Today we remember and commemorate St. Luke, the Apostle and Evangelist.
A man we actually know very little about.
We do know he was a doctor. He probably traveled with the Apostle Paul. We know a little more because he tells us about himself in his writing:
According to his own words, Luke did not see the earthly Jesus with his own eyes, but he knew people who had seen Jesus with their own eyes.
So we think… in his old age Luke saw that he and Paul and their other co-workers were getting old (and possibly dying), and Luke felt a calling or a need to preserve what had been handed on to him about Jesus by writing it down…
And so we have the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles – his first book about the life of Jesus, and his second book about the life of his followers and the church after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
And Luke’s writings are a treasure of the church. Not only is his gospel the longest and the only one with a companion piece or part two…
Luke is responsible for preserving some of our most beloved of Jesus’ parables: Only in Luke do we hear the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Only Luke tells us about the 12 year old Jesus left behind by his parents in Jerusalem – and how, when they go back for him, he is calmly sitting in the temple teaching the old rabbis.
Only in this gospel do we hear about the woman who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears, the beloved story of Martha and Mary, and the appearance of the Risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus to two unsuspecting disciples.
In fact, only Luke-Acts answers the question as to what happened to Jesus after his resurrection! That is, only in Luke and Acts do we have a true Ascension story.
(Matthew, John and the short ending of Mark leave Jesus hanging out with his disciples!).
Together Luke-Acts makes up one quarter of the New Testament, which is the largest contribution of any single author. It has a special emphasis on healing (as you might suspect having been written by a doctor) and the women of Jesus’ ministry.
Yes, today we give God thanks for Luke and for his unique witness to Jesus Christ.
On April 20, 2003 Johnny Hart the comic strip artist of BC, published a cartoon in which two ants look up together at a cross. The cross has what looks like a post-it note, tacked to the top.
One ant turns to the other ant and says, “Look, Jake, a note.”
And so the ant walks up the long beam of the cross, climbs up to the arm of the cross, and stands there looking up, reading the note.
He returns to the ground where his friend has waited for him…and his friend asks, “What does it say?”
The ant who went to read the note replies, “to be continued,” and now the frame has been enlarged and, in addition to the cross, we see behind it an empty tomb with the stone rolled away.
“To be continued.”
The gospel writer Luke also points us to the cross of Jesus with the message “to be continued.”
The messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day but the story is to be continued because repentance and forgiveness is to be proclaimed in his name for all the years to come, down through the generations to today, to us, in our own lives.
Not everyone believes they have things to be sorry for. Donald Trump has famously said he doesn’t need forgiveness. I hear people say all the time, “I have no regrets about life.”
I want to ask if these people are serious. I want to ask, “Have you never said harmful words to someone? Hurt someone’s feelings? Have you never caused someone pain and sadness? Have you never messed up and lost a friendship?”
I regret we are not all as fortunate as those who have no regrets!
The Christian witness is that we are born into a web of sinfulness and when we arrive we are already a part of the brokenness of the world.
Have you ever bought clothes? You’ve contributed to sweat shop labor and children’s rights being trampled on.
Have you ever driven a car, ridden a bus or plane, or gotten anywhere by any other means than by walking or by bike? You’ve contributed funds to the wars in the Middle East and the pollution of our air.
Have you ever used a credit card with or without wondering how these companies can afford to give such incentives, sky-miles, and discounts? And whether or not you know these companies are out in full force on college campuses giving away free t-shirts to students who have never given a thought to what it means to pay 17% interest.
We do all this unknowingly. Not maliciously! That’s just the point! We are sinful people living in a sinful and broken world, so that even our best intentions can be warped and manipulated…
BUT that’s not the end of the story!
Because there is One, who though he was perfect and without defect, has taken our sin and the sin of the world on himself.
He chose to take our sin on his shoulders as he hung on the cross and our sin died with him on that cross. So our sins have died with Jesus and we have been given a new life in Jesus.
And so together… we look to the cross.
The cross stands as a witness to our sin and to God’s forgiveness.
The cross stands as a witness that God chooses to suffer with us and for us.
The cross stands as a witness to God’s open arms of forgiveness and welcome – to us and to the whole world.
But the story of the cross, as cartoonist Johnny Hart said, is to be continued…
On the third day after his crucifixion:
Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples,
opened their minds to the scriptures,
challenged them to be witnesses of all they had seen and experienced,
and promised them
that their story was to be continued too!
because they would be clothed with the Holy Spirit,
the power from on high…
And in the Book of Acts we can hardly keep up as that Holy Spirit leads Paul and Peter, Stephen and John, Phillip and James, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, and Lydia…in amazing adventures of witnessing to the mighty acts of God.
And God’s love in Jesus Christ IS STILL BEING CONTINUED…
By people among US, filled with the Holy Spirit, who spent this past week and all day yesterday to preparing Price Hall to shelter women who are experiencing homeless…
By people who will come to cook for them, eat with them, serve and befriend them.
God’s love in Jesus Christ IS STILL BEING CONTINUED…
By men and women of this congregation, filled with the Holy Spirit, who have given many hours of their life over several years to learn about the suffering and challenges of others and become Stephen’s Ministry care-givers to people in need – visiting them, listening to them, praying with them, and loving them.
God’s love in Jesus Christ IS STILL BEING CONTINUED…
By people among us, filled with the Holy Spirit, who prepare Thanksgiving Baskets for 80 families in our neighborhood, so that they can celebrate the holiday with an abundant meal.
We actually know very little about Luke, the person who is responsible for two beloved books that remain as a witness of Jesus Christ to us and to generations of the faithful around the world throughout the centuries.
But my guess is, that’s how he would’ve wanted it. Like so many of you, whose service goes unnamed and unseen.
We have not seen the earthly Jesus with our own eyes, but we have experienced his Spirit in our lives and seen it at work in this community.