The Feast of St. Luke

On October 26, 2016 by saintlukesgresham

Rev. Jennifer M. Creswell

Fall is that time when we talk about saints in church. First there’s St. Francis Day in early October, then, for this congregation there’s St. Luke’s Day later in October, and then there’s Day of the Dead—All Saints and All Soul’s in early November. St. Nicholas in early December. And don’t the saints carry a lot of Christian baggage? There’s a stream of Christianity that is skeptical of the saints, perhaps wondering why today’s church would spend so much time on these people—who were, in fact, just people—from the past. And the poor saints. They carry the weight of Christians praying to them, making offerings to them, making pilgrimages to visit their relics, and having to be responsible for ‘legitimate’ miracles after their death just to be called saints to begin with.

Saint means holy. Consecrated. We are all of us saints, and sinners, in equal measure. And the saints of the Church, while having some troublesome history, show us what it’s like to live a holy life. A consecrated life. And there are saints known for their generosity, their compassion, their piety. There are also saints know for their tenacity, their strength, their ferocity. In the vast collection of the saints, we can see the full complement of human qualities that honor God. You don’t just have to be a monk or a martyr to be a saint. You can be cranky. A loner. Arrogant. Timid. You just have to have a deep, clear love of God.

Now, I do have my favorite saints, and St. Luke was never one of them. Until recently. Well, I didn’t find him that interesting. Not like Perpetua and Felicity, a Roman noblewoman and her maid, both nursing mothers, who were martyred for their faith. Or Columba, the dove, who brought Christianity to the British Isles. Or Benedict the hermit who founded monasteries that follow a simple Rule even though he would rather have lived on his own in a cave.

It was when the idea of starting an art studio came up and I discovered that Luke was the patron saint of artists that I started to see Luke in a different light. Not just evangelist, not just doctor, but painter as well. Actually I don’t think it would have mattered to me what he was the patron of. What made me smile was connecting the story of a hero of our faith with this particular suburban parish in Gresham. Sometime, long ago, we were given the name of St. Luke the Physician and so that saint belongs to us and we belong to him, to his legacy.

And it just seemed like the most natural thing: to look for God’s guidance through the story of the saint whose name this congregation has borne for sixty years. This is a church in the name of St. Luke, artist and physician. We are people of healing and arts. We are connected back through the generations of saints who have upheld the Church all the way to St. Luke himself, a doctor who picked up a stylus and wrote down the story of a man called Jesus.

Looking at all the gospels side by side, we can see what sets Luke’s apart. The gospel of Luke is the only one of the four that tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man, and the only one that has Jesus saying in the Beatitudes: “blessed are the poor” rather than “blessed are the poor in spirit.” Mary’s Magnificat, that beautiful hymn of praise to God that she sings when she’s just heard that she’s going to be Jesus’ mother, only appears in Luke’s gospel and it includes the words, “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Luke records several unique encounters with women: Mary and Elizabeth before Jesus’ birth, the Presentation in the temple, and Mary’s distress when her 12-year old Jesus goes missing. We can see that Luke honored the poor, women, people seeking forgiveness, and God’s mercy.

Luke didn’t only write the gospel, he also wrote the book of Acts. It is likely that Luke was a friend and fellow-traveler of Paul, and it was probably in that community of early believers that Luke heard the stories of the life of Jesus before he wrote them down.

In Luke, now, I see a person who was already oriented toward others—he was trained as a doctor to heal people. I see a person whose imagination and heart were moved by the story of Jesus; a person who took that inspiration and expressed it in writing the gospel and Acts. I see a person who understood healing as the wholeness of body, mind, and spirit.

And as people who follow in the tradition of St. Luke, we also can understand healing as wholeness of body, mind, and spirit. We are a small congregation, and we may not be called to start a medical clinic, but we can tune our hearts to those in pain and we can participate in healing. We can see this church as a place where sick people, people in emotional and physical pain, people wounded by the church and by others, a place where they can experience God as a healer. We can see this church as a place where each of us brings our own woundedness—we are the ones in need of a physician, we are the ones who are sick—and trust God and each other with our health.

Psalm 147 speaks of God as the source of all healing; the first and ultimate healer. This Psalm was written some time during or just after the exile of Israel to Babylon. And how does God bring healing?

The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their names. The Lord lifts up the lowly, but casts the wicked to the ground.

Now, in the name of the One from whom all healing comes, and in the spirit of our patron, Luke the Physician, I want to offer a blessing, this St. Luke’s Day, for all nurses, pharmacists, medical professionals, therapists and other healers.

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life-giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And in the name of the One from whom all healing comes, and in the spirit of our patron, Luke the Physician, I want to offer anointing and prayers for healing for all those who are troubled by physical, emotional, or spiritual pain.

For Trust in God O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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