The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

18 October 2020

Saint Luke the Evangelist

Readings

Isaiah 45: 1-7

 

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
   whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
   and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
   and the gates shall not be closed:
I will go before you
   and level the mountains,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
   and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
   and riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
   the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
   and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
   I surname you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
   besides me there is no god.
   I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
   and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
   I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
   I make weal and create woe;
   I the Lord do all these things.

1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10

 

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

 

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Matthew 22: 15-22

 

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Feast of St Luke, Sunday 18th October 2020

 

Today, Archdeacon Darren will be preaching at St Nicholas' Pluckley.  He is forming his presentation round the following questions, and invites us to answer them. This is a fresh and effective way of engaging with us, and rather different from the style of sermon or reflection to which perhaps we are accustomed.

 

  • Who was Luke and what his relationship with the faith?

  • As an outsider, how did he respond to Christianity?

  • What is distinctive about his telling the Good News?

  • What is our relationship with the Christian faith?

  • Where there are outsiders, even ourselves, how do we help them respond to Christianity?

  • What is distinctive about our telling of the Good News?

 

 

Here are a few notes that I hope will help regarding Luke. Firstly the author of the gospel of Luke also wrote Acts. They are in effect two volumes of a continuing account written for a gentile or pagan audience.  We can be clear about that not only because the text says so but an analysis of the language and style link the two inseparably. Luke wrote in everyday Greek and brings his stories to life with clarity and detail.

 

In the latter part of Acts there is a sudden shift to a first person account: "We....did this or that"  (Acts 16: 10- and following). While some theologians have suggested that personal testimony is a literary device, there is very little support for it.  It seems that Luke really accompanied St Paul from what is now the Turkish coast on his journey to Jerusalem. There he met James, brother of the Lord who was a key to the evolving church (not James the Great, son of Zeberdee who had by then been executed).  He writes clearly about Paul's relationship to the Jewish church, his problem with the Jewish council, arrest, trial before the Roman authorities and his appeal to the Emperor.   Eventually Paul is despatched to Rome under guard, and Luke goes as well. The sea journey is relayed in graphic detail that any modern seafarer would recognise.  He is ship wrecked on Malta and later gets to Rome where the story ends. The emperor during this period was Nero who was antagonistic to Christians generally as their allegiance to him was questionable.  State religion put the Emperor at the centre of all life, political and spiritual.  Paul disappears from history and tradition has it that he was beheaded in the pogroms that followed the great fire of Rome in the summer of 64AD.  Luke appears to have escaped. 

 

Early church tradition has it that Luke got back to Antioch to write, and lived to a great age.  He probably owed his Christian faith to Paul in the first instance, and continues Paul's determination to reach out to people outside the Jewish community, the first evangelist writer to grasp this. However, like Paul he sees great continuity with Judaism and its teachings, and refers to this where he can.  For the historical aspects of Jesus' life he has some sources of his own that are likely to come from oral traditions picked up in his travels. Did he talk to James about Jesus?  He also had Mark's account which he reduces, and another written source that was also used by Matthew. He is interested in children, women, the sick and outsiders of all kinds, and not averse to angelic proclamations or the miraculous if it makes for a compelling story that could change the world.      

 

Mark Taylor

Further reading: G B Caird.  "The Gospel of Saint Luke."  Pelican New Testament Commentaries. Penguin.

Almighty God,

you called Luke the physician,

whose praise is in the gospel,

to be an evangelist and physician of the soul:

by the grace of the Spirit

and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel,

give your Church the same love and power to heal;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.