Connecting With Others

'Starry Night' by Vincent Van Gogh

               One of my favorite authors is Eugene Peterson, the author of “The Message,” a paraphrase of the Bible that is widely used by many, including me.  One of his most important books, to me at least, is entitled “Long Obedience In the Same Direction: Discipleship In An Instant Age.”  He wrote that book 40 years ago but its theme is timeless.  Discipleship is about daily commitment.  Daily obedience.

               And in the process of that daily obedience, well, we encounter disappointment and heartache and struggle.  We often get lost in the darkness and then fall backward, instead of forward in regards to our faith, our discipleship.   That’s why I love the phrase in our text on Sunday (Matthew 4: 12 – 23), Matthew quoting Isaiah as Jesus begins his ministry  “… the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned”.

               Looking back on my journey the significant growth I have experienced in my discipleship has been when the light of Christ shines into my darkness.  Sometimes that light is all that keeps us going.  Keeps us moving, that long obedience in the same direction.

               My favorite artist, next to Jullie, is Vincent Van Gogh.  One of his paintings is on the cover of this week’s bulletin, “Starry Night.”  I’ve learned something about Van Gogh over the last few years.  He was the son of a Reformed pastor.  He knew the gospels, but he knew darkness well.  Not just his, but the darkness, the struggles of others.  For a time Van Gogh served the poor in Holland as a servant of the church.  Some of his earlier paintings like “The Potato Eaters,” reveals something of his love for the poor whom he served.  

               Van Gogh was going through a very dark time in his life when he painted “Starry Night.”  He wrote his brother in a letter, “This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big.”

               Van Gogh choose, instead of focusing on the darkness, to focus on the light.  He didn’t disregard the darkness.  It’s there.   It was real.  Instead he allowed the light to shine in the darkness.  C.S. Lewis once said that he believed Christianity just as he believed that the sun had risen: because not only had he seen it, but because by its light he saw everything else.   As any artist will tell you its all about the light.

               Discipleship is difficult and life is hard and often the darkness seems overwhelming, but our morning star, the Christ, shines into it.  One of our joys is that often the Christ can use this church, use us, to allow his light to shine through us into someone’s darkness.

David Jones


The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church

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