Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sermon: St. Luke - 2017

18 October 2017

Text: Luke 10:1-9, (Isa 35:5-8, 2 Tim 4:5-18)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Saint Luke was not one of the twelve apostles.  He was not flamboyant and boisterous like St. Peter.  He was not the evangelist covering of most of the empire as was St. Paul.  He was not the “disciple whom Jesus loved” as was St. John.  He wasn’t a fisherman like many of the early leaders of the disciples.  As far as we know, he wasn’t a bishop who oversaw pastors and churches, as were James, Peter, Timothy and many of the apostles and early disciples.

In fact, Luke was probably an intellectual.  His Greek writing suggests that he was highly educated and had studied history.  St. Luke was a medical doctor.  Early historians teach us that he was one of the 72 that our Lord sent out ahead of Himself in areas where he planned to go.  It is also said that he was an iconographer, a painter of portraits of our Lord and His mother.  St. Luke is also said to have been executed as a martyr at the age of 84.  From Scripture, we know that he accompanied St. Paul on many journeys, and that he was one of the few faithful who stayed with Paul at the end of his life in Rome.

But St. Luke’s greatest acts were literary in nature: between his Gospel of Luke and the sequel, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke wrote some 27% of the New Testament.  His greatest legacy is actually the Word from the Holy Spirit given to teach us about Jesus. 

And there is no greater honor for a pastor and preacher – that he did not give glory to himself, but to Christ alone!  In a real sense, St. Luke is still one of those 72 evangelists sent out to prepare the way for Jesus to come, “into every town and place where He (Jesus) was about to go.” 

Just as St. Luke remained faithful to St. Paul, Luke still remains faithful to every pastor and preacher today, being his constant companion in the Word.  It is impossible not to love St. Luke and to see him as a faithful brother in the Office of the Holy Ministry when one preaches Jesus in the very words of St. Luke.

And it is Luke who speaks to us today, dear friends, explaining the work of the evangelist in the very words of Jesus: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  There is so much work to be done in the kingdom, so many who need to hear the Good News, people to reach with the Gospel: those here in our neighborhood and in our families, as well as those on the other side of the globe.  So we must “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers” to preach and teach and baptize, to visit and absolve and feed with the Holy Supper. 

And of course, we pastors cannot do this alone.  We are dependent upon the church.  The 72 were told: “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals…” meaning that we are to depend upon the kindness of others for our own livelihood, “eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.”  It is the holy work of the laity to support their pastors and their families at home, and to provide for missionaries abroad.  

Preachers are ambassadors of Jesus.  They are spokesmen for the King.  They proclaim amnesty and pardon to sinners.  They are authorized to speak forgiveness in His name and by His authority.  They preach Christ crucified, and do so in season and out of season, proclaiming the Good News that because Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we have received His grace – grace that redeems us from sin, death, and the devil, grace that brings us into communion with God, grace that delivers to us everlasting life in the flesh, in the new heaven and the new earth.  This is the church’s happy and urgent message – inscribed by the pen of Luke, proclaimed by the lips of Luke, and read today from the Gospel of Luke.

And Jesus sends these preachers out “as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  Satan seeks to destroy the church by attempting to shut down the proclaimers of the Gospel.  There are wolves out there, dear friends, wolves who stir up churches and cause dissent.  Sometimes these wolves are bishops and church leaders, sometimes pastors, and sometimes lay people.  And the Lord’s servants are like sheep.  They are followers of Jesus: shepherds who become like sacrificial lambs; for no servant is above his Master. 

And in a sense, all Christians are to be lambs amid wolves.  We are all sent out in all of our callings as innocents into a violent and evil world, under the spell of the devil, who wishes to devour us and destroy our faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, were we on our own, we would certainly fail.  But we are not on our own.  We have Jesus and the angels guiding us, guarding us, delivering us from evil and from the evil one.  We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and working through us, no matter what our Christian vocation is.

St. Luke was with Paul, who wrote, “Luke alone is with me,” when he exhorted Timothy to “always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”  And we must, as Christians, strive to carry out our Christian callings so that we might likewise say, “I am ready to be poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

For the Gospel is about fixing everything that is wrong with our world, as Isaiah prophesies: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.”  All of these impediments are removed by Christ our Savior and Redeemer.  We will see an end to deserts and hunger and thirst, to be replaced with the lushness of life and the Way of Holiness, a pathway for those declared righteous by the Lord and His Gospel!  

This, dear friends, is the message of Luke, which is the message of the church, which is the message of our preaching and teaching, which is the message of the Gospel, which is the message of Jesus Christ – the one in whose holy name we gather, whose praise we sing, whose body and blood we eat and drink unto eternal life, and whose servant Luke continues to bring us Good News – and will do so until the Lord’s return.  Amen!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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