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Sermon for S. Luke’s Day

September 26, 2015


Luke wrote 25 per cent of the New Testament – his gospel and Acts – in very beautiful stylized Greek between 75 and 90AD.

He wasn’t Jewish. We don’t know much about him apart from his work with Paul but he probably came from the large metropolitan city of Antioch, part of modern-day Turkey. In Luke’s lifetime, his native city emerged as an important centre of early Christianity. Luke was doing ‘the work of an evangelist’ as our first reading urged so he wasn’t writing so that we might know about him but about Christ and the gospel.

The gospel that challenged false gods – like the god of surface veneer. Sought after by those who desire her perfection, who anoint themselves with her many sensuous creams and designer labels. The god who makes humans mistake their wants for their needs and teaches that life is the survival of the fittest. Fit for what she never reveals. She makes objects into people and people into objects so in her adverts you can never work out if the man is having an affair with the woman or with the car.

Luke would weep at all this. In his Gospel the poor are God’s special ones, he warns us endlessly about money and how we begin to reflect in ourselves whatever we worship. For Luke, faith isn’t found in the clergy, the establishment, but is found where you would never expect it. The Pharisee prays pompously while the tax collector can’t even face himself but only the tax collector goes home justified by God.

Luke also challenged the god of acquisition, for whom happiness is having what you want not wanting what you have and always wanting more even when bloated, spending money we don ́t have on things we don ́t want in order to impress people we don ́t like.

Luke would be angry. He tells Jesus’s story about the man in fine clothes who ignores the poor man at his gate. He tells stories from Mary’s perspective and has her sing the truth that the mighty are put down and the humble exalted for they have room in themselves for God. The possessive are found wanting. Instead, we make a living by what we earn, we make a life by what we give.

Luke challenged the goddess of now. She cannot wait. She must have fast cars, fast food, fast money, fast death. She is blind, never having the time to stop and see anything. She often gets into a mess because she never has the patience to listen to anyone. She beckons people to live full lives but leaves them feeling strangely empty. She is afraid of people meeting face to face in case they discover the joys of wasting time together, so she invents screens and devices that trick us into thinking we are communicating but which actually add to our loneliness. She seduces with quick clarity and easy answers, and hates ambiguity, poetry, music, faith.

Luke preaches, on the other hand, a Jesus who takes the time to be with people, to hear them, to touch the untouchable, and constantly teaches that compassion overrules rules. This Jesus shows that generosity is not the same thing as justice and that to try and live justly we must get beyond our first impressions and see afresh.

Luke challenges the god of violence and division. Who says that if people don ́t agree with you, slap them down. If they ́re not in the majority, keep them at a distance, yawn whenever the conversation turns to human rights and responsibilities, refugees, the poor, the environment, equality.

Luke takes on this god, stressing all through his writing the mercy and compassion of God. Luke alone tells the of a son makes a mess of life, looks at what he has become

and decides to return and seek his dad’s mercy so that he can be given permission to start again. Never mind the arguments – his dad is already half-way down the road, arms wide open. In another story unique to Luke, it was a nasty foreigner who looked after the man beaten up on the road and who reflected God.

Dante called Luke the scriba mansuetudinis Christi, the scribe of the gentleness of Christ. Luke is the one who tells us that Jesus, at his very death, asked forgiveness for those who hated him, rejected him, killed him. Who in that moment demonstrated the depth of God’s love for us and for the world, a love which has no end. Not even death can stop it.

What is this if not healing of the whole world through the coming of God? We come to this table because here is food, here is grace, here is all we need. Because thanks to Luke we know we are in the hands of a God who welcomes us home, feeds us with the feast of life, and clothes us in grace.

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