Lent devotionals with arts component

Next Wednesday, February 14, is the first day of Lent—a season of focused prayer and simple living. During this time I will continue publishing weekly “Artful Devotion” posts based on scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, plus I have a few other posts planned. I’m especially excited about what I’ll be publishing this Sunday—the fruits of many months of labor; I hope you’ll check back!

If you are looking for daily devotional content during Lent that incorporates the arts, check out some of these resources. See also last year’s list: https://artandtheology.org/2017/03/07/art-resources-for-lent/.

“The Lent Project V” by Biola University: From Ash Wednesday through the first week of Easter, Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts will be publishing daily “aesthetic meditations” on Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The scripture texts, art images, music, and poetry are curated by a CCCA team, and staff are invited to contribute written reflections that respond to them. “The mood of Lent can be beautifully captured through the arts, which are often cathartic expressions of longing, suffering, loneliness, love, death and rebirth,” says university president Barry H. Corey. “Art is a great chronicler both of the drama of human history and the aches of the human heart.” Here are some artworks Biola has featured in previous years; click on each to experience the full devotion:

The Bread by Michael Borremans
Michaël Borremans (Belgian, 1963–), The Bread, 2012. Oil on canvas, 29 × 23 cm.
Lamb of God by Arcabas
Arcabas (French, 1926–), Lamb of God. Stained glass, Notre-Dame des Neiges Church, Alpe d’Huez, France.
Deposition and Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary (Palestinian Museum)
The Deposition & Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, 2014. Collage, from “The Presence of the Holy See” project at the Palestinian Museum. Photographs by Alexandra Boulat (French, 1962–2007); paintings by Raphael.
Jesus on the Shore by Maja Lisa Engelhardt
Maja Lisa Engelhardt (Danish, 1956–), Jesus on the Shore. Altarpiece, Turup Church, Assens, Denmark.

Lenten Readings 2018 by Kevin Greene: For the seventh year in a row, Kevin Greene, a teaching elder at West End Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, is publishing short daily devotions, each one containing an art image and a piece of music. (Last year I learned of lots of new artists through him!) For the prayer component he has used various resources in the past—the Revised Common Lectionary, sermons on the cross of Christ across the centuries, Wesley’s Scripture Hymns, and excerpts from the early church fathers—but this year he will be using collects (pronounced COL-lects) from the Book of Common Prayer. Unfamiliar with the term? Click here to read how a collect works.  

Alabama Yard, Winter by Peter Van Dyck
Peter Van Dyck (American), Alabama Yard, Winter, 2017. Oil on linen.

Lent Daybook at A Sacramental Life by Tamara Hill Murphy: I love Tamara’s blog, and how it shepherds both body and spirit. An Anglican from New England, she writes on worship and liturgy, spiritual practices, family, and more; many of her posts encourage you to “Look. Listen. Make. Do.” I’ve been deeply blessed by her thoughtful words and creative ideas over the past two years I’ve followed her. She’s helped me to pray better, to celebrate better, to grieve better, and to better connect with tradition.

Photo by Tamara Hill Murphy
Photo by Tamara Hill Murphy. The book on display is God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter.

This Lent Tamara will be posting every weekday, combining scripture readings, art, prayer, song, and simple meditative exercises. Here’s the start of her introduction for Lent 2018:

No season of the liturgical year has been more formative in my healing journey than Lent.  While my religious background trained me well in the reality of sin, death, and crucifixion, it did not provide much in the way of liturgical or devotional practices for lament, grief, and confession.

In my experience, this dissonance between teaching and practice fostered a sentimental approach to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, which produced Christians stunted in their ability to experience or empathize with suffering. In this view, the cross becomes a photoshopped decoration hanging in the background of a Church resistant to the invitations of the Suffering Servant who longs to save us in our suffering, and make us completely new in resurrection. . . .

Word Made Art: Lent by Heather Caliri: This newly released e-book showed up in my weekly NoiseTrade roundup, and naturally, the title caught my attention. Here’s the description: “If reading scripture bores or discourages you instead of drawing you closer to Jesus, wrestle with God on the pages of your Bible and make something beautiful out of your chaos. Word Made Art: Lent challenges you to cut, color, scribble, and reimagine your way through scripture during Lent. With eight unexpected projects, weekly questions for both individual and group study, and a gentle, encouraging tone, this creative devotional will help you bring your messy, honest self to God.”

As the author mentions, the book is geared toward those who have a troubled relationship with God and who do not regularly practice Bible reading. It aims to get those folks to re-engage through art and craft. The focus is very much on personal transformation rather than on completing tasks, and many of the prompts are good ones. You can download the book for free in exchange for your e-mail address. For more on the author, visit http://www.heathercaliri.com.

Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide by Sarah Arthur: I finally got around to reading this widely recommended book, and now I can add my voice to the chorus of enthusiastic praise. Part of a trilogy that spans the church year, Between Midnight and Dawn brings together poems and fiction excerpts, both traditional and contemporary, that address Lenten (and in the second half, Easter) themes. These are presented in a devotional format, with opening and closing prayers for each week. Arthur’s selections are stellar; I love how she achieved a balance of old and new.

Lenten poetry book covers

The Word in the Wilderness: A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter by Malcolm Guite: I haven’t read this one yet, but I will be this Lent—like Arthur’s compilation, it too comes highly recommended. “Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to ‘awaken the mind’s attention . . . directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us,’ as Coleridge put it, is an ideal companion for such a time.” The Word in the Wilderness contains fifty-three poems, a mix of traditional and modern (and mostly all British), including several by the author, who is himself an established poet. Each is accompanied by an illuminating prose reflection by Guite. You might want to hop on over to Literary Life, where blogger Rick Wilcox will be walking through the book this season.

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