Houses by the Bank of the River Zaan in Zaandam,
Painted by Claude Monet (1840-1926),
Oil on canvas,
Painted in 1871
© Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Houses by the Bank of the River Zaan in Zaandam,
Painted by Claude Monet (1840-1926),
Oil on canvas,
Painted in 1871
© Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Gospel of 16 September 2023

The river floods could not shake the house

Luke 6:43-49

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit. For every tree can be told by its own fruit: people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles. A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness. For a man’s words flow out of what fills his heart.

‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

‘Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them – I will show you what he is like. He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house but could not shake it, it was so well built. But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations: as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!’

Reflection on the painting

Immediately after the Franco-Prussian War, during which Claude Monet had sought exile in London and painted numerous paintings of the River Thames, the artist made his way to the Netherlands. Monet and his family stayed in a small town near Amsterdam called Zaandam. He thought it was an idyllic spot. He wrote to his friend Camille Pissarro saying 'One would be busy for an entire painter's life here in Zaandam.'  This painting would be in stark contrast with what he would have painted in Paris, lying in ruins after the war. The happy scenery of Zaandam contrasted with the sadness of Paris at the time. The soft green tonalities and the reflection of the houses in the river waters make for a delightful painting. The shimmering light is captured by Monet in his unique way, conveying a carefree, joyful scene.

The houses we see depicted must have strong foundations, as they are built on the river banks. These foundations would have been partly on soil, partly inside the river bed itself. Jesus uses the image of house building in today's reading and the need to have strong foundations. Do we feel we have solid foundations in our faith? In times where we are surrounded by relativism and secularism, is our faith strong enough to withstand any storm or criticism, or would be easily crumble because of the worldly pressures around us? To build our lives on Christian values is the bedrock to which Jesus is inviting us.

So how do we achieve this? Jesus gives the answer in our reading: listen, pray and act. A three-step approach. Firstly, there is listening, and once we have listened we can then pray about it. Jesus even gives us a short prayer: 'Lord, Lord'.  Then, finally, there is action, which Jesus identifies as doing what he has communicated to us in prayer.

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Rosemary Hart
Member
Rosemary Hart
5 months ago

Yes, it’s a lovely painting, but I can’t help thinking that the houses are going to be flooded!

As for firm foundations of faith, for years I’ve had an old secondhand copy of Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” hanging around the house. The reason is that I once came across some quotes from it that seemed to me to be extremely weak evidence to support Dawkins’atheism, so I thought one day I’d find out how many more there were. But I didn’t read it. What if it was as good as atheists seem to think? What if it put nasty little atheistic doubts in my mind? What if???

Then someone gave me another book: Edgar Andrews’ “Who Made God?” (He states in the introduction that if you think this is going to be an atheist book, go and ask for your money back – it’s the opposite.) Over and over again he is soundly critical of Dawkins. So I thought I’d read “The God Delusion” at last. I need not have feared… it is deeply flawed through and through and my faith stands firm!!! 🙂

Actually the next book I read was Morison’s “Who Moved the Stone”. *Wonderful!!!!!!!* Of all the books I read about religion, “The God Delusion” was by far and away the weakest, most deeply flawed. And that’s not just because I’ve chosen to be a Christian! if you try to be impartial, the flaws are just as apparent.

Sorry, this is a departure from Monet’s painting, but it’s the biggest recent test of the strength of my faith.

John Hobbs
Member
John Hobbs
5 months ago

Telling Mr Monet that he got the perspective wrong on the left hand gable would have been a difficult thing to do. I found out over the past week that for 20 years or so I and colleagues have been sitting under 3000m2 of this supposedly failing RAAC concrete, so we’ve all had to vacate the upper floors. I wonder how adequacy of the roof over your head could be a metaphor of faith?

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
5 months ago

We have an art exhibition in our village this weekend, amazing in both quality and quantity. So, out a lot. If we needed a frightening image of what happens when our lives are not built on ‘the rock that ever stands’ we have the tragic pictures coming out of Libya. This is an altogether different scene.
Zaandam was a centre of the wood-milling and ship-building industry, so was a busy place even when Monet was there. But he’s chosen to depict the peace and tranquillity of a river and its banks in summer, when all was green, even the houses. Green is the predominant colour of even modern houses in Zaandam. I can imagine his thrill in being challenged by such a variety of greens!
While, as has been said, the houses are a bit out of true, the overall impression – at the start of the Impressionist movement, which is dated, by art historians, to an 1872 painting, again by Monet – is of light, peace, beauty and the harmony of the houses with their surroundings. Monet is the master of light. We have our own Master, the Light of the World, thanks be to God.
A blessed and harmonious weekend to you all.

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