Lent, Day 31

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . . Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

—John 6:35, 49–51

LOOK: Painting by Pablo Sanaguano

Painting by Pablo Sanaguano
Painting by Pablo Sanaguano (Ecuadorian, 1964–), 2021

LISTEN: “Jesus, Bread of Life” by Audrey Assad and Fernando Ortega, feat. Diana Gameros, on Neighbor Songs by The Porter’s Gate, 2019

This song was written for the Porter’s Gate album Neighbor Songs, which released in 2019. Diana Gameros, a member of the collective, sings on the recording and plays guitar. Here she is a year later, singing the song with Minna Choi for a City Church San Francisco [previously] virtual worship service.

Jesus, bread of life
Manna from heaven
Broken for the world
Offered up for every man

The feast of angels becomes food for the weary
And hungry hearts are filled
When you open up your hand
When you open up your hand

O Lord, come fill us with your love
This table laid for us
There is more than enough
Jesus, bread of life

Sister, take what you need
Anything I own
There is no famine here
Jesus’ love will multiply

Brother, what’s mine is yours
You are not alone
There is no shortage here
Jesus’ love satisfies
Jesus’ love satisfies

O Lord, come fill us with your love
This table laid for us
There is more than enough
Jesus, bread of life

[Related post: “Open Your Mouth (Artful Devotion)”]

Christmas, Day 6

LOOK: Adoration of the Shepherds by Hugo van der Goes

van der Goes, Hugo_Adoration of the Shepherds
Hugo van der Goes (Flemish, ca. 1440–1482), Adoration of the Shepherds, ca. 1480. Oil on oak wood, 99.9 × 248.6 cm. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

After the angel of the Lord announced the birth of the Messiah to a band of shepherds, “they went with haste” to the place where he lay (Luke 2:16). The Flemish artist Hugo van der Goes shows the shepherds’ hurried arrival at the manger. One of them gallops through the door panting, having run from the scene in the upper right corner, and another removes his hat and kneels. Two more stand behind them just outside the shed—one playing a recorder, the other in midclap.

van der Goes, Hugo_Adoration of the Shepherds (detail, Annunciation)
van der Goes, Hugo_Adoration of the Shepherds (detail, shepherds)

In the center of the composition, the Christ child squirms in his makeshift bed, surrounded by his parents, an ox and ass, and a coterie of angels. At the foot of the manger is a sheaf of wheat, an allusion to Jesus as “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51) and, by extension, to the Eucharist. This painting, after all, was originally made, most likely, to hang over an altar.

van der Goes, Hugo_Adoration of the Shepherds (detail, Jesus)

In the foreground two men draw open a set of curtains, revealing God made flesh. An actual wooden rod is attached to the panel and painted with rings, enhancing the illusion. Most scholars agree that the men represent Isaiah (left) and Jeremiah (right), Old Testament prophets who foretold Christ (see, e.g., Isa. 7:14; Jer. 23:5–6)—though John Moffitt suggests they are the apostles Mark and Paul, two New Testament personages who specifically associate themselves with a veil as a sign of divine manifestation. Either way, these figures act as intermediaries between the viewer and the depicted narrative, inviting us, like the shepherds, to bear witness to the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation and to respond in adoration.

van der Goes, Hugo_Adoration of the Shepherds (detail, Jeremiah)

This Adoration, sometimes referred to as van der Goes’s Berlin Nativity, is not the artist’s most famous painting on the subject. That would be the central panel of the Portinari Altarpiece, painted a few years earlier.

LISTEN: “Where Shepherds Lately Knelt” | Words by Jaroslav J. Vadja, 1987, © Concordia Publishing House | Music by Carl F. Schalk, 1987, © GIA Publications, Inc. | Performed by Koiné on Emmanuel Lux, 2012

Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half-belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
but there is room and welcome there for me,
but there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place I find him as they said:
sweet newborn babe, how frail! and in a manger bed,
a still small voice to cry one day for me,
a still small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
his prophecies fulfilled? With pounding heart I stare:
a child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
a child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget how Love was born, and burned
its way into my heart, unasked, unforced, unearned,
to die, to live, and not alone for me,
to die, to live, and not alone for me?

