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Politics, self and drama in our responses to scripture

Chris Hughes, a Catholic priest and member of Church Action on Poverty North East, explores how the parable of the Good Samaritan can suggest different ways for the church to respond to poverty.

Below is an example of how scripture can be looked at in different ways. These three perspectives have come from different reflections, mainly from Pope Francis and Anna Rowlands exploring the same piece of scripture, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

I want to offer what I call three lenses for exploring the famous passage. My hope is that this will offer a different way of looking at well known scriptures. Ultimately, what matters is not the ‘lens’ that is used but the insights that flow from it.

It will be interesting if others think that these lenses can be used on different scriptures and to know what insights can be gleaned. Of course you may use other ‘lenses’ to look at this or other passages.

Lens 1: the response of ‘political love’ to this story

In chapter 5 of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis makes a distinction between ‘Elicited Love’ – when we are moved by compassion to respond to the immediate needs in front of us –  and ‘Commanded Love’ – when we look at the systemic causes, the structural injustices, the possible response from institutions to change the root causes of the injustices caused by people.

Using the framework from community organising of having conversations with people (one-to-ones), imagine having conversations with all the characters in this story – the victim, the robbers, the Samaritan, the innkeeper, the indifferent clergy. What would be their concerns? What would be the structural causes of the issues experienced? Who would have the power to bring about change, and what would that change be?

Lens 2: identifying yourself in the story

In chapter 2 of Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis, inspired by his Ignatian formation of using your imagination with scripture, invites us to identify with which character we can most relate to. Francis senses that at different times in our lives we can be different characters. Is that your experience? To whom do you relate most at this present time? Are you able to identify with other characters at other times of your life? Who else can we identify in the characters in this story?

Lens 3: drama of salvation

In her theological reflection at the end of her book Towards a  Politics of Communion: Catholic Social Teaching in Dark Times, Anna Rowlands explores how theologians have interpreted the story. One way of seeing this story is playing out the drama of salvation: creation – fall – redemption in Christ – hope of fulfilled glory.

Through this lens, the victim, the violence and the indifference are all manifestations of our fallen world. The Samaritan is the Christ event who shows God does not pass by, but is moved with compassion to respond the needs of a broken humanity. This Christ figure rescues a dying humanity through compassion, showing that violence and indifference will not have the final say. This is our model of the Church’s ministry and mission. This is the source of our hope that we wait to be fulfilled. How does this impact on us and our prophetic and social action?


What insights and relevance arise when we use any of these lenses in the light  the cost of living crisis?

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Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

When you read your Bible, use the questions on this bookmark to help you reflect on what you read.

You may find that the scriptures surprise you, overturn your assumptions – and challenge you to take action to tackle poverty and injustice in the world today.

If you would like us to send you a printed bookmark, please email us.

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

A sermon for Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

The Bible shows us again and again that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. People on the margins.

In a thread that runs through all of scripture, God is concerned first and foremost with people who have been excluded from society by poverty, oppression and injustice. Laws like Jubilee in the Old Testament are designed to ensure that no one is left behind and exploited… The prophets stand up constantly against the rich and powerful who would oppress people in poverty… Mary sings of a God who has “brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly”… Jesus says “Blessed are you who are poor … But woe to you who are rich.”

But too often, when we read scripture in our churches, we forget that perspective. We focus on other aspects of the story, or we become so familiar with the text that we don’t notice the challenging things it has to say to us.

The five Bible studies in Untold Stories focus on the Gospel of Matthew, and highlight different perspectives. We look at Jesus’ teachings and miracles through the eyes of minor characters in the margins of the story. We remind ourselves that the original audiences for Jesus’ teaching, and for the Gospels, were primarily people who were themselves marginalised by poverty, living under military occupation.

The five studies in this resource look at different passages. Most of them also include an ‘unheard voice’ – a piece of creative writing, imagining the perspective of a minor or marginalised character in the story.

We hope that these Bible studies will help you find fresh perspectives on scripture, and challenge you to put your faith into action in the world today.

 

 

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

A sermon for Church Action on Poverty Sunday

Scripture from the Margins: Dangerous Stories

The Bible shows us again and again that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. People on the margins.

Lost things

But too often, when we read scripture in our churches, we focus on other aspects of the story, or we are so familiar with the text that we don’t notice the challenging things it has to say to us.

Jesus’ parables are one of the best examples of this problem. When we read and think about the parables, we almost always look for allegorical, spiritual meanings.

But the parables are actually very earthly stories – and if we try to put ourselves in the place of their original audience, we discover very different messages in them.

Prodigal

These five Bible studies will challenge you to get alongside the people who are on the margins of our own society – and to speak out for justice.  They will show you how the parables are subversive, dangerous stories.

Church on the Margins reports

Church Action on Poverty North East annual report 2022-24

A sermon for Church Action on Poverty Sunday