The painting in this photo I snapped was created by Joel Schoon Tanis, a talented painter and illustrator who lives in Holland, MI, (www.opendoorstudio.org). Along with 150 folks, we attended the national conference of Room For All (www.roomforall.com), an organization committed to making the Reformed Church in America a truly inclusive denomination for LGBTQ persons.
In collaboration with conference attendees, Joel created this image – from blank canvas to finished work – in less than 24 hours, with just a couple hours of sleep. A close up of his work reveals comments and sentiments expressed by conference participants which Joel winsomely incorporated into the painting: break down the walls . . . LOVE ENDURES . . . abide in my love . . . TRANSFORMED . . . freedom . . . faithful servant . . . I belong body & soul . . . In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the only King and Head of the CHURCH, this child of God is now RECEIVED . . . engaged to confess the faith . . . remember baptism . . . be one . . . HANDS folded in prayer, open to receive, grasped in love . . . A new day . . . Beloved . . . I will change your name, you will no longer be called – wounded, outcast, lonely, afraid. Your name will be child of mine, treasured, friend of God . . .
A lion and a lamb rest together in the shade of grove trees, reminding us of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God’s intended future, a future we are called to acknowledge today as we welcome, include, and embrace all God’s children.
Artists, like saints, make it easy for the rest of us to believe in God. Joel Schoon Tanis is one such artist. I’m reminded of another, Vincent Van Gogh, who, in a letter to his brother Theo, wrote: “But I cannot help thinking that the best way of knowing God is to love many things. Love this friend, this person, this thing, whatever you like, and you will be on the right road to understanding God better, that is what I keep telling myself. But you must love with a sublime, genuine, profound sympathy, with devotion, with intelligence, and you must try all the time to understand God more, better and yet more. That will lead to God, that will lead to an unshakeable faith.”