St Luke

Short sermon for Sunday 19 October 2014: Feast of St Luke (transferred)

Acts 16: 6-12; Luke 10: 1-9

Luke was a close friend of the apostle Paul. Together, they went through tough times, being arrested, imprisoned, beaten up, betrayed – and all in the cause of preaching the gospel, setting up and supporting tiny congregations – perhaps no more than two or three households in a town. The relationship between the two men is fascinating. We do not know a great deal about their relationship, of course, as they were not interested in publishing autobiographies. What we do know is that Paul was a Jewish Pharisee, and Luke, by contrast, was a gentile convert to Judaism who joined Paul in what, at that time, they called The Way.

It seems likely that it is to this educated gentile that we owe both the gospel that carries his name and from which our reading today is drawn, and also his second volume, Acts of the Apostles, with its special focus on one particular apostle, Luke’s friend Paul.

Biblical scholars find Paul’s description of him as “the beloved physician” credible, tracing as they claim to do, the influence of medical knowledge in his writing, although it is Paul who is shown doing most of the healing.

Although Luke is a natural candidate to be the patron saint of the healing arts and of medicine, he probably has for us a more important role: it is his being born a gentile, a person thought to be outside God’s promises to God’s people. We should not be surprised that when God wants a message of universal importance to spread around the world, God chooses, first, a group of Jews – and then, just as importantly – some key gentiles of whom Luke must be the first and prime example.

It was Luke’s vision, Luke’s faithfulness to God’s call, Luke’s thoughtful mind and gift for telling an extended narrative that made him the perfect foil to Paul’s quite different gifts. Our gospel reading today makes it plain how Luke sees the task of the disciple who joins The Way. She is to follow the model of Jesus: to be unafraid to speak out; to speak of God wherever others will listen; to bring peace to every household she visits – unless they will not have peace, in which case she is to move on to where Christ will be heard. There you are, you have it from Luke himself: the kingdom of God is very near us now, and we are its ambassadors and heralds.