Café Terrace at Night (1888)
Vincent van Gogh
public domain

Easter 2, Psalm 148

Historical Description:  Café Terrace at Night was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1888, and is a depiction of a still standing café in Arles, France. The painting has two contrasting sections that accent each other. To the mid-left is the yellow glow of the lantern that encompasses each character on the terrace of the café. Surrounding this is the dark blue of the night, fully accented by the handful of small stars in the sky. This is the first of Van Gogh’s star background paintings, with the next few paintings, Starry Night Over the Rhone and Starry Night featuring more of the stars and less of the buildings.

Devotional Reflection:  In this busy Easter season, I like to get tasks finished. I am often found with a to-do list in front of me. I like to squeeze what I want to do in between what I need to do. To me, this is responsible living, getting as many tasks crossed off of the list as possible. Being able to look down at this list is how I gauge a success filled day. This is also my biggest distraction to what truly matters in each day.

There is always one piece of art that seems to grab my attention. Whenever I glance at Café Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh, I seem to find a sense of solace in these busy night people. I wonder what it is that keeps them awake, what task they are focused on, in desperate need to accomplish before they can put their list down and go to sleep. I enjoy the warm glow of the illuminating light of man-made lanterns, the pleasant conversations, the warm drinks, the stretching a day as long as possible on this starry night.

Perhaps I am not alone in attempting to draw the most out of life. God knows of this temptation, and for this reason he gives us the 149th Psalm. The Psalmist addresses people like us, who are stuck on things of this world, and asks us to take a moment and see something else, something greater. “Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights…Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars…Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.  And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.”

As we hear these words, we cannot help but go back to this café terrace. We once gazed down at the night people, but now we are drawn to gaze upon the piercing stars. These stars cannot help but give praise to the creator. This praise was the purpose of their creation. This praise is the purpose for our creation. Unfortunately, this is not something that is to be found in our daily lists or nighttime episodes of rushing. One day, these lists and accomplishments will all pass, just like the café in the painting will pass away, but the words and the will of the Lord will never pass away.

Tonight, look up at the sky, remember the words of the Psalmist, recall what truly matters each day, and “Praise the Lord from the heavens”, the same Lord who conquered death that we could live an eternal life of praise for him!

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