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袁晓明

基督的门徒、旅美资深咨询顾问、专栏作者。
 
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(2020-01-04 12:06)



(I posted this message on Sept. 6, 2019. Here is the long version of my post in memory of Bill)


In the early morning on Sept. 6, 2019, I received a text message that my dear friend Bill had passed through this world and went home with the Lord.  


On my way to work, my time with Bill in the past 22 years played like a photo slides thanks to my kind of photograph memory.


 

22 years ago, I met Bill first time at a retreat in an Oklahoma ranch. I was not a Christian yet at that time. A Christian friend invited us to spend a few days in the ranch. Bill was part of the hosting party. Bill took us to fishing and horse riding. That is how I met Bill first time. The picture was so clear that Bill shook my hands and said: “I am Bill”. He insisted on knowing my Chinese name. Bill did not share message of Christian faith with me the whole time during the retreat. He just served us with smile on his face.


 

22 year later, we went to see Bill in August a few weeks before he passed away. We spent almost an hour at Bill’s house. When we were about to drive away, Bill walked out his house and wanted to tell me something before we left. He told me that Lord may call him home sometime, and he may not need his golf clubs anymore. He wanted me to give to someone else to use. I gave Bill the golf club sets as gift a few years ago. I told Bill to keep the golf clubs. That is the last conversation that Bill and I had during his time on this earth.


 

Bill was a pastor and had served in Christian ministry for a few decades. But my first time meeting with Bill and last conversation with Bill seems not theological or spiritual related. First, he took us to fish and horse riding. Last, he told me to give his golf clubs to someone else since he no longer need them. It seems more meaningful if he shared a Bible verse with me in his last words to me.


 

For the past 22 years, Bill and I actually did talk a lot of theology, Bible, Christian apologetics, and Biblical value based politics. We talked in person, by phone and in text message, and via emails. However, for some reason, those pictures did not stand out in my photograph memory. What came out to play in front of me seems less theological or spiritual. One of the pictures is my golf time with Bill. Especially, how did Bill play a par 3 hole.


 

Bill was a natural born athlete. He was avid runner. He also loves playing golf. I played golf with Bill many times in Oklahoma and Texas. Many of us, the amateur golfers, usually are driven by our pride to select a less golf club to hit the ball. When playing a 150-yard Par 3 hole, I need a 7 iron, but often I would pull out an 8 iron and hit 10 yard short of green, and make boggy or double bogies. That is not Bill. To my surprise, Bill pulled out his driver, which is the golf club for furthest distance. If I had used driver for a Par 3 hole, my playing partners would have asked me why I picked my driver. I did not say anything when Bill pulled out his driver. I was very curious to see how he hit and where the ball would land. I could not believe that Bill hit the ball closer to the green than I did, and eventually he had better score than I had.


 

This is a good analogy how Bill lives his life differently from many of us. I do not speak on behalf of others. I can say that I am short of my many targets because of my lack of humility. Bill reached his goals because of his humility. He does not care if others would laugh at him or do not understand why a driver is for 150 yards hole. He was focusing on his target ahead and used whatever the best to reach his goals, not driven by pride, but by humility. Bill went to the top college in the US. You never heard about that he mentioned it. Bill was willingly serving in a deputy position even though he was offered to lead the ministry. Bill always served behind the stage. He may not be preaching like Paul, but he is very close to Timothy who supported Paul and encouraged others.


 

When I think about other Christian pastors, and ministry leaders in my life, I mostly admire their teaching, their sound doctrine, their excellent sermons, and their moral characters. When I think about Bill, it’s just Bill, a servant walking with Christ in life. When we met and sit down at a table, he did not start to ask me what I am serving, and which topic I am studying in my Bible study group, and which Bible reading plan I am on, but asked me a very simple question. Not many people would ask me. “Brother, how are you walking with the Lord recently?” That is the question that Bill asked me. I know that he was not trying to examine my life in a judgmental way. That is how he lives his life. He wants me, his younger brother in Christ, to do the same. I do not think that I had given good answer to Bill every time. But this question stays with me and  became a question that I often I ask myself. “How am I walking with the Lord?”


