Video recording of the Sermon can be found here: (go the the 10th minute)
St. Luke’s Feast Day October 18, 2020
What a gorgeous day to gather here on the lawn and celebrate our patron Saint, Luke the Evangelist. For those of you who follow the lectionary readings, you might have been wondering why we are reading from Sirach, and Timothy and Luke, instead of continuing on in Exodus and Matthew where we’ve been Sunday after Sunday. The answer is, that Our liturgical guide gives us the leeway to celebrate our patron Saint on this Sunday.
The timing could not be better. It’s not that I think we need a break from wandering with Moses and the Hebrew people in the desert. Honestly, their wilderness time of hunger and thirst and faithful lapses have reminded us of our own wilderness here in 2020. You and I may not have gone hungry this year, but many have.
The cries of those calling out to God for help and sustenance are evermore present to us because of this pandemic and as followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore them.
The timing could not be better to read Luke’s gospel because we learn from Luke that Jesus begins his ministry responding these cries: I have come to bring good news to the poor!
In his hometown inaugural teaching, we heard from Luke’s gospel today, Jesus unveils his entire purpose, all that is to come… the healing and feeding and reaching out to the oppressed.The teaching of how to treat our neighbors;how God call us to be just and merciful, kind and humble.
The timing could not be better for us to hear Luke’s introductory story where Jesus explicitly tells his mission, “I have come to bring good news to the poor! because just this week there was rejoicing in heaven and on earth when the World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.
Recognizing the devastating link between hunger and conflict, The WFP lives out the mission of peace, by feeding the poor. This is Jesus’ own mission.
These were Jesus’ own first words of his adult ministry. From the outset, Jesus tells the world he was born to save, free, and liberate.
No wonder Jesus was hung on a cross—his message was unsettling. His teaching threatened those with wealth and power.
This week our bishops sent a teaching video of their own, reminding us that we are followers of this instigating prophet, this Son of God. Bishop Kee and Bishop G are making a series of videos (stay tuned for more), Called, “Remembering who we are, and whose we are.” The bishops hope that in this especially tense time of uncertainty, and discord around election time, we will center ourselves upon our faith, and not fall into division.
Bishop G’s first message reminds us to stay humble: she says, “the truth is, whatever perfection we think we carry, is an illusion.” Only God is perfect. Bishop Kee warns us how easily we humans are infected by division and hate, and he reminds us that Jesus sends us out like sheep among wolves— to be loving and forgiving—this is our witness to the world.
Some of you might say wait bishops, religion and politics shouldn’t mix. But this is not possible if we are faithful to our vows.
From our very beginning as baptized Christians we vow to continue in the apostles teaching, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to strive for justice and peace among all people. We are either Christians or we aren’t.
Not only from our own personal beginnings as Christians, but also from the very start of Christianity, the disciples, apostles, the followers in the way, knew and professed and strived to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
When the church reformers of the 16th century came along, they did not undo this! Of course not, they knew to be Christian is a life dedicated to Christ. The reformers challenged the church in its complicity with the state. The church was in so many ways tipping the scales to favor the rich, using its power against God’s people, forgetting its mission to lift up the oppressed. Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Wycliffe by golly they preached long and hard reminding the church of its purpose. The reformers believed our whole being, our whole life public and private, is called before God. Calvin said outrightly, “we belong to God and therefore our calling is to glorify God in every aspect of our being. God’s purpose for us is not primarily to earn our way into Heaven, but rather, God’s primary purpose for our lives is to reform the world according to the word of God.” As one scholar puts it, this means, particularly for Calvin, that our faith should infuse our values into every aspect of our existence—social, economic, and, political.
Reforming the world according to the word of God, is a modern way of stating the mission of Jesus. This is why Jesus started his public ministry with words of the prophet Isaiah— the prophets were the reformers of their day.
What was the response? Well we know Jesus hometown friends were proud of him…at first. He read the scroll of scripture so well. They were pleased that one of their own had made it big— he was known throughout the region. The Galileans came excitedly to hear him teach; yet when Jesus rolls up the scripture and sits down to discuss it, teaching in the rabbinical style, their excitement turns. Their anger is aroused. Jesus gets into their business. Perhaps what they wanted is a sermon on what those folks (over there) should be doing and thinking. Perhaps what they wanted is a sermon on personal piety and prayer. This is NOT what they got.
Jesus’ sermon spoke about public morality—words about justice and liberty for all the oppressed, even for those people who don’t count. –and Luke writes, the people “were filled with wrath.”
Saint Luke tells it like it is. We might remember Luke’s gospel most through its beloved parables and its cherished birth story; but from its start, Luke states the story’s purpose—”so that you may know the truth concerning the things you have been taught.” The truth – Luke sets out to teach the church what its role is. And it is no simple, stand by, and speak softly role.
Before the birth of the baby, Luke gives us the Magnificat—Mary sings that the Lord has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts and lifted up the lowly. These are fighting words. The rich will be sent empty away.
Before Jesus gathers his disciples, he states his mission— The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. No one who followed Jesus believed this would be easy. Luke makes this clear.
No one who follows Jesus now, should think this is easy either.
Sow Love in the midst of hate.
Be willing to be humbled.
Be ready at all times to share.
Be open to the many paths to peace—reform the world’s justice with God’s;
And all throughout, all your other work, feed the poor.
Our patron saint Luke set the church straight on its mission, recording the first words of Jesus’s ministry. As he wrote the Acts of the Apostles, Luke also gives us the last words of Jesus before his ascension. The first and the last.
The people were asking the risen Christ, is it now that you’ll restore the kingdom to Israel? So eagerly they wanted to know, when is the restoration to happen?
The resurrected Jesus patiently calls the community of first believers to their senses, You are not to be speculating about God’s return. Jesus tells the church their proper task is to be witnesses in word and deed.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Our job as the church is to be faithful workers, faithful disciples. We are to be neither speculators or spectators.
We are to spread the good news: That God came into the world as one of us, so that we may know love— The church is to outwardly witness to this teaching: Our calling, Christ says so clearly, is to spread the lessons of love, justice, and mercy we have heard and seen so that all the world knows to whom we belong.
Thanks be to God.