Message from Our Pastor
St. Mark Pastor Cheryl Hoffman sermon excerpts for October 18, 2020, the Commemoration of St. Luke.
The little we know of St. Luke is gleaned from the Scriptures: he was a Gentile, meaning he was not a Jew: and a Greek from the city of Antioch in ancient Syria. According to the author of Colossians, Luke was a beloved physician, which is why healing services are often held on the day of his commemoration. Luke was an early convert to Christianity, and a companion of St. Paul on his missionary journeys. St. Luke was martyred for the faith several years after Paul, which is why red, is the color of the day.
St. Luke is mainly known as the author of the third Gospel and the book of Acts of the Apostles. Whether this is actually true or not is debatable, as many biblical scholars tend to date the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles as later than would be expected for a companion of Paul. And, of course, none of the gospel manuscripts came bound with the author’s name on the spine.
Like each of the four gospels, the gospel of Luke is unique. We are told at the very beginning that Luke intentionally set out to write an orderly account of events for Theophilus, whose identity is unknown beyond his name. In this orderly account Luke recalls the story of Jesus: his birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, and then the growth of the early Christian Church. As a result of his gospel and its sequel the book of The Acts of the Apostles, Luke is first and foremost an evangelist, one who shares the good news of Jesus Christ.
Luke, more than any other gospel writer, shows a special love for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Luke gives us more information about Mary than any of the other evangelists, revealing Mary’s simple steadfast faith, her child-like trust and obedience to God’s will, her generosity and readiness to serve others, her gratitude for the gifts she has received, her acceptance of God’s plan, even when she doesn’t understand it, and her prayerfulness, keeping the truth of God always close to her heart.
In Luke we are given the Magnificat, the song, or canticle, of Mary. In this ancient hymn, spoken by the pregnant Mary after being greeted by her cousin Elizabeth, Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord, rejoicing in God, her savior, who has done great things for her and lifted up the lowly. We continue to sing this hymn in the service of evening prayer.
The Magnificat is one of three hymns given to us by Luke in his gospel. The others are the Benedictus, or the canticle of Zechariah, sung at morning prayer, and the Nunc Dimittis, or the canticle of Simeon, sung at compline (the formal name for prayer at the close of the day).
All of these hymns recall God’s promises, promises made to his people Israel, promises going all the way back to Abraham and his descendants: the promise to be set free from one’s enemies, the promise of forgiveness of sins, the promise of a savior who will scatter the proud and feed the hungry with good things, a savior who will be a light to all nations.
In the 22 chapters that follow these hymns Luke continues to emphasize God’s compassion and mercy for the lost, the poor, the sick, the outcast and the stranger. It is only in Luke’s gospel do we find: the story in which Jesus heals 10 lepers; the lost and found parables of the sheep, the coin and the prodigal son; the story of the Good Samaritan; the parable of Lazarus and the rich man; and the story of little Zacchaeus.
Luke reveals to us a God of abundant grace wanting to welcome us home, eager to run down the road to embrace us, willing to tend to our wounds and carry us into safety when everyone else has deserted us. He reveals a God who is able to forgive even those who hate, reject, betray, deny, and ultimately kill him.
In Luke’s gospel we learn what Paul tells us in Galatians: there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus. We learn what Paul writes in Romans,“...for I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the book of Acts, Luke continues the story, telling us how God, through the Holy Spirit, continues to break down barriers and dismantle walls, sometimes arriving in a place even before the apostles.
If there is one word to describe Luke’s message, it might be (appropriately for a physician) healing, for in his writing Luke describes a God who has broken into our world to be with us, in order to heal what is broken in us. Did you know that one of the Greek words for healing, sozo, is the same word the gospel writers use for salvation, to be saved, to be delivered, to be made whole. Luke’s gospel leaves no doubt that God has come to save us, to give us life, to make us whole.
The good news that comes to us through Luke is that God is our Healer, with a capital H. But God as our Healer does not mean that all our emotional ailments, our spiritual pain, our physical diseases or our mental struggles are certain to be cured, corrected or disappear.
What it does mean is that the God who made and kept his promises to Mary, and Zechariah, and Simeon, has entered into our lives that he might keep his promises to us: the promise to make us whole, the promise to never leave us or forsake us, the promise to forgive our sins, the promise to grant us life in the midst of all our circumstances.
Is this not why we gather week after week, even if by video, to hear this good news, whether it is proclaimed in the words of Luke, or Matthew, or Mark, or John, or the Psalmist, or Paul, or Timothy? For here, we know we are in God’s hands. Here we feast on the words of God. Here we are assured of receiving mercy and grace. Here we are restored and made whole. Here we remember the goodness of God. Here we offer our own songs, our own canticles of prayer and praise. Here we are offered life in all of its abundance. In this way, along with Theophilus, we discover the truth concerning the things about which we have been instructed, and Luke’s story becomes our story, and Luke’s God becomes our God.
Let us give thanks to Luke, and to all who have taken the time to share the good news of Jesus Christ with us, that we too might know God’s love and mercy, and be made whole.