LOOK: C. F. John (Indian, 1960–), Gathering Fragments 1, 2009. Mixed media on banana fiber sheets on canvas, 12 × 12 in.
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/.
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.
“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.