger version. You can see the details of Van Gogh’s brush strokes heavily loaded with pigment, his delicate yet confident outlines of the buildings, and the harmonious half circles of the trees that both echo and yet contrast with the drama of the whirling sky. By placing the cypress tree in the left foreground Vincent has drawn us into the scene, giving it an immediacy that it might lack otherwise. This picture gives us a sense of eternity and of our smallness in the vast infinitude of creation.

I thought of this painting today when I read the lectionary, which includes a lengthy passage from the opening verses of the book of Genesis. Continue reading