Lent, Day 18

LOOK: Crucifix figure by Giovanni Antonio Gualterio

Gualterio, Giovanni Antonio_Crucifix figure
Giovanni Antonio Gualterio (Italian, active 1582–1600), Crucifix figure, ca. 1599. Ivory, h. 13.5 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

LISTEN: “Christ’s dying love; or, our pardon bought at a dear price” (aka “Condescension”) | Words by Isaac Watts, 1709 | Music: Appalachian shape-note tune, ca. 1800; published in The Southern Harmony, and Musical Companion (new edition, thoroughly revised and much enlarged), ed. William Walker, 1854 | Arranged and performed by Timothy Seaman on bamboo flute, 2021

How condescending and how kind
Was God’s eternal Son!
Our mis’ry reached his heav’nly mind,
And pity brought him down.

When justice, by our sins provoked,
Drew forth its dreadful sword,
He gave his soul up to the stroke
Without a murmuring word.

He sunk beneath our heavy woes,
To raise us to his throne;
There’s ne’er a gift his hand bestows
But cost his heart a groan.

This was compassion like our God,
That when the Savior knew
The price of pardon was his blood,
His pity ne’er withdrew.

Now though he reigns exalted high,
His love is still as great:
Well he remembers Calvary,
Nor should his saints forget.

Here we behold his bowels roll,
As kind as when he died;
And see the sorrows of his soul
Bleed through his wounded side.

Here we receive repeated seals
Of Jesus’ dying love;
Hard is the heart that never feels
One soft affection move.

Here let our hearts begin to melt
While we his death record,
And with our joy for pardoned guilt,
Mourn that we pierced the Lord.

Virginia musician Timothy Seaman plays a variety of instruments, including the hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, various flutes and whistles, bowed and plucked psalteries, and guitar. He has recorded fifteen albums featuring his instrumental arrangements of traditional music (especially American mountain and Scots-Irish tunes), as well as original compositions, many of them inspired by local wildlife and nature and by the Christian faith. He has eight years’ worth of videos on his YouTube channel, a mix of tutorials and informal performances. For this time of year especially, I’d also commend to you another of his Appalachian folk hymn arrangements, “Behold the Lamb of God” on hammered dulcimer.

Of “Condescension,” he writes,

In 1986 I found this profound folk hymn in an old book, and I’ve loved to play and sing it ever since—but not till now have I recorded it. I’ve considered ensemble arrangements with intriguing chords and rhythms, etc., but I keep coming back to a cappella bamboo flute, or voice. Here it is in its instrumental form! The tune is anonymous, and the words are by the master hymn writer Isaac Watts.

Click here to access the lead sheet for “Condescension.” It was made by Seaman and is shared here with his permission.

For a vocal performance, see The Shapenote Album by The Tudor Choir, directed by Doug Fullington.

The mention of rolling bowels in the sixth stanza may sound strange to us today (sounds like a digestive issue!), but traditionally, the bowels were regarded as the seat of tender and sympathetic emotions—felt in the gut. Several of the biblical authors mention the moving of that organ in relation to yearning, anguish, compassion, or mercy (e.g., Gen. 43:30; Isa. 63:15; Jer. 4:19; 1 John 3:17). The KJV translation preserves the expression, still commonly used in the seventeenth century, with literalness, translating the Hebrew mēʿê and Greek splagchnon as either “bowels,” “belly,” or “inward parts.” Today we locate such emotions in the heart instead.

This stanza is actually my favorite in the hymn. There’s such a poetic quality to it! Watts is meditating on Christ exalted, who is not at all impassive in that high estate, but rather is still moved to compassion for humanity, every bit as much as when he hung on the cross. He still bears the wounds of crucifixion, and, in a figurative sense, those wounds still bleed for us.

Here we behold his bowels roll,
As kind as when he died;
And see the sorrows of his soul
Bleed through his wounded side.

