Sunday, January 26, 2020

Micah 6:1-8: Nailed It!

God has shown you, humans, what is good (Micah 6:1-8). You've seen it. Now be it. It seems easy enough, that you should be able to copy what you see. To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly with God. But it's just never that easy.

Of the four paintings below, two are by Johannes Vermeer (nicknamed "The Sphinx of Delft" because so little is known for sure about him). Two are by Han van Meegeren, certainly the most intriguing of Vermeer's forgers. Would you believe that all four of these paintings are done by the same hand? Would you pay exorbitant prices for all of them? Or do some look not quite as good as the others? Could you identify the two works done by the same hand, even if you can't say which is Vermeer and which is van Meegeren? You can check the bottom of this post to see which are the Vermeers and which are the van Meegerens. Look closely at each pair of works. Could van Meegeren proudly say, "Nailed it!"

Van Meegeren saw what was "good" in Vermeer, and he attempted to then "be" Vermeer. It's hard, though, for forgers to completely eliminate their own time, place, society, and personal preferences. Van Meegeren, painting in the 1940s, just couldn't be a seventeenth-century Dutch artist. Though he was successful for a while, in the end, he just wasn't Vermeer.

The intent of a forger is to be so close to the original as to fool an unsuspecting buyer. What is our intent as we try to live faithful lives, copying that which is good into our own lives? What is the difference between copying an artist's work and copying the life of faith we have been shown? What is good, according to God's requirements, is to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. How are we doing embodying those requirements? Can we read this text, look at our lives, and say, "Nailed it!"

(Top left) Johannes Vermeer. Christ in the House of Mary and Martha. 1654-1656. Edinburgh: Scottish National Gallery. (Top right) Han van Meegeren. The Footwashing. 1935-1943. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. (Bottom left) Han van Meegeren. Woman Reading Music. 1935-40. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum. (Bottom right) Johannes Vermeer. Woman in Blue Reading a Letter. c. 1663. Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum.

For thoughts on the Beatitudes, click here and here.

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