encounters with God in the world's great art
Ferdinand Bol: Self - Portrait
(This image is projected onto a screen as the speaker delivers the accompanying text)
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Speaker: Ferdinand Bol was a student of Rembrandt and a successful portrait painter in 17th century Holland. Late in his life, and nine years after the death of his first wife, Bol remarried. After having painted the portraits of so many others, he created this self-portrait as a wedding gift for his bride.
He rests on the statue of Cupid, who symbolizes the romantic love he has for his wife. But Cupid is sleeping, which tells us that Bol’s carnal passions are in check; this is his pledge of chastity to his bride. In the background, we see the massive, sturdy pillar that Bol has included as a pledge of his trustworthy fidelity in all matters. His time, his attention, his emotional and financial support will not fail. Even the frame is a pledge. It is covered with sunflowers, a symbol of love. One sunflower in particular is impossible to miss. It seems to be in the position of a lamp that illuminates the entire painting from above.
So in this wedding gift, Bol gives his wife his pledge of chastity, his pledge of fidelity, and his abundant love. But he gives her even more: central to the fact that it is a self-portrait is the message that he is giving himself to her. It’s a charming gift, isn’t it?
But this gift arose from mere earthly love. Can we afford to give less to God, whom we love with all our heart, soul, and mind? Should we not also give to God our abundant love, our faithful fidelity, and our promise not to go running after the other gods that constantly tempt us? Should we not climb right into the offering plate when it is passed?
(At this point the worship leader may conduct a collection of tithes and offerings according to the custom of the congregation, or may optionally lead the congregation in singing All on the Altar [B.B. McKinney] or All to Thee [Richard D. Baker], or in reciting following litany.)
Congregation: I am the Lord's, and his desire is for me.*
Speaker: Present yourself a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.
Congregation: He has brought me to His banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.*
Speaker + Congregation: We present ourselves a living and holy sacrifice to You, beloved God.
* Song of Solomon 7:10, Romans 12:1, Song of Solomon 2:4, NASB, paraphrased.