Lent, Day 3

LOOK: C. F. John (Indian, 1960–), Gathering Fragments 1, 2012. Mixed media on canvas, 12 × 12 in.

John, C.F._Gathering Fragments 1

C. F. John is an internationally exhibited, award-winning artist and social activist based in Bangalore, India. I learned about him from my friend Jyoti Sahi [previously], whose art ashram John lived at from 1984 to 1986. He works in oils, mixed media, and installation and has even designed a few architectural spaces. Spirituality and ecology are important in his practice.

The featured artwork here is from John’s Gathering Fragments series. To me it’s evocative of an emptying of self and the desire to be filled with God—a characteristic Lenten posture. The woman in the collage holds out her bowl with a readiness to receive.

To explore more of C. F. John’s art, visit https://cfjohn.com/.

LISTEN: Chorus from “Fill My Cup, Lord” by Richard Blanchard, 1959 | Performed by CeCe Winans, on Alabaster Box, 1999

Fill my cup, Lord;
I lift it up, Lord;
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole.

Richard Blanchard (1925–2004) was an American Methodist minister and gospel songwriter. This most famous song of his was inspired by the story of the marginalized Samaritan woman whom Jesus engaged in conversation as the two of them were gathering water at a public well (John 4:1–45). Seeing that the woman was not only physically thirsty but also had a deep spiritual thirst, Jesus offered her “living water.” “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life,” he said. To which she replied, “Sir, give me this water!”

Though Blanchard’s song has three verses that make this connection explicit, gospel recording artists sometimes isolate the chorus and sing it as a standalone piece, as it’s such a powerful, concentrated expression of Godward yearning.

[Related posts: “Open Your Mouth (Artful Devotion)”; “Jesus Gave Me Water (Artful Devotion)”]

“Bread of Heaven” is a Christological title derived from John 6, a dialogue between Jesus and the crowds the day after he miraculously multiplied five loaves and two fishes a thousandfold.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

—John 6:25–40 (emphasis mine)

Some modern hearers get confused by the request “Feed me till I want no more,” wondering at what point we would ever be so full of God that we wouldn’t want to be fed any more of him. But the word “want” is being used in the archaic sense of “lack”—the same way it’s used in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (And in “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” which contains the same exact line.) So it’s asking of God, “Feed me till I lack nothing.”

I love CeCe Winans’s rendition best, posted above. But if you want to watch a performance, here’s Tasha Cobbs Leonard singing live at Passion City Church in Atlanta:

And here’s a recording of the full song released just last month by the Living Stones Quartet from India. I’m not opposed to the verses, but they are a little hokey. Regardless, they bring back warm memories for me of singing this in church as a child. I’ve always been moved by the chorus.

“Fill My Cup, Lord,” as performed by CeCe Winans, is featured on the Art & Theology Lent Playlist on Spotify.

Open Your Mouth (Artful Devotion)

Manna from Heaven (13th c)
Manna from heaven: illumination from the Maciejowski Bible, Paris, 1240s. Morgan Library MS M.638, fol. 9v (detail).

Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”—Psalm 81:10b

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SONG: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” (Bread of Heaven) | Words by William Williams (1745), translated from the Welsh by Peter Williams (1771) | Music by John Hughes (1905; tune: Cwm Rhondda) | Performed by Kelly Joe Phelps, on Brother Sinner and the Whale (2012)

I love Phelps’s gentle, guitar-picked rendition of this classic hymn. For performance snippets interspersed with interview footage, click here.

Scenes from Exodus
Bitter water made sweet; manna from heaven; water from the rock at Horeb; Joshua fights the Amalekites. Morgan Library MS M.638 (Maciejowski Bible), fol. 9v, Paris, 1240s.


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for Proper 4, cycle B, click here.