Sermon preached by Rev’d Lizzie Kesteven
Today is the day that the church has typically over the last 1500 years recognised as the day to celebrate Saint Luke. He is perhaps one of the more familiar saints to people as he is the writer of one of the Gospels.
Luke is a bit of a mixed bag. It would I think be fascinating to meet him. We hear about him when Paul writes his letter in Timothy – a rather sad account of everyone who has deserted him and how only “Luke is with me”. However, that small snippet has been the basis on which most people believe that the person of Luke who wrote the gospel was a travelling companion of Paul’s. And this makes lots of sense, because Luke is also meant to have written the whole of the Acts of the Apostles – a detailed account of Paul’s journey.
On the one hand Luke is a meticulous writer. Known often as a Historian. I love his first sentence in the gospel – where he basically tells us that the reason he is writing is to give an orderly account. Inferring that those who have written before haven’t done that – he is rather scathing perhaps of Mark’s gospel which he ironically uses a fair amount!
“Many people have done their best to write a report”
Yet to be fair to Luke he has had a little more time to compose his words. He is detailed and precise in doing so. He writes a gospel of considerable length, then followed by Acts his sequel which takes up together nearly a quarter of the New Testament. He was amongst other things a prolific writer.
Yet this Historian perplexes me because he is also the most majestic of story tellers. It is in Luke that we get the story of the Prodigal Son, and that of the Good Samaritan. It is in Luke that we hear of the detailed unfolding of the events of Jesus own birth. It is with Luke that we walk the way of the Emmaus Road after the resurrection – where his story telling combines to retell the whole story of salvation. Luke tells us about Jesus and who God is with the most amazing stories. For a historian he is a pretty formidable creative writer.
Luke is also known for being the Patron Saint for Doctors and why you can often see him depicted in pictures and windows with a medicine box of sorts in his hands. Interestingly many people have noted how one of the strong themes that Luke brings to his writing is that of healing, not just physically but of Jesus bringing emotional and spiritual healing to those who ask. It is Luke whose gospel speaks strongly about Salvation being from Christ –and the word Salvation means to be “made well”.
Yet strangely perhaps– just as the Historian of Luke meets with the Story teller – so the Doctor in Luke meets with the Artist. As Luke is also the patron saint of Artists and Painters. He can be seen in the pictures of holding a classic pallet in his hand often painting Mary, who man believe he knew and met.
I wondered then – why it was that to celebrate this Saints Day that the church choses to hear from Chapter 10 of Luke. The sending of the 72. Why not have one of the unique stories – why not have the shepherds or the Emmaus Road. what is it about this account of the sending of others that is pertinent. We are because it’s Luke, drawn into what that might have been like for those who were asked by Jesus to go with no purse of bag or sandals even. That reliance on God – and the peace that brings to the households that you might encounter.
Maybe it’s because of that strong sense of peace and healing that is evoked in the passage and not just the encouragement of the 72 but the power of being able to heal the sick. For me it is that word that is key – The passage speaks of empowerment. Handing over of Power. Passing on of Power.
Now power is an interesting thing.
How we use power? Who has power? Who is powerless?
And in many ways Luke’s gospel centres on themes of power. He is the writer of Marys Magnificat – the raising up of the poor. He is the writer of the Samaritans and the tax collectors and the prostitutes. He himself was probably an outsider – a Gentile – and it is from this place that he writes. In fact there is a lot that Luke writes about Power and Gods’ desire in Jesus to see a power shift. Shift from those who have it to those that don’t. For the world to see Gods power and spirit and healing and peace to be possible for all people and not just a few.
We have seen in the last 9 months some of how power changes and shifts. Different groups of people have come to know the power of their voices. We have seen a shift of emphasis and status from bankers to nurses. We have also seen how people cling to power or use the power they have for their own benefit. There are power struggles happening this weekend between regional and national and devolved parties and powers, between nations.
Luke stages the gospel and the good news as the story not just of salvation but of empowerment. To those who felt they had none. We do not know who made up the 72 – but by any reckoning of Luke it will not have been the powerful. And yet in this God, through Jesus, gives them all of his own. He sends them in his name, with his power to spread the good news of peace and healing and to tell people that the Kingdom of God has come near. One of the compelling reasons that Christians can be confident of their conviction that Jesus is Lord, is the very fact that he became powerless. Knowing he was God, meant that only God could give it away.
This week perhaps then I would encourage us in Saint Luke’s words to think about power.
What power do we hold? What power are we prepared to give away? What would we like the courage to say or do? Who might we empower? Who might we raise up?
How might we also go light footed and open hearted to our neighbours and friends to whisper the words of peace and healing that God empowers us with and say – “The kingdom of God is near to you”. Amen