October 18, 2007

Luke the Evangelist

Today, the 18th, is the apostle Luke's remembrance day. Most of us know him to be the author of the Gospel Luke and Acts. But do we ever really sit and think about who he was. Today's the day!

He was a well-educated gentile Christian physician who became a companion of Paul. What inspired him to give up his career and become a follower of a zealous Jew right into jail? Luke was an outsider in an all-Jewish cast and he wrote for an audience of outsiders--gentiles. He shows Jesus as inclusive of those the religious establishment treated as outsiders. Luke is the compassionate Gospel full of human interest and sympathy. He shows Jesus as gentle, a king and merciful. Luke is often called the "Christmas Evangelist" as the season of Advent's story is told more in his Gospel.

It's believed he was also a painter and painted mother Mary. I imagine her sitting for a portrait and talking all about her and Joseph's engagement, but then a wrench is thrown in, that society couldn't understand - how do you explain a virgin birth? In her society she should have been stoned to death. He heard about the angel's visit (If I remember correctly it's only Mary that an angel didn't have to say "fear not", and was seemingly receptive to the mystery of an angel talking to her.) Luke probably felt her 'ponderings' of her reminiscing, like visiting her cousin Elizabeth, and then having an old woman and man in the temple euphoric over baby Jesus, recognizing the Messiah, "the light to the gentiles".

Then Luke alone of the four Gospel writers continues the story, as the apostles and disciples live it into the next generation. Jesus' story didn't end with Jesus, but lives on in the lives of us believers. The power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. Luke devoted his life to demonstrating that Jesus is always available to those who turn to Him. A prayerful man himself he depicts day-to-day praying, even Jesus, who prayed before every important step of his ministry. Luke showed the joy of salvation and how the Holy Spirit guided the emerging church through prayerful lives surrendered to Jesus.

(Much artwork depicting Luke have a winged ox--it's his 'emblem'. Only one writing mentions it, to say an ox or calf are symbols of sacrifice--the sacrifice Jesus made for all. But why connected with Luke I don't know.)

Saints are human people who lived EXTRAordinary lives. Each saint the church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.

So need I go on with what this means to us?! The Gospel writers give us eyewitness accounts of God incarnate. Jesus is the pure reflection of the invisible God and He showed us what human life in its spiritual fullness looks like. We are called to reflect God's image--'image bearers' (though tarnished), created in the image of God. If turned in on ourselves, in a state of self-absorption, we cannot reflect the light of God's image.

I simply ask the Holy Spirit to guide me, as He did the first disciples. To give me an open heart to do whatever He calls me to do. And continue helping me to pray.
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I didn't post about Matthew, the other Gospel writer, who's calendar feast day was September 21. He was a Jew, but one of those lowly "sinners" since he was a "tax-farmer". Sitting in his booth he had to be listening to Jesus. He probably saw the men carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher to Jesus.

The spying pharisees saw Jesus walk by and tell Levi/Matthew to "Follow me". Despicable!! Yet Jesus turned to them and said "Those who are well have no need of a doctor! So go figure out what this scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I came to call the outsiders, not indulge the pious."
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Everyone who touched Jesus and everyone whom Jesus touched were healed. God's love and power went out from him. When a friend touches us with free, non-possessive love, it is God's incarnated love that touches us and God's power that heals us.
-Henri Nouwen
Bread for the Journey


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