2 Timothy 4:5-17, Luke 10:1-9
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen
Who do we think St Luke was? The definitive Anglican source of information – is this book called Exciting holiness. This version is dedicated to one of the brothers – Tristram – who helped compile it (who lived at Hilfield for much of his later life!) and who I knew. This book says that Luke was a dear friend of the apostle St Paul and is mentioned by him in three of his letters – Including the one we heard this morning.
In the second letter of Timothy it said 11Only Luke is with me. Where they are was in prison! Luke is alleged to have withstood this time and died many years later in Greece aged 84 (some think he was martyred too by being hung in an olive tree). Elsewhere St Paul describes Luke as the beloved physician. This Luke is also believed to be the same Luke as wrote 2 books of the New Testament – Luke’s gospel and then the Acts of the apostles. Luke’s story of the life of Christ which then goes on to explain how the early church grew in Acts. All this writing has a really imaginative and pictorial edge to it.
It starts further back than most with the bulk of the stories of the nativity, which we will be thinking about again very soon. The angel coming to Mary, the shepherds through to 40 days after the birth to the presentation in the temple. It goes right through to his death and resurrection. One of my favourite resurrection stories has 2 disciples walking on the road to Emmaus and who don’t recognise Jesus. They eventually do in breaking of bread. There are a number of things that are just in Luke’s gospel. Stories like the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and Lazarus. Even some of the bits of the Bible we are most capable of managing by heart are in Luke’s gospel, because of their use in our more traditional services (meaning the Benedictus, Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis).
Not only does Luke’s gospel go further back than most with the Acts of the apostles the writer goes further on than the other gospels too. In this book he concentrates on the events that immediately happened after Jesus resurrection and ascension. The sequel as we follow in it the works of Peter and how Paul came to prominence and how the church was established is unique. I am going to spend a little time now unpacking themes in these writings of Luke. The ideas of Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the apostles are a bit different from the others and in a few weeks time – on Advent Sunday – we will go into the church’s new year and the majority of our gospel readings will then centre around Luke – so this will be useful background. (Where as this year we have had a lot of Mark (and because its rather short also a lot of John!)). Some of us will remember I talked about what made Mark distinctive – lots of immediately and cut and thrust action – no hanging about. Luke is not like that at all and I would urge us all to read Luke and Acts in full in the next few weeks. Unlike Mark it will take a little longer than 90 minutes curled up in the arm chair with the good book on a wet afternoon or we can listen to David Suchet reading it on youtube
Or you can download a DAVID Suchet bible reading app to your phone!!! The whole thing will take about 5 and half hours to hear!
There are five things that stand out in the books that Luke wrote too. Let’s think about these in turn
FIRSTLY Supernatural emphasis – angels and unusual happenings – the other worldliness of Jesus is emphasized. Lots of angels from the word go – Mary, encountering the shepherds etc. Luke makes much more of the mystery – much much more than Mark has been doing!!! For example in today’s reading it ends with quite a mysterious sentence
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”
A way in to explain what that means is by saying the works of God are mysterious and deep but intimate and present.
SECONDLY Luke is a medical man and as a result we get more technical detail about illnesses and conditions and how Jesus healed people. This is why he is the patron saint of the medical profession and why as we remember we pray for healing and the caring professions as we will later. That sentence from today’s reading I read out to illustrate the first point also shows this attention to healing. In there was a cure the sick and wherever a healing is described in Luke we will get much more detail than we have become accustomed to in Mark for example.
THIRDLY – the approach to the Holy Spirit is more marked – Luke was written a bit later than Mark and by then they were trying to explain the delay in Jesus’ return. This is about Jesus being at the centre of time, not the end of it. Luke describes time in three sections –
Israel, law and the prophets, the time of PROMISE
The fulfilment of ministry of Jesus, the time of Jesus at the CENTRE,
Ascension onwards – the time of the SPIRIT and how things are for us today
This is also wrapped up in that sentence I have already been alluding to. Again in the final phrase the Christian workers were asked to use The kingdom of God has come near to you. Showing the people we are in the realms of the spirit and an existence where we can live in the power of the spirit now. Not waiting but moving towards our eternal existence dwelling in the spirit with God
FOURTHLY in Luke’s gospel the wideness of the mission fulfilled by Jesus is central. God cares for all those who turn to him – regardless of gender, social position or nationality – this fits with much of the 21st century ideas about inclusivity. He is also most obviously portraying Jesus as a suffering servant or ransom for the life of many. More so than any of the other gospels. Again in that sentence there is reference to this
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you
This indicates the universal nature of Jesus requirements of his followers. There is no question of checking the food has been prepared appropriately to Jewish custom, which would have been very controversial to Jesus’ followers of Jewish descent. Early parts of the Acts of the apostles – challenged Peter to eat what was set before him and not what Jewish law required
AND FIFTHLY – There is an emphasis on care of the poor and outcasts – in lowliness is true greatness and Luke is most tough on the rich too! There is a clear emphasis on Jesus serving and our need to do likewise. Again in the eat what is set before you phrase – we get a sense that the disciples were not to discriminate based on the nature or wealth of the household. Actually in our life experiences, many of us as I have will have experienced that sense that sometimes those least able to give, lavishes us with the greatest hospitality!
It is interesting really that we can find echoes of the distinctive in Luke in 1 sentence of our gospel passage – which equates to just 2 verses! Luke’s ideas are very much at the heart of his writings and his emphases have done much to shape our understanding of the Christian faith today: – Luke with his angels and mystery, his medical detail, the way we understand the spirit, his message for everyone and particularly the poor and needy. All of this speaks to our hearts today – I look forward to our year with Luke as our guide starting on Nov 28th… and lets end by dwelling again on the verse we have illustrated his ideas with
Which Jesus said to the followers he sent ahead of him and to us today
Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Amen.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995
Exciting Holiness – collects and readings for the festivals and lesser festivals of the Church of England (2003)