Lent, Day 11

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

—Matthew 7:13–14

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”

—Matthew 16:24–26

These teachings of Jesus give me pause. How do we square them with Jesus’s saying that his yoke is light, and that in him the heavy laden find rest (Matt. 11:28–30)? Crosses are hefty! They weigh down. To follow Christ, do we trade one burden (sin) for another (self-denial)? And is there not a wideness and a freedom to Christ’s way? Narrowness implies constriction. His embrace is certainly wide. But his gate is narrow?

I’ve seen this passage abused by Christians who insist that their own narrow parameters of belief and practice (and I’m talking apart from the historical creeds) constitute the one true path; without accounting for differences of conscience, culture, or biblical interpretation, they label this view or that behavior a “slippery slope” that will lead to destruction.

I have thoughts on some of these questions, but they’re not fully formed. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment field.

Rather than ignoring Bible passages that I find confusing or uncomfortable, I prefer to wrestle with them. Below I’ll look at how two artists engage these texts, setting them within a larger framework: German painter Laurentius de Neter and hymn writer Isaac Watts. Both works are old-fashioned, and I don’t give my full endorsement to either one, but I believe they are worth visiting.

LOOK: The Broad and Narrow Road by Laurentius de Neter (aka Laurence Neter)

de Neter, Laurentius_The Wide and Narrow Road
Laurentius de Neter (German, 1600–1649), De brede en de smalle weg (The Broad and Narrow Road), ca. 1635. Oil on canvas, 59 × 78 cm. Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, Netherlands.

The artist painted this image, popular among Protestants, during his three-year sojourn in the Netherlands from 1635 to 1638. I saw it when I was there in 2019, in one of the galleries of the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. There was a Dutch title given but no description. I spent a while looking at all the details.

In the center is a large tree—green and lush on the left, and dead and barren on the right. A man stands under it, being pulled in two directions.

de Neter, Laurentius_The Wide and Narrow Road-004

To our right is a skeleton with a bow and arrow, standing in the shadows and representing death, and a finely dressed woman holding an apple, representing temptation. She tries to persuade the man toward a life of earthly pleasures, signified by a pile of cards and dice, a theatrical mask, musical instruments and sheet music, bags of coins, fancy vases, and armor. On this “worldly” side a regent sits on a dais under a canopy before a literal wall of gold—her head ensconced in a glass globe! She is living in a bubble, consumed with self and power. Nearby a lutist and a harpist play at an extravagant outdoor banquet, while in the background a contemporary “Lazarus,” hungry and barely clothed, sits outside the host’s house as two dogs lick his sores.

de Neter, Laurentius_The Wide and Narrow Road-002

In the right background a crowd of people shuffle through a wide archway marked V[olu]pta[t]es, Latin for “pleasures.” (I’m not sure who the sculpted figures on top are supposed to represent.) They are heading toward destruction, as is clear from the blazing fire in the distance. This is one of the paths that is open to the indecisive man at the center.

His other option, though, is the way of Christ. He is beckoned there by a simply dressed woman with an infant, representing Christian love, and by an angel who points to the Ten Commandments with his sword.

This “narrow way” is marked by humble prayer and service. At the left, those who have chosen this way enact the seven works of mercy, derived mainly from Matthew 25: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the stranger, visiting the prisoner, caring for the sick, and burying the dead. They have taken up their cross, and they head for a narrow footpath that stretches over a body of water and winds up and around a mountain. Those who fall off the path are in danger of landing in the fiery pit at the base.

de Neter, Laurentius_The Wide and Narrow Road (detail)

Even though it’s a popular metaphor and has been for ages, I’m not so keen on envisioning the Christian life as an uphill climb. It’s meant to connote something of the struggle to press on as well as a sense of progression toward a goal—the mountaintop, which stands for heaven. But it seems this picture could falsely suggest that heaven is gained through self-exertion, through laborious effort, and that the journey of faith is one of continual progress or ascent, and that it looks the same for everyone. In reality, sometimes we start out high but regress. Sometimes we travel a different path for a while, but it meets back up with the main, bringing us to a point we couldn’t have gotten to any other way.

