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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sermon for the feast of St. Luke + October 18, 2010

Sermon for the feast of St. Luke
Monday, 18 October 2010 + 12:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen

Sisters and brothers, grace to you, and peace in Jesus’ name. Amen

Today we have a bit of an odd amalgamation. We celebrate the feast day of Luke, evangelist. Tradition tells us that Luke wrote the third Gospel and the book of Acts. So we celebrate today the proclamation of Good News – the careful work that Luke undertook to “write an orderly account” for Theophilus of the amazing story of the Son of God.

Yet today we also offer prayers for healing. We invite people to come forward for the laying on of hands, anointing, and prayer, for healing of heart, soul, body, and mind. We do this because the same tradition which names Luke as the author of these two marvelous books claims this is the same Luke who was a physician, a companion and co-worker with the apostle Paul. So throughout the ages this day has been a particular day to consider healing God gives. It’s why Mount Olive added this festival to the calendar of lesser festivals we regularly observe.

And not only do we have seemingly two foci today, Gospel proclamation and healing, we really don’t know if Luke the physician actually was the author of the third Gospel and Acts. Most biblical scholars tend to date those books later than it would likely be possible for Paul’s companion, and of course our earliest gospel manuscripts contain no names of authors.

And yet – it seems to me that there is great wisdom in the Church’s tradition here. Whether or not the original author was a healer is far less important than this reality: the Gospel proclaimed is healing. Luke’s efforts to research carefully everything he could to tell the story of Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the growth of the new Church, are efforts to proclaim the healing of the world in this Jesus. And that’s why we’re here today.

Today we remember Luke the healer and Luke the evangelist. And there is no need to reconcile these two.

Because this is the Luke who wrote of the birth of a child who was both one of us and the Son of God. Who told us that the glory of the Lord has broken out of the Holy of Holies and is on the hillside with shepherds.

Who gave us songs to sing like the Benedictus, which promises light to break into the darkness of the world in the coming of this Savior, and like the Magnificat, which promises a restoration of justice in this coming, where the poor are lifted up and the lowly are blessed.

What is this if not healing of the whole world through the coming of God?

This Luke we celebrate is the only one of the evangelists who tells us the story of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Father. Who understands the grace of God is transformative and welcoming even when we wander so far we cannot think of any way home. And we find ourselves wrapped in the arms of a God who runs down the road and embraces us, welcoming us home without our doing anything.

And the Luke who invites us to see our Lord in the face of the other, the wounded one in the ditch. To consider that we are placed here to be the ones who put bandages and ointments on those who are wounded as if they are Jesus, and carry our Lord to safety.

What is this if not healing of the whole world through the coming of God?

And this Luke is the one who tells us that our Lord Jesus, at his very death, asked forgiveness for those who hated him, rejected him, killed him. Who in one moment demonstrated the depth of God’s love for us and for the world, a love which has no end. Not even death can stop it. And certainly not our sinfulness or waywardness or even rejection of God.

What is this if not healing of the whole world through the coming of God?

Today our joy is that Luke tells us that not only has God broken into our world and come to be with us, but also that forever after there is nothing which can keep us from God.

This is the Luke who consistently throughout Acts tells of barriers broken down, of walls dismantled. Again and again we find that there is nothing hindering us from the healing of God. The Spirit of God even goes to people before the apostles get there – because this is God’s Good News. Whoever this author is, he understood Paul’s passionate claim in Galatians, that there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus.

There is no need to reconcile these two Lukes because this is one message: the Gospel is healing, that’s the Good News. We are broken. The world is broken. And we long for healing. It’s no mistake that for the Greeks the word for healing is the same word the Gospels use for salvation. God comes to us, and we have life.

It’s as simple as that. And it isn’t simply that our emotional ailments, or our spiritual pain, or our physical disease, or our mental struggles are corrected. Sometimes we don’t experience healing in that way.

What the Good News is is that we know who the true Healer is, where good news is, where help is. This is the Jesus Luke shows us – the Son of God who has come to restore all things. And who knows each of us. God’s promise is to be with us in all our suffering, to strengthen and keep us, and to bring us to new life. And in that promise we find life – even if our other circumstances seem slow to change, or don’t seem to change at all.

So we come here today for healing. For wholeness. For life. We come, knowing we belong to the One who Heals us.

We come because here is food, here is grace, here is all we need. Because thanks to Luke we know we are in the hands of a God who welcomes us home, feeds us with a feast of life, and clothes us in grace.

We come, because this is life for us, and we know no other.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

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