Darren Vanderlaan, member of St. Albert (Alberta) Christian Reformed Church, never leaves home without his sketch pad. While some congregants take notes during sermons, Vanderlaan draws. It helps him concentrate and stay focused, he says. Knowing this, pastor John Luth asked Vanderlaan if he would be willing to draw the sermons during Lent and share his drawings with the congregation.
The sermon series, called “Metamorphosis: Becoming a Christian Character,” was based on a worship series outline by Peter Schuurman in the December 2014 issue of Reformed Worship. Luth shared his sermon draft with Vanderlaan on each Thursday prior to the Sunday he would be preaching it. On Sunday, Vanderlaan put the finishing touches on his drawing and then placed it on a table at the back of the church. (See photos for all the drawings.)
Not only have the drawings deepened and enhanced the sermons, said Luth, but “it has also felt in a way as if the congregation was receiving two sermons since Darren's drawings sometimes had their own very pointed application. Darren has a distinct style and imagination. There is both radical darkness and glorious hope in his work. I had no idea that he had that quality of gift in him.”
“I am not a professional artist, although I did train as a tattoo artist,” said Vanderlaan. Modest about his artistic abilities, he said, “Honestly, I am very humbled that people like the images, even though I think they are very simple and not that good.”
Although Vanderlaan has not participated in conversations with the congregation about his drawings, he was willing to comment on one that holds great meaning for him, the second one he drew. “Pastor Luth’s sermon was on the power of God’s love in saving us. He knows us better than we do ourselves and forgives us because of this love, not because of any deed we do to atone. The picture shows that we are forgiven, but that the truly hard part for us is forgiving ourselves and loving ourselves, our whole selves, as God loves us.”
Vanderlaan admitted he was honored to be a part of this project. “In my opinion the art consolidates the sermon into a simple but powerful phrase and image to point at the essence of the sermon.”
For Luth, “Working with Vanderlaan challenged me to think visually, and to do that going forward beyond this series.”