28 November 2010

St. Luke’s Day 2010

Sirach 38: 1-4, 6-10, 12-14

Luke 4: 14-21

By Stuart Pike

Today we celebrate our Patronal Feast – that is the feast of our Patron Saint, St. Luke. It is also our opportunity to celebrate 176 years of being a Church in this place – 176 years of ministry and making a difference in our community.

Fist of all regarding St. Luke. St. Paul refers to him as “the beloved physician” and so he is also the patron saint of Physicians and Surgeons.

More importantly, St. Luke is best known as the author of two of the books of the new testament: Firstly, the Gospel of St. Luke which, more than any other Gospel, tells the story of Jesus, from birth until after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, and secondly the book of Acts, which picks up from Jesus Ascension into heaven and tells the story of the formation and mission of the early community of Jesus’ followers which would develop into the Church.

More than any other writer in the New Teastament, St. Luke, the beloved physician is a story-teller. I am grateful then, that our Patron Saint is a healer and a story-teller, and I think he models for us what ministry can be and has been in this place.

Firstly, I want to look at story-telling. We have a long history in Burlington, longer than Burlington itself, And history is story, it’s about telling the stories of what our forbearers did in the past, so that we can learn wisdom from those stories.

Since 1834 the people of the Parish Church of St. Luke have been making a difference in ministry in this place, even before it was called Burlington. A great deal of that ministry was about telling the story of God’s great love for us, known to us in the life of Jesus Christ.

Thank God that we have St. Luke’s stories to help us in this task. St. Luke is the story-teller who really gives us the human story of Jesus. St. John gives us all the theology, which is really important, but it is St. Luke who makes the story of Jesus really relate to us.

St. Luke’s stories deal with family life, and with human frailty and struggle and goodness. It is Luke who gives us the birth stories about Jesus. It is he who tells the stories of Jesus reaching out to the poor, the outcast and the women of his society.

It is Luke who tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and so inspires us to bring healing to those who suffer physically, or from injustice and cruelty.

It is Luke who shows how human dignity can be restored through healed relationships by asking for forgiveness and forgiving in turn, as in the story of the prodigal son.

It is through Luke’s stories that we see Jesus as a friend to the despairing as he even comforts the thief who is crucified beside him.

And so, in today’s Gospel lesson we have the first story of Jesus’ initial public appearance when he begins his ministry. It is Jesus’ inaugural address, so to speak.

And the lesson he chooses is the one from Isaiah which announces the Jubilee: the year of God’s favour, when the captives would be released, the oppressed would go free, the blind would see and good news would be preached to the poor.

It reminds me of the Mission Impossible series eons ago when at the beginning of each show Ethan Hunt gets a new message describing the mission that he and his team will have to accomplish. The tape always ended with “This message will self-destruct in 3 seconds” and a little puff of smoke would go up as you could see the cogs whirring in Ethan’s mind as he was already figuring out how they were going to accomplish the impossible.

In Jesus’ case the scroll didn’t go up in a puff of smoke, but Jesus showed even more confidence in his mission than does Ethan, because he begins with the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor...” and all the rest. Jesus knows that it is the Spirit which is calling him and equipping him to do his mission. His mission would indeed be impossible without God’s spirit enabling him.

This mission is about bringing healing to broken relationships and broken people and to bring freedom to those held captive or oppressed in any way. It is about bringing Good News, and that’s the Gospel truth.

In the reading from Sirach, the writer honours physicians and explains how it is that God works miracles through the hands of physicians, for “the Lord created him.” It is God who gives the physician the gifts that they need to heal.

And this leads us to our mission as the current members of St. Luke’s today. Jesus’ mission is our mission. It is St. Teresa from the 16th Century who writes these lovely words:

“Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours.”

Thank God for the spirit which anointed Jesus to do his work. Thank God for the same spirit which enabled our forbearers to do Jesus’ work over these 176 years. And on this feast of St. Luke, let us continue in Christ’s mission into our future, for, the spirit of the Lord is also upon us, that we may bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. Amen.

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