encounters with God in the world's great art
Vincent van Gogh: Sunflowers
(This image is projected onto a screen as the speaker delivers the accompanying text)
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Leader: Not everyone is swept away by the beauty of this painting. And even if you are, you may still find it difficult to see how it could be worth well over 50 million dollars. But it is.
(If time is tight, the opening paragraph may be omitted)
Van Gogh was one of the first artists to focus so fully on using color to express emotion. And in none of his paintings was the message less subtle than in this very, very yellow one.
To van Gogh, yellow was an expression of joy and contentment. So part of the power of this painting is the great hope embodied in such a gloriously joyful expression from one whose life was so full of disappointment and despair.
But there’s more than mere happiness here. Van Gogh wrote that this painting was also about gratitude. And what a beautiful symbol the sunflower is, of an outburst of joyful thanksgiving. All day long the sunflower turns its face full into the light, as if in worship. And all day long its praise is rewarded with sustenance. This exaltation in leaves and petals begins buried in the cold and darkness that echoes our own moments of despair, but it springs forth in jubilation and reaches faithfully and enthusiastically toward its maker.
Van Gogh has cranked up the intensity of this exuberance by collecting fifteen sunflowers into a single vase. The celebration bursts onto the canvas with such profusion that the vase and the table and the entire area glows with the radiance of praise.
Some people will pay millions for a painting. But when we express our own praise and gratitude to God, He values that more highly than anything man has ever made.
Join me as we bring our treasure to God.
(At this point the worship leader may optionally lead the congregation in the following. Congregational responses may be printed in the order of worship, or may be projected with the artwork.)
Congregation: Eternal Father, we turn our faces to you in praise.
Leader: To whom else shall we turn? You have words of eternal life.*
Congregation: We praise you for the radiant beauty of your love. We praise you for its sustenance. We return to you our own love.
Leader: The grass withers, the flower fades…*
Leader and congregation: But as for us, we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forever. Praise the Lord!*
(At this point the worship leader may optionally lead the congregation in a hymn of praise, ideally a relatively exuberant one.)
* John 6:68 paraphrased, Is. 40:7, Ps. 115:18, NASB