As we move deeper into the Season of Lent, I wanted to share this meditation through Art. Cody Wood is the Liturgical Artist in Residence for the Columbus Anglican Mission. We will share more of his reflections on Art and Lent in the weeks to come.
For now, we invite you to take some time for contemplation and prayer, allowing God to move not only your heart, but your feet, as you consider what it means to follow Jesus into the Wilderness.
Into the Wilderness Wet
by Cody Wood
“Jesus didn’t go into the wilderness as one who had passed through on dry land.
He went as one who had passed through the waters.”
♱ Gospel Reading
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
♱ Contemplate with Art:
Look at the painting and pause at the first thing that catches your eye. Stay there for a moment and ask what it is that draws you to this place?
Continue around the painting in the same manner, pausing to gaze at each place that catches your eye.
Now sit back and look at the painting as a whole. What, if anything, do you see that you didn’t notice before?
Read the Artist Statement.
♱ Into the Wilderness Wet by Cody Wood
"When I considered making a piece of liturgical art for Lent, it was immediately apparent that, unlike other observances (Advent with The Annunciation and Nativity, Good Friday with Gethsamane and The Crucifixion) Lent doesn’t have a clear moment. We can’t turn to the Bible and find the “Lent scene.” Reflecting on this season, what came to mind was Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, coinciding with the forty days of Lent.
I didn’t want to make an illustration, but an evocative piece for contemplation. The accounts of Jesus' baptism and departure into the wilds, prophetically echo Israel’s Exodus from Egypt and other significant Old Testament crossings of the Jordan. The key difference in Jesus’ case is that he wasn’t led/driven into the wilderness as one who had “passed through on dry land.” Jesus is plunged beneath the water like Pharoah, as Israel would have been without God’s protection. Only after Jesus has been “drowned/buried,” do we see the Spirit descend. Compelled by The Holy Spirit, Jesus went out to be tested, not dry, but drenched.
More than anything I have made before, this piece was a contemplative exercise where I allowed the decisions and materials to be a meaningful conversation. I began with an old riverscape painting I had made years ago. I turned it ninety degrees, like someone would see the scene if they were being laid down in the river itself. This was my starting point. I was going to submerge/ bury the riverscape with my new painting, a map of the Jordan River Valley between Galilee and The Dead Sea.
In recent years, most of my work has been digital, but I knew I wanted to make this piece with physical materials more consistent with an Incarnational, “in-the-flesh” God. Historically, I approach these decisions with very technical concerns; aspects like paint handling and drying time influence my choices. With this piece, I seized on the opportunity to make material decisions based on meaning. I burned kindling to make ash that I mixed with oil for all of the dark blue. I used real sand in the desert places of the map. The Dead Sea has salt mixed in the paint. I wanted all of these symbolically significant elements to be more than just theoretical, but actual and present in the work.
A continual struggle in my growth as an artist is overcoming fear– fear I’m not good enough, that I’ll “mess up” the work. One way through this struggle is to make conscious decisions to intentionally “mess it up.” In this work, that move took a wonderfully participatory turn. I painted the bottoms of my feet, and walked across the painting, leaving wet footprints across the canvas. Finally, I painted ripples over the entire composition, as if the whole work is submerged. My hope is that the final work is less a statement, but more an invitation. Allow the elements to evoke your own reflections and create time and space to hear from God as we follow our Master into the wilderness."
Reflect on the structure: color, lines, shadows, texture, and intensity. How do you react to the painting?
What is the mood of the painting? How do you feel when you look at this painting?
The wilderness is the place where God speaks. Do you sense God speaking to you through this painting?
What memories are stirred? In God’s presence, sit with these memories for a few moments.
Close your eyes and recall the painting in your mind. What do you remember of the painting? Talk with God about anything you experienced.
Are you resistant to anything you are experiencing? If so talk to God about what you are resisting.
Do you sense God speaking to you or calling you to action? Ask God for the help to follow his voice.
♱ Pray: Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.