I was pleased when I looked at the calendar and saw that today is the Feast of St. Luke, relieved, actually. I had just read the readings for the Proper 23 Wednesday Weekday Eucharist and I did not like the lessons. And, I love the gospel reading for the Feast of St. Luke – but I had to wonder why it was selected for his feast day. Tradition tells us that St. Luke was a physician, so our first reading makes sense. It is all about physicians, their skills and the gifts they have given by God to treat the sick. We are told to “Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; for their gift of healing comes from the Most High, and they are rewarded by the king.” Luke is to honored indeed.
His telling of the gospel includes many passages not found in the other gospels. In Luke’s birth narrative, we have the annunciation and Mary’s joyful response, the Magnificat. We have the angels appearing the shepherds and their visit to the manger. It is in Luke that Jesus is brought to the temple and Simeon declares he has now seen the salvation of the Lord. Luke reports miracles and records parables not found in any other gospel, and Luke is credited with writing the Acts of the Apostles telling us the story of how our church was founded. Yes, Luke is to be honored.
In today’s Gospel reading, Luke tells us about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Filled with the Holy Spirit Jesus teaches in the synagogues and makes a name for himself. Then he returns to where he grew up and is asked to read in his synagogue in Nazareth. Whenever I read this passage, I think about the response he receives to what he says after the conclusion of the reading. Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” This is where today’s reading ends. But as Jesus continues to speak, the people who knew him as a child are filled with rage and drive him out of town, intending to the throw him off a cliff. Jesus narrowly escapes with his life.
As I reflected further on this reading, however, it made sense why it was selected for today’s feast. I was guilty of considering what happens next in the scripture and overlooking the message contained within the passage of the scripture before me. Jesus reading this passage is both the reason I love this scripture and the reason it was chosen for today. The passage is the message of an evangelist – and whether or not Luke was a physician, it was undeniably an evangelist.
In having Jesus read this passage from Isaiah, Luke is telling us that Christ comes offering us release from what holds us captive, and sight that we might see God’s love, and freedom from whatever oppresses us. This is the message, regardless of how it is received. Jesus offers us the hope of a new life in him. Today, not some point in the future, but today. Luke, the evangelist, was also filled by the Spirit of the Lord as he proclaimed the Good News of Christ to the Gentiles. So, regardless of how the news was received, the message of hope that Jesus brought the people of Israel and that Luke brought to the Gentiles, continues to be spread today – here, this day.
The job of the evangelist is to spread the good news, but like the seeds in the parable of the sower, not all seeds fall upon good soil and are able to produce fruit at the harvest. Jesus was ultimately killed for his message and tradition says Luke was as well. Their message, however took root and changed the lives of enough people it altered the course of history.
In this society, we are taught to expect immediate results. In Christianity we are taught to consider the big picture. In the big picture we plant seeds of faith everywhere we go. We may never see the fruits of our labor, but we are to trust that with the Spirit working through us, God’s purpose will be ultimately be accomplished.
Let us pray.
O Almighty God, who by your Holy Spirit has made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may ever be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and may know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.