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Reflections for the feast of St Luke – October 18th

Acts 16:9-15

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

This is The Word of The Lord.

Thanks Be To God.

Homily for The Feast of St Luke.

luke

“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer”

I wonder if I may ask whether you know who the “ we” are that are referred to in this passage?

Answer is Paul and Luke. October 18th is the day traditionally kept to remember St Luke the author of The Acts of The Apostles as well as the Gospel of Luke.

Luke’s name is probably a shortened version of the Greek name Lucanus – meaning the light-giver. An appropriate name indeed for an evangelist – someone who spreads the good news of Jesus Christ, The Light of the World.

He is said to be a native of Antioch and must have acquired some considerable skill in contemporary medicine. We know nothing about his family background but that he became attached to St Paul of his diarist and recorder but also his personal doctor. Luke joined  Paul on his second missionary journey, their story beginning about 50AD – and took them to Philippi, Rome, Caesarea and ultimately to Jerusalem.

We know that Paul suffered from some medical condition, referred to in Corinthians 12 v7 as his “ thorn in his flesh” . Various suggestions have been epilepsy, eye trouble, malaria – we shall never really know. But Luke travelled with him as his physician – and to this happy choice we owe the fascinating “ we” passages such as Acts 16 v 10 onwards- referring to Luke and Paul.

In 2 Tim 4 v 11 we read Paul’s rather lonely words: I have no-one with me but Luke- and we can assume that Luke was not only his medical advisor but a friend who gave him much needed support and advice.

The Gospel

Quite when Luke  wrote his Gospel  has been hotly debated – between AD 37 – 70AD is the best we can do. We know he was not an eye witness to the events he recorded and he makes no claims about being an original commentator. He made it his task to put together an account of events as delivered to him “ by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the truth”.

Traditionally, it is thought that Luke’s gospel contains the reminiscences of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Bible scholars tell us there is clear Semitic ( Jewish) style and flavour about the language of the early episodes – the annunciation, visitation, birth, visit of the Magi, the presentation and Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  All these accounts may reflect the influence of Mary.

The Poor.

Other aspects of Luke’s thinking come over in other parts of the gospel – his symnpathy  with the poor in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. The suggestion that if we give a party we  should always include some poor people among the guests. Luke’s version of the beatitudes ( 6 v 20-36) also reflects sympathy with the poor.

It is also interesting to notice Luke’s account of the early Christian communal living ( Acts 4 v 32) – and the heavy punishment visited on Ananias and Sapphira because they hold back part of the sale of their property from the common fund.

Women.

Many women are introduced into Luke’s gospel and Acts. We can note his account of the women who travelled with Jesus and his disciples – Mary Magdalen, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Susanna and many others. Luke portrays Jesus as addressing women with courtesy. Luke’s gospel carries more stories that involve women and children than the other gospels.

It was women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus but found his body gone. It was Mary Magdalen  and a small group of womenwho went and told the disciples that Jesus body had gone – but they did not believe her.

An artist.

Luke has been taken as the patron saint of painters and artists – and he is often depicted as a painter with brushes and a palette. Luke is certainly a

“ painter in words” if not in actual colours.

Any artist needs qualities such as keen observation, patience, skill and empathy  – these Luke displays in his gospel writings as he beautifully depicts scenes from the life of Jesus. Some of the greatest paintings in the world have been inspired by Luke’s description of the birth of Jesus, or the shepherds coming from the fields to the stable after the vision of the angels, or of the visit of the Magi – what a scene that can be with the rich fabrics, animals, attendants and the kings themselves. The Medici chapel in Florence is just one of the myrid of portrayals of this event.

magi in florence

Culture.

Luke’s gospel and his Acts are written very much using existing Greek and Latin models of writing. He employs many of the usual conventions from the world of letters of the time.

Luke tackled an ambitions project – composing a gospel which would appeal to and convince the Greeks and Romans no less than the Jews. The gospel is intended to place the Roman authorities in as favourable a light as possible, thus toning down some of the criticisms arising about the relations between Christians and the State.

Luke’s writings can remind us of the huge  importance  in the Christian Community for culture, art and education and that those who have artistic gifts have a big part to play in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

We have much to be thankful to Luke for in giving us his unique and precious account of Jesus’ life and the subsequent joys and trials of Paul and the other founder members of the Christian Church. Maybe it is only those who can read classical Greek who can fully appreciate the sheer beauty of his language  and many consider that his work far outshines other biblical material in terms of expressiveness, historical method and sensitivity of narrative.

There is a strong tradition that Luke lived into old age, dying aged 84 years and was buried at Thebes from whence his relics were transferred to Constantinople in the year 357.

So, today we celebrate the Feast of St Luke – physician, healer and evangelist. These roles are inseparable – for an evangelist tells the good news of salvation and salvation means healing. The root of the word salvation is the Latin word salvere – to be well, to be in good health, to be whole. Salvation is not just of spirit in the world to come, but salvation is of body and mind as well. Finally I love to reflect that there are more accounts in Luke’s gospel of angels visiting and saying “ Fear Not” than any other gospel and a big emphasis on Jesus’ healing ministry.

This is all good news to be sure. And we too are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ – salvation – wholeness and peace to those we meet who are troubled and anxious and searching for meaning. We can do it – for just as with Jesus – the spirit of God is upon us.

The set readings for St Luke from Common Worship are:

Isaiah 35 v 3-6 or Acts 16 v 6-12a

2 Tim 4 v 5-17

Luke 10 v 1-9

The collect:

Almighty God

you called Luke the physician,

whose praise is in the gospel,

to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:

by the grace of the Spirit

and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,

give your church the same love and power to heal;

through jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen

October 17, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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