Dr. Ralph Hammond At Ninety–
The Journey Begins
Vincent Van Gogh: Excommunicated
Supposing it had never happened– how blank and bare would be many
empty spaces along the walls of today’s great museums of the world,
including the Louvre, the Metropolitan, and even the Rijka museum in
his native land of tulips.
But it did happen, it was not enough for him to be discerning and
devoted student of the bible, nor for him to preach the Gospel message of a caring and forgiving Jesus whose presence indwelt the very heart of believers.
It was not enough for him to lay his every strength of outreach
upon his duties as a lay minister of the Way; nor for him to share
his every pulse of caring with the slave paid-minors and their
It was not enough for him to give his every daylight hour,
that usually extended into the coldest of Belgium’s Borinage
nights, to lay a hand on fevered brows of the suffering,
nor even to bury their dead.
But when he gave away his warming woolen sweater to one who had
no sweater; and when he unwrapped his lamb-like fascinator from
around his neck and gave it to a shivering child, or when he
gave away his coat– and yes even his overcoat to an ailing man–
that was to much! Even in Petit Wasmes hamlet, news traveled
fast back to church officials at the Hague, who without delay
dispatched a team to “investigate” Vincent’s wearing of garments,
or better to describe, his lack of wearing proper dress of clergy.
The onrush of the investigating group was brief in questioning parishioners who had been comforted and blest.. by Vincent,
yet their decision was determined only by the wearing of the cloth,
and they duly recommended that Van Gogh be excommunicated from
church pulpit duties.
What a glorious excommunication!– for the God who makes each person
born to light an individual unique from all others, had a long-term
vision then distraught Dutchman to be a painter of renown, and that within the range of a single decade– all prearranged by a God who provides.
Even though daily life was naught but hardship, and never of worldly gain, Vincent’s dedication to his new-found life of artistry produced more than 800 paintings in seven short years–masterpieces in
time that sold for millions, and found a home in the world’s greatest museums.
This long time later, one is prone to wonder if the church itself
bowed bishopric knees on soft-padded altar benches and asked the Lord
to forgive their excommunication of Vincent for his lack of concern for dress.