Lent, Day 5

LOOK: (1) “St. Juliana of Nicomedia, the devil at her feet,” from a Picture Bible made at the Abbey of Saint Bertin, Saint-Omer, France, ca. 1190–1200. KB, 76 F 5, fol. 32r. Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library), The Hague, Netherlands. (2) “St. Juliana of Nicomedia binding the devil,” from the Passionary of Weissenau, made in Germany, 12th century. Codex Bodmer 127, fol. 44v. Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cologny, Switzerland.

St. Juliana of Nicomedia and the devil
St. Juliana binding the devil

Saint Juliana (ca. 286–ca. 304) was a Christian from Nicomedia in present-day Turkey—the eastern capital of the Roman Empire in her day—who suffered martyrdom under the Diocletian persecutions. Legend has it that she engaged in some serious combat with the devil, so in art she is sometimes shown beating him with a club, binding him with a rope or chain, or otherwise incapacitating him. Bam!

[Related post: “Stomp (Artful Devotion)”]

LISTEN: “Satan, Take Your Hands Off Me” by Essie Mae Brooks, on Rain in Your Life (2000)

. . .
Satan, take your hand off me.
I’m in God’s hand.
Jesus, my Jesus,
Has got his arm,
They wrapped all around me,
And the world can’t do me no harm.
. . .

Born in 1930, Essie Mae Brooks is a gospel singer-songwriter from Houston County, Georgia. Rain in Your Life is her debut album, which was followed up by I’ve Been Washed in the Water in 2002.

These two projects were financed by the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who bear those traditions. Cofounder Tim Duffy realized, while studying folklore in college, that preservationists tended to focus on documenting and archiving rather than on taking care of the artists themselves, and he wanted to take a more people-centered approach. So he and his wife Denise launched the foundation in 1994, seeking to empower and sustain folk and blues musicians in and around Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and beyond.

Music Maker provides tour booking, management, and recording services to its artists in addition to grants, but more than that, it offers ongoing support that helps artists pay their bills. The organization focuses on the most vulnerable musicians: those over fifty-five who live on less than $25,000 a year.

To learn more, you can listen to the 2019 NPR segment “Capturing the Undersung Blues People of the Rural South” (or, from 2014, “Preserving American Roots Music Begins with Keeping the Lights On”). And visit the Music Maker website to explore more artists.

“Satan, Take Your Hands Off Me” by Essie Mae Brooks is featured on the Art & Theology Lent Playlist on Spotify.

Resist (Artful Devotion)

Prayer by Arcabas
Painting by Arcabas (French, 1926–2018)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

—James 4:7

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SONG: “Way Down in the Hole” by Tom Waits, on Franks Wild Years (1987)


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 20, cycle B, click here.

Voices in the desert—whose blessing will we heed?

Temptation by G. K. Hajarathbai
Gulap K. Hajarathbai (Indian), Temptation, 20th century. Oil on canvas, 18 × 20 in. Source: Herbert E. Hoefer, Christian Art in India (Chennai, India: Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, 1982)

“Tempted” by Eugene H. Peterson

Mark 1:12–13

Still wet behind the ears, he’s Spirit-pushed
up Jordan’s banks into the wilderness.
Angels hover praying ’round his head.
Animals couch against his knees and ankles
intuiting a better master. The Man
in the middle—new Adam in old Eden—
is up against it, matched with the ancient
Adversary. For forty days and nights
he tests the baptismal blessing and proves to his dismay
 the Man is made of sterner stuff than Adam:
 the Man will choose to be the Son God made him.

This poem was originally published in A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation, edited by Luci Shaw (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw, 1984), and is reprinted here by permission of the editor. www.lucishaw.com

***

Mark dedicates a spare two verses to this initiatory event in the life of Christ: the forty days of temptation he endured immediately following his baptism: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:12–13, ESV; cf. Matthew 4:1–11, Luke 4:1–13).

I’m intrigued by Mark’s use of the word driven (ekballō) to describe the manner in which the Spirit imparts motion to Christ. Whereas Matthew and Luke use the gentler led (anagō), Mark implies something more forceful: ejected, cast forth, hurled. In his idiomatic translation of the Bible, The Message, Eugene H. Peterson uses push: “At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild” (emphasis mine).

So the same Spirit who had just alighted on Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, presiding over God’s pronouncement that “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11), now pushes Jesus into the Judean desert, away from civilization. Why? So that in the quiet, he could get to better know himself and God, to better discern the task to which he had been called. This process necessarily involved doing battle with the prospects of other paths, other identities.

“Turn these stones into bread.” “Jump; let’s see if God saves you.” “Worship me; I’ll give you the kingdom of earth.”

Satan tries to draw Jesus from a messiahship of self-sacrifice to a messiahship of power. Performing miracles for his own self-benefit, to avoid any discomfort or pain in life; performing miracles for show, like a magician, to impress the masses; becoming an earthly king, with political control and dominion—these are all temptations Jesus would face again. Here he has the opportunity to confront them head-on in preparation for his imminent ministry to the Israelites. Over this period of forty days, Jesus solidifies his mission, rejecting the vision of himself and his life that Satan lays out for him. Instead of gratification, pride, and riches, Jesus chooses purity, humility, and poverty.   Continue reading “Voices in the desert—whose blessing will we heed?”