Psalms 75, 76; Jer. 5: 20-31; Rom. 3: 19-31; John 7: 1-13
“My name is Van Gogh,” the man standing next to me said. His voice carried emotional strength and his long black hair billowed in the winter wind. He wore beaded deerskin moccasins.
The snow began falling more heavily as my eyes drifted back and forth from the faces of the others to the crudely cut cavern where my friend, our friend, was being lowered. Remembrances filtered through my mind.
Van Gogh spoke again, this time to everyone. “Our friend was the best friend my people had. As a creator of modern art she was an inventor of moral luck. This means she was courageous. She understood Nature, my God - as modern art is, in many ways, about Nature.”
He handed me the shovel. I swung it, stripping as much frozen earth as I could with each pass, the splatters echoing off the casket.
“Enough,” Van Gogh finally said. He took the shovel and then we all walked slowly away, the images of those ahead of us nearly lost in the thick flakes of snow, a scrim spread across the landscape.
In the warmth of our friend’s home, we had drinks with plenty of good food added in. I offered a toast to Claudia, who I considered a crusader for God, by quoting from Jeremiah. “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon him…”
An elderly lady added words I could not hear. I noticed she fingered her pearl necklace as if it were a rosary.
Later Van Gogh and his wife came over to me. “You may or may not want to ask how I know your Jeremiah and why I was given my name.” He smiled a short mischievous smile. “I will tell you anyway-- My ear was sliced off in a fight with a Navajo brother when I was young. I was given the nickname when I was enrolled in one of your schools. That is when I decided to study art and that is how I met our friend. That is how I know your great Book. “Declare this in the house of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah,” he intoned quite loudly. “Hear this O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears but hear not…my people love to have it so, but…when the end comes?”
“Ah,” I said, “Those are words we often study in this Lenten season.”
Van Gogh’s wife said, “Yes. We know of your God and his seasons as we know Nature, our God, and her seasons. They are our teachers.”
Van Gogh stared straight ahead with piercing eagle-focused eyes. “They send the storms and pitch-black nights. And rainbows and moonlight. Gods are not things; they are atmospheres and environments. Therefore, must we not seize the reality of fate and Nature and God?—“
John Hagen is a long-time member of St. Margaret’s and counts the church as his spiritual home. He is an author, and his book, Play Away Please, may be purchased in Maggie’s Corner. Another book, Pebble Beach, will be published in the fall.