While I realize there are scriptures to support the view of faith as a feat of endurance (e.g., Phil. 3:12–14; 1 Cor. 9:24–27; Gal. 6:9), and I’m certainly not suggesting idleness, there are also numerous passages about relying on God’s strength rather than our own; on Christ’s merits, not our own.

I think that as long as we recognize the limitations of the mountain metaphor, bringing a more nuanced understanding to it, it’s fine to retain.

But another problematic idea that this painting could be read as insinuating is that all pleasures, such as good food, the theater, music, and games, ought to be repudiated as distractions at best, idolatries at worst. (No one on the narrow path is seen enjoying such things.) Enjoyment of the arts and of God’s good gifts is not sinful. However, if you come to live only for such pleasures, if you become so consumed with them that they cause you to ignore the needs of those around you and neglect your other Christian duties, then they can become destructive. One might discern this subtle distinction in de Neter’s portrayal of the bombastic displays of wealth and the diners’ apparent exclusion of the poor and disabled from their feast.  

I do appreciate that the artist’s characterization of the “narrow path” includes not just personal pieties but also a social aspect—faith worked out in the public square in material ways, in interactions with neighbors.

LISTEN: “Windham” (Roud 15045) | Words by Isaac Watts, 1707–9 | Music by Daniel Read, 1785 | Performed by the Watersons on Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy, 1977

Broad is the road that leads to death
And thousands walk together there
But wisdom shows a narrow path
With here and there a traveler

“Deny thyself and take thy cross”
Is the Redeemer’s great command
Nature must count it all but dross
If she would gain this heavenly land

The fearful soul that tires and faints
And walks the ways of God no more
Is but esteemed almost a saint
And makes his own destruction sure

Lord, let not all my hopes be vain
Create my heart entirely new
Which hypocrites could ne’er attain
Which false apostates never knew

Isaac Watts titled this hymn—quite unattractively!—“Few saved: or, The almost Christian, the Hypocrite, and Apostate.” The tune, which is in the Sacred Harp (aka shape-note) tradition, is by New England composer Daniel Read (1757–1836); it’s named WINDHAM, I’m assuming after the town of Windham, Connecticut, Read’s state of residence. The famous British folk group The Watersons recorded the hymn under that title in the seventies. The text and tune complement each other very well.

I will say, though: I don’t like the third stanza. There’s no grace or compassion in it, no sense of God’s faithfulness to carry his own, his strength applied to our weakness, or his calling back the wayward wanderers. It may be influenced at least in part by Revelation 21:7–8 (KJV): “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful [i.e., cowardly], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” But Watts’s image of tiredness and fainting suggests someone who has picked up their cross and has buckled under its weight, as opposed to someone who outright rejects Christ’s call to cross taking. So in that case, Watts may have more in mind the passages of scripture that mention a believer’s “falling away,” or apostatizing, from the faith (Heb. 3:12; 6:4–12; 10:26–39; Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 9:25–27; etc.). Only those who persevere to the end will be saved.

I’m not sure how the “hypocrite” of the title fits into all this.

I don’t wish to get bogged down here with Calvinist versus Arminian debates about whether salvation can be lost, as that would detract from the main point, which is following Christ, staying committed.

I would not program this hymn into a worship service—it’s stark and severe and lacks, as I said, a perspective of divine grace, even if it does honor certain isolated scripture passages—but I wanted to introduce it here nonetheless. Being by the father of English hymnody, it circulated quite widely; the website Hymnary identifies its appearance in 441 hymnals. And it directly ties in to my two selected scripture texts, which are stark and severe, and I know of few other songs that address them. Not all hymns have to have a feel-good quality. Sometimes hymn writers give us something with bite, and that can be OK, even necessary. This one is an admonishment to stay on the straight and narrow. If you’ve veered off course, now is the time to come back!

