Lent, Day 15

LOOK: Life of Christ by Tony Nwachukwu

Nwachukwu, Tony_Untitled
Carved and painted wood by Tony Nwachukwu (Nigerian, 1959–)

I retrieved this image years ago from https://anthonynwachukwu.com/, but the domain has since expired. Nwachukwu didn’t give a title or a date there, and I couldn’t find his contact information to ask. The scene on the far left appears to me to be a Nativity—Christ in the manger, his mother and father standing behind. Then there’s what I’m guessing is Jesus’s anointing with the Spirit at his baptism; hands outspread, he receives his commission. The wineglass and flatbread refer, of course, to the Last Supper, and to Jesus’s declaration that he is the bread of life and that he is initiating a new covenant in his blood. The overturned cup may be a reference to the cup of wrath poured out on Christ at his passion. The open palm with nail wound and adjacent blood-stained cross are shorthand for the Crucifixion. Next to that is the dark cavern of Christ’s tomb. But in the final segment the mouth of the tomb is open and bright, and Christ bursts forth in resurrection.

Tony Nwachukwu studied art at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. Since 1987 he has lived in Owerri in Imo State, where he runs an art gallery. In addition to painting and carving, he also makes batiks (dyed cloth artworks) [previously] and liturgical vestments. In 2009 the German Catholic organization Misereor commissioned him to design that year’s Hungertuch, a liturgical veil hung in churches during Lent [previously], which was reproduced throughout Europe; his theme was climate change.

LISTEN: “Life of Jesus” by David Childers and Bill Noonan, on Serpents of Reformation (2014)

I been washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus

Well, I’m gonna tell you about the life of Jesus
I’m gonna tell you about the life of Jesus
He lived a long time ago
He still lives today
He came down from his Father in heaven
To show us a better way

And I been washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus
Washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus

He was born in a lowly place
Smack-dab in the middle of the human race
He grew up to spread the word of God
Living and loving and sweating as a man
Working and hurting and all that you can
Living and dying, he knew that too

Washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus

He went through the land
Preaching the gospel and the truth to man
Healing the sick and saving the lost
Driving the demons back to hell
Then he came to Jerusalem
Where trials and tribulations waited for him
He wound up nailed on Calvary’s tree

And that’s where I was washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus
Washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus

He was laid in the tomb
He descended into hell
He arose on the third day
To angel horns and heavenly bells
And when his disciples came looking for him
He was not to be found
Angels had rolled the stone away
And Jesus was heaven-bound

Now I am washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus
Washed in the blood of the Holy Lamb
Washed in the blood of Jesus

This song is from a gospel album by North Carolina singer-songwriter, roots musician, and bandleader David Childers (b. 1952). (Read an album review here.) I learned about him through Bob Crawford, bassist for the Avett Brothers and a close friend and sometime collaborator of Childers’s.

“Life of Jesus” originated in the 1990s with Bill Noonan, one of Childers’s bandmates in the Gospel Playboys at the time. Noonan was just playing around, but Childers “took it seriously and wound up writing out some words and finding a song structure,” Childers told me. His son Robert Childers and Neal Harper produced the version of the song on Serpents of Reformation, released in 2014 on Ramseur Records. “The song . . . has continued to evolve with each performance,” Childers said in an email. “It usually gets the room moving and grooving, which might freak out some Baptists; but it makes me happy. I also think Jesus liked to see people happy, and maybe did not frown on dancing or demonstrable rejoicing.”

There are a handful of live performances of the song on YouTube, including this one from a house concert in Charlotte shortly after the album release:

In addition to writing and recording music, Childers practiced law for thirty-five years, serving as an attorney for those on social security and/or disability. Those two careers ran parallel for a while, but in 2016 Childers decided to quit the legal profession to focus on his music. He is also a poet and a painter.

Creation’s Praise (Artful Devotion)

Nwachukwu, Tony_Untitled (Praise)
Untitled batik painting by Tony Nwachukwu (Nigerian, 1959–)

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!

—Psalm 148

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SONG: “All Creatures of Our God and King” | Words by William Draper, early 20th century, based on “Canticle of the Sun” by Francis of Assisi, 1225 | Music by Friedrich Spee, 1623 (Tune: Lasst uns erfreuen) | Performed by All Sons & Daughters, 2016

The above performance, by folk duo All Sons & Daughters (Leslie Jordan and David Leonard), was filmed in the small town of Assisi, Italy, where St. Francis penned his beautiful canticle of all creation, addressing the elements of nature as siblings—Sister Sun, Brother Moon, and so on. Almost seven hundred years later, British pastor William H. Draper paraphrased the poem (which was originally written in the Umbrian dialect) to create “All Creatures of Our God and King,” now a classic of Christian hymnody.

The constant noise in the background is, I believe, cicadas.

To hear a traditional performance with full orchestra and choir, click here; for a recent choral arrangement by John Stoddart, see this performance by the Oakwood University Aeolians. The hymn has also been adapted into various other styles, such as bluegrass and jazz.

All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voice and with us sing
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
thou silver moon with softer gleam,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
O praise him, alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice,
ye lights of evening, find a voice,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
make music for thy Lord to hear,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
that givest man both warmth and light,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye, alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
praise God and on him cast your care,
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, three in one.
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


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 the Fifth Sunday of Easter, cycle C, click here.