Preparing For Worship – Jenna Sullivan, pastoral resident
Drawing inspiration from French painter Jean-François Millet, Vincent van Gogh began to paint dozens of renderings of a sower, one of which is shown on the cover of our worship folder. He greatly admired Millet’s work and proved that imitation really is the greatest form of flattery. Imitation … with a twist.
The painting we see has the same general composition as Millet’s, but embraces vibrant modern colors … a blazing yellow sun! With a few small color decisions, van Gogh creates something entirely new. The best artist is both inspired by the beauty of the past and bold enough to evolve in vibrant ways.
The sower himself has many connections to parables in the New Testament and represents the ongoing investment in building the kingdom of God. The sower was part of the peasantry and his faithfulness symbolizes all of God’s servants who are dismissed as unimportant by society.
The sower is intimately connected to both yesterday and tomorrow. The sower must trust the tried and true agricultural protocols of the past and have faith that God will bring dazzling life up from the soil once again. This life looks the same, but it is in many ways different — new, resurrected, even more alive. I wonder if today, as we prepare our hearts and minds for worship, we might think about what we as a congregation are sowing. What seeds of love and justice are we planting? What good fruit are we hoping comes forth? As we dedicate some of the littlest among us into our church family, I wonder if we could imagine what these little seeds might eventually become.
Wilshire is called to be a place of good sowing. I have certainly benefited from your careful tending to me as a pastoral resident these last two years. We can give thanks for the history that grounds us, the leaders who have formed us and the God who has sustained it all. We can hope that the future leaders of this congregation will imitate the past … with a few faithful twists. And I have an exceeding amount of faith in this church to continue embracing beauty in the coming years. Change is not easy; maybe that’s why van Gogh had to give it a “gogh” a few dozen times.
May our time together in worship connect us to the one who does not change. I trust that the artwork of this church family will honor its inspiring history and also bravely embrace what God is doing next — bold, surprising colors and all.