Roundup: (Virtual) Arts conference, Psalm 129 jazz-hip-hop-folk fusion, and more

This year’s The Breath and the Clay creative arts gathering, on the theme of “Reenchantment,” is taking place March 17–21, with both in-person (in Winston-Salem, North Carolina) and virtual options. Registration for virtual attendees is pay-what-you-wish. Presenters include theologian Jeremy Begbie, poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, singer-songwriter Joy Ike, contemplative author Christine Valters Paintner, dancer Camille D.C. Sutton, and many more . . . including me! On the evening of March 18 I’ll be giving a twenty-minute talk titled “Saying Yes: The Annunciation in Contemporary Art,” which will be archived online afterward. (The global church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation the following week, on March 25.) (Update: Watch here.) Here’s the description:

The story of Jesus’s miraculous conception in the womb of Mary, a first-century Galilean peasant girl, told in Luke 1 has activated the imaginations of artists since the early Christian era. When an angelic messenger came and told Mary she had been chosen to bear God’s Son, she cycled through a range of emotions before ultimately accepting the call, stepping onto a path that, though scary, would be life-giving not only for her but also for her religious and ethnic community and for the whole world.

God invites us to participate in his work in the world and gives us the grace to do it. When his voice breaks through our safe, predictable routines, calling us to something big, do we respond with brave obedience? In this talk Victoria Emily Jones will share a handful of contemporary artworks that visualize that pivotal moment in salvation history when Mary said yes and set in motion the incarnation. These works show us the wild beauty of God’s plans and can help us tune our ears to the annunciations in our own lives.

(The title slide image is a detail of an Annunciation painting by Jyoti Sahi.)

I’m always impressed by the variety of artists, arts professionals, and art lovers that director Stephen Roach manages to bring together for The Breath and the Clay. Click here to learn more and to register.



>> VCS Lent 2021: The Visual Commentary on Scripture is highlighting a different exhibition from its archives for each week of Lent, with new content including a video introduction to the week by Ben Quash and an audio reading of each of the three constituent commentaries.

The first week was on the theme of Covenant and covers Genesis 8:20–9:17. Stefania Gerevini curated three artworks from Italy that convey some aspect of the rainbow as divine promise: a thirteenth-century mosaic from the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, a colorful dome fresco (fifteenth century) from the Cappella Portinari in Milan, and a contemporary light installation by Dan Flavin at Santa Maria Annunciata in Chiesa Rossa, also in Milan.

Week 2, on Prophecy, explores the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Jonathan Koestlé-Cate comments on three modern artworks: Crucified Tree Form by Theyre Lee-Elliott, a crucifix by Germaine Richier (which sparked outrage when it was unveiled at Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce, Assy, in 1950), and an installation by postminimalist artist Anish Kapoor at the church of Saint Peter, Cologne.

>> “The Many Faces of Jesus”: I’ve been enjoying this Lenten series (on blog and podcast) by medievalist Dr. Grace Hamman, who makes medieval lit super accessible. “For Lent, Old Books With Grace will share and explore some medieval representations of Jesus in art and literature—the versions of Jesus that dominate the medieval church’s imagination. These medieval portrayals of Jesus may strike us as odd, threatening, charming, creative, stupid, or inspiring. In attending to these versions of Jesus, I hope for a few end goals: the first is that we may expand our Christian imagination. Perhaps a side of Jesus that has never occurred to you, or been sideswept by our contemporary culture, will suddenly illuminate an aspect of the Jesus of scripture. The second is that we may better identify the ways that we ourselves have culturally contained and portrayed Jesus, in positive and negative ways. Often the strangeness of the past helps us recognize the weird or damaging things we believe in order to make Jesus more palatable, understandable, or like us.”

Christ and his bride
Jean Bondol, “The bride (Ecclesia) and bridegroom (Christ),” from a Bible Historiale made in Paris, 1371–72. The Hague, MMW, 10 B 23, fol. 330v.

So far she has covered Jesus as judge, lover, and knight.