 

During the time when I saw Bill before he passed away, we prayed for Bill and his wife Pam. Bill prayed for our two families who came from Dallas to see him. He prayed by name for us and our children. That is how Bill always cares others even at the time when cancer was spread all over his body, and he only have weeks to live. The last words that Bill told me is to ask me to give his golf clubs to others. Bill was thinking about others in all things include a set of golf clubs.


 

The more I think about Bill and my time with him, the more I realized that evangelism is the most important of Bill’s ministry, and the goal for Bill in life is to walk with Christ in his own life. These are not two competing goals, but one united in Christ. When I think about Bill, I actually saw Bible verse, and Christian doctrine, not on paper or on screen, but from Bill’s life, and his walking with Christ. Bill asked me how I was working with the Lord because he wanted to share this important message with me. By walking with Christ, it is not just to have knowledge of Bible verse, and Christian doctrine, and express by words how Christian should live, and do the good things, but the whole life abides in Christ.


 

Bill, my dear friend, my golf partner, and my brother in Christ, I thank you for that you live as an example for me in walking with Christ. Bill, I will see you in Heaven. I know that you may still use your driver to play the par 3 hole in Heaven, and you are making hole-in-one every time. I will join you some day in Heaven and play golf with you. While you hit driver for a par 3 hole, I will still use my 8 iron not because of pride, but the glory of the Lord.


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欧洲

油画

袁晓明/文

      无论你是有基督信仰的人,还是没有基督信仰,甚至是一位无神论者,在西欧各国旅游后,你应该得出这样一个结论:如果把与基督信仰有关的建筑、与基督信仰有关的文学艺术,全部拿走,这些西欧国家就成了一片文化的沙漠,因为没有基督教,就没有西方文明,也就没有灿烂文明和悠久历史的西方。

      在西欧国家中,荷兰虽不是地域和人口意义上的大国,但在历史上却曾经是欧洲的强国,甚至在三十年的时间里,荷兰曾经在军事、经济、贸易上称霸全球。当然,今非昔比,虽然今天的荷兰还是一个富裕的欧洲发达国家,但荷兰的辉煌和地位已经不再,在当经世界的历史舞台上,几乎听不到荷兰的名头。如果你到荷兰旅游,在阿姆斯特丹等城,你所能看到的西方文明的灿烂和辉煌都在历史的遗留之中。


      除了古老的欧式建筑,更能代表西方文明的来自阿姆斯特丹的博物馆,梵高博物馆是阿姆斯特丹最重要的两个博物馆之一,另一个是荷兰国立博物馆。相比之下,荷兰国立博物馆有众多艺术家的作品,而梵高博物馆所展示的主要是梵高的作品,该博物馆收藏了最多的梵高作品。


      无需置疑,梵高是荷兰历史上最伟大的画家,也是世界艺术史上最伟大的画家之一。在梵高短短的一生中,他创作了大约2000幅作品,其中油画700,其他绘画1300。在梵高的700幅油画作品中,有艺术史家列出的10幅最著名的作品,其中包括著名的向日癸油画、自画像等,阿姆斯特丹梵高博物馆收藏有几幅十大梵高作品。在十一月访问阿姆斯特丹期间,我去梵高博物馆欣赏到许多梵高绘画的真品,其中,包括向日癸画等。


     在参观梵高博物馆时,我还有幸欣赏了法国著名画家米勒的作品。梵高博物馆对米勒的作品在其博物馆有一个短期的展览。梵高博物馆展出米勒的作品,不仅因为米勒是法国杰出的绘画大师,而且梵高以及梵高的作品与米勒有特殊的关系,从而在梵高博物馆展出米勒的作品,再恰当不过,在看完梵高的作评展览,再进到米勒的作品馆,能看到梵高对米勒的传承。


