Sunday, July 3, 2016

Good Samaritan

The gospel reading for Proper 10C/Ordinary 15C could not be more familiar. The passage in Luke's gospel, Luke 10:25-37, tells the story of - of all things - a Samaritan who is good. Go figure. The elements of the story are familiar, but the Victorian painting below is not an illustration of the gospel story. Instead it re-interprets and re-sets the story.
William Small. Good Samaritan. 1899. New Walk Museum and Gallery, Leicester, England. 
For the New Walk Museum, see: https://www.leicester.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums-and-galleries/our-venues/new-walk-museum-and-art-gallery
Victorian painting is often dismissed as sentimental, and certainly there is sentiment here, but the painter has engaged the story in a way that still speaks to us and to the text. In this work it is not a traveller who is in need of care but a child. The child stands, but is held in a way that calls to mind Mary holding the Christ child on her lap or even the deposition of Jesus from the cross. An anxious father looks on while keeping two other children back from where the doctor is working. All the children are shoeless, and they are currently part of a community of people living in the middle of a field.

In the background at the left is the doctor's carriage. We don't know whether he has come specifically to care for this child or whether he was riding by and, rather than passing by, he stopped to help this child. It is worth noting that during this time doctors expected to be paid for their services. Looking at the family's situation, it is unclear whether any payment is going to be made. Regardless, the doctor is using his stethoscope as part of his examination of this lethargic child.

The painting (and the text) remind us that we are often presented with unexpected opportunities to stop and help. The question is how we respond to a traveler, a child or anyone in need.





This week's Art&Faith Matters Facebook post highlights an art installation based on the Hebrew scripture reading for this week. Click on the link below to go to the A&FM FB page.

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