>> “Up from My Youth (Psalm 129)” by Advent Birmingham, feat. CashBack and Terence June Gray: This is such a strange and compelling fusion! “An 1806 hymn by Isaac Watts meets hip-hop meets Johnny Cash meets folk meets New Orleans jazz meets industrial steel factory.”

Led by Zac Hicks, Advent Birmingham [previously] is a group of worship musicians from the Cathedral Church of the Advent in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. Hicks wrote this new tune for Isaac Watts’s metrical paraphrase of Psalm 129 and integrated a rap by guest artist Terence June Gray from Memphis. Singing lead (and playing drums) is Leif Bondarenko, the front man of the Johnny Cash tribute band CashBack. The video was filmed at Birmingham’s historic Sloss Furnaces. Available on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.

You can read the lyrics here, which include a slight revision of Watts’s verse 6.

>> “Thy Mercy, My God”: Words by John Stocker, 1776; music by Sandra McCracken, 2005; performed by Ellen Petersen Haygood (of The Petersens bluegrass band), 2018.


POETRY READING: “Phase One” by Dilruba Ahmed, read, with commentary, by Pádraig Ó Tuama, Poetry Unbound: What do you find hard to forgive in yourself? What might help? In this poem, the poet makes a list of all the things she holds against herself: opening fridge doors, fantasies, wilted seedlings, unkempt plants, lost bags, feeling awkward, treating someone poorly. Dilruba Ahmed repeats the line ‘I forgive you’ over and over, like a litany, in a hope to deepen what it means to be in the world, and be a person of love.”

Girded with Joy (Artful Devotion)

Klee, Paul_Joyful Mountain Landscape
Paul Klee (Swiss, 1879–1940), Heitere Gebirgslandschaft (Joyful Mountain Landscape), 1929. Oil on board, 17 5/16 × 24 13/16 in. (43.9 × 63.1 cm). Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

—Psalm 65:5–13

Psalm 65 is a such a magnificent praise song, and I especially love the expression in verse 12: “the hills gird themselves with joy” (ESV). Other translations have “the little hills rejoice on every side” (KJV), “the hillsides blossom with joy” (NLT), and “the hills [are set] to dancing” (MSG). The picture extends into the final verse, where, along with pastures, meadows, and valleys, the mountains “shout and sing” to their Creator. Last year when I saw Paul Klee’s Joyful Mountain Landscape at the Yale University Art Gallery, I instantly thought of this psalm—of how nature sings praises to God simply by being itself.

Human beings are called to join in creation’s joyful song.

[Related post: “Creation’s Praise” (Artful Devotion)]


SONG: “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” | Words by Isaac Watts, 1715 | Music (tune: ELLACOMBE) from Gesangbuch der Herzogl, Württemberg, 1784

I sing the mighty power of God
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad
and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord
that filled the earth with food;
he formed the creatures with his word
and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how thy wonders are displayed,
where’er I turn my eye,
if I survey the ground I tread
or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below
but makes thy glories known,
and clouds arise and tempests blow
by order from thy throne;
while all that borrows life from thee
is ever in thy care,
and everywhere that man can be,
thou, God, art present there.

For a fairly traditional rendition of this classic hymn, here’s a three-part a cappella arrangement performed by the Ball Brothers in 2012:

If you prefer a more modern sound, check out the version by Ben Thomas on the 2015 album Bring Forth. Thomas wrote a new melody for the song and recorded it under the title “I Sing the Goodness” (using the language of verse 2 instead of 1).

The whole Bring Forth album is great, which takes as its basis thirteen hymn lyrics dating from the fourth through twentieth centuries—“all seeking to find the Divine in the everyday elements of our existence,” Thomas says. Thomas adapted and retuned the hymns and released them in three movements that echo the cycle of time: Dawn, Day, and Dusk. To guide you through your listening, there is a meditation and prayer for each movement published on his website.