         米勒是梵高最敬重的画家,米勒的作品对梵高的创作有极大的影响,梵高对米勒不仅是在艺术上的敬仰,而且是在灵命上的传承。米勒是虔诚的基督徒,在不同程度上和不同角度上,他的许多作品都传达出基督信仰的。其中,最著名、最有代表性的是米勒的作品“撒种者”。


(米勒的油画 – 《撒种者》)



    《撒种者》是米勒作品最著名的主题,在1850年至1870年之间,米勒画了多次。《撒种者》表达了米勒深厚的宗教信仰。更具有突破意义的是,《撒种者》的第一给版本,米勒所画的撒种的人是一个地位较低的农民,在当时上流社会人物是画家的主题人物,米勒在一定意义上是对艺术界的逆潮流,更何况,《撒种者》所传达的宗教意义让当时的上流社会更加惊讶,难以理解为什么米勒选择农民做撒种者。但对于米勒而言,选择农民是自然也是他的愿望,因为米勒出生在法国的农村,他的父母有虔诚的基督信仰,米勒也是笃信基督,他最著名的绘画主题要表达就是他的基督信仰。


     《撒种者》来自耶稣所讲的一个比喻,记载在圣经新约马太福音、马可福音、路加福音。种子就是天国的道、基督的福音,撒种者就是基督福音的传播者,而承受种子的土地就是人的心。


      耶稣是这样讲的:

      有一个撒种的人出去撒种,有的种子撒在了路旁,飞鸟来吃了;有的种子撒在了土浅石头上,土既不深,苗长得很快,但日头出来,因为没有根,就枯干了;有落在荆棘里,荆棘长出来,把苗挤住了;也有种子落在好土里的,就结果实,有一百倍,有六十倍,有三十倍。耶稣对撒种的比喻做了解释,在路旁的种子是撒在不明白天国之道的人心里,恶者来了,就把撒在心里的种子夺去了;撒在石头地上的的种子,就是人听了道,当下欢喜领受,只因为心里没有根,不过是暂时的,或遭受了患难,或受了逼迫,立刻就跌倒了,撒在荆棘里的,就是人听了道,后来有世上的思虑,钱财的迷惑,把道挤住了,不能结果实;撒在好地上的,就是人听道明白了,后来结识,有一百倍,有六十倍,有三十倍。


      米勒是梵高最敬重的画家,而对于米勒的画,梵高特别珍爱《撒种者》,在梵高的艺术生涯中,他共画了三十幅《撒种者》,有临摹米勒的《撒种者》,也有他的自创的《撒种者》。由此可见,梵高分享米勒的基督信仰,他的父亲是牧师,他曾经读过神学、愿意从事神职是奉,最终,他如米勒一样,通过自己的绘画,向世人传播基督的道、基督的救赎。


(梵高临摹米勒的《撒种者》)


(梵高自创的《撒种者》)


      据阿姆斯特丹梵高博物馆提供的数据,每年大约有二百二十万人参观该博物馆,也就是说有二百多万人每年会在梵高博物馆观赏多幅梵高的《撒种者》。再加上,通过绘画印刷品,以及互联网,一定有数以千万计的人看到梵高的《撒种者》、米勒的《撒种者》。期盼有更多的人能透过梵高的名气和他绘画的技巧,去领会到梵高以及米勒承传的天国的种子,也就是基督徒的救赎之道,在心地的那快好土接受福音的种子。


      神爱世人,祂愿意更多的人能接受天国的道、基督的福音,祂拣选了许多仆人去为他传播天国之道、基督的福音,米勒和梵高就是神特殊的拣选,他们不是牧师,却是在通过神赐予的天分,也就是他们的绘画的天才、通过他们那永远被收藏在世界各地的《撒种者》向世人撒播天国的种子。

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