Other favorites of mine from the album are “Creator God, Creating Still,” “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” “Lord of All Being,” “Peace, Troubled Soul,” and “Bring Forth.”

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 10, cycle A, click here.

Highways to Zion (Artful Devotion)

Choumali, Joana_Ca Va Aller 54
Joana Choumali (Ivorian, 1974–), Ça Va Aller #54, 2018. iPhone photograph printed on cotton canvas and hand-embroidered with cotton, lurex, and wool thread, 9 2/5 × 9 2/5 in. (24 × 24 cm).

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

—Psalm 84:5 ESV

Alternate translation (NKJV):

Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
whose heart is set on pilgrimage.


SONG: “Marching to Zion” | Words: Isaac Watts, 1707, and Robert Lowry, 1867 (adapt.) | Music: Traditional black gospel | Performed by The Long Walk Home Gospel Choir, led by Dr. Clifford Bibb, on The Long Walk Home original motion picture soundtrack (1991)

I first heard this song years ago in the end credits of The Long Walk Home (1990), a historical drama film about the impact of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott on a black maid and her white employer. I was so moved by the spirited communal singing of this song about the people of God heading confidently through the fray of this world toward heaven, which alludes to the literal ascent of ancient Jewish pilgrims up the hill to Jerusalem. I looked up the song afterward to find that it is a gospelized adaptation of the Isaac Watts hymn “Come, we that love the Lord” and the nineteenth-century refrain added by Robert Lowry, which goes, in 6/8 time,

We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.

Writing during the rise of American revivalism, Lowry also gave the hymn the tune by which it is commonly known and sung today, reproduced in many hymnals. Despite my being raised Baptist, I never recall having sung this hymn before.

The version of the song used in The Long Walk Home has a completely different meter (4/4) and tune, and it also foregrounds this revised refrain:

We’re marching, marching up to Zion
That beautiful city of God
We’re marching, marching up to Zion
That beautiful city of God

Despite extensive searching, I’ve not been able to find the composer of this version. The soundtrack liner notes credit it as a “Traditional” arranged for the movie by Bernard Sneed, who’s on piano, and Dr. Clifford Bibb, the song leader. The version they’ve arranged almost surely originated in the black church in America and appears to have risen to popularity in the late 1940s. Some early recordings include the Roberta Martin Singers, feat. Eugene Smith (1953); the Blind Boys of Alabama (formerly the Happyland Singers), feat. Clarence Fountain (1954, 1971, etc.); Rev. James Cleveland; the Swan Silvertones; and the Ward Gospel Singers, feat. Viola Crowley (1963). These are all great—but I think I still like the Long Walk Home Gospel Choir recording the best. The intro and outro, which use other musical motives from the film, were composed by George Fenton, who wrote the score not only for this film but also for Dangerous Liaisons, Groundhog Day, You’ve Got Mail, Anna and the King, Sweet Home Alabama, Hitch, The Lady in the Van, and others.

The song also appears under the titles “We’re Marching to Zion,” “Marching Up to Zion,” or “Marching On to Zion.”

If you have any info on the history of, or piano music for, this particular version of the song, please do share! Black churches, from what I can tell, sing both versions, but all the hymnals I’ve consulted use Lowry’s version.


Joana Choumali from Côte d’Ivoire is doing beautiful mixed-media work that combines photography and embroidery. The above work is from her series Ça va aller (“It will be OK”). She began this series three weeks after the 2016 terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam, a historic southeastern seaside town where she used to spend peaceful Sunday afternoons on the beach. With her iPhone, she took photos of residents going about their daily business in the aftermath of this traumatic event, bearing their melancholy quietly. She said that adding the colorful stitches to the printed photographs was healing for her and an act of defiant hope. View more on her website.

In Ça Va Aller #54, a man walks a dusty road that erupts before him into a spectacular upward whirl of tiny cross-shapes that evoke a flock of wild birds or flower blossoms. I see joy, I see hope. I see a man stepping into and being led forward by these virtues.

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 25, cycle C, click here.