Isaiah 35:3-6
Luke 10:1-9

We’re celebrating Luke the Evangelist today. I’ve been thinking a little about that. That’s what we call him. Not Matthew the Evangelist, or Mark the Evangelist, but often Luke the Evangelist. It made me think about who Luke is to us and what his gospel tells us. So here’s today’s pause for thought.

We have four gospels, very different though three of them – synoptic – the same view – are not so hugely different in content. They each have something to tell us, to make us think. If we leave John aside for now, the three other gospels were written by people with a bit of an agenda. Scholars today tell us that Mark was the earliest to be written, he was in a hurry to get the news out, everything is ‘and suddenly’ ‘immediately’, there are less embellishments than the other two. Matthew was a Jew, writing for the Jews, hence his emphasis on showing believers how Jesus fulfils their scriptures, and should be followed.

Luke was a gentile (and supposedly a medic), and his gospel offers us the stories of Jesus interacting with women, with the marginalised, with the outcast, ensuring that the gospel shows to belong to everyone. He is also supposed to be the author of the Acts of the Apostles, where the gospel begins to spread. So although the great commission to go out and make disciples of all nations is heard in Matthew, it is Luke who sends us out after Pentecost with the impetus to get on with it, Luke who gives us those details of the first evangelising attempts, Luke who sets the scene for the letters of Paul giving all the feedback on his travels. Perhaps he is the one worthy of being ‘the evangelist’.

And in the passage we hear today for the feast of Luke the Evangelist, it is not, as often with saints or apostles, the story of how they came to be part of Jesus’ retinue, it is not a passage about his life; it is a passage – from Luke – about being sent out to do the work of the Lord.

I wonder, as I think about how we cycle the three gospels in ordinary time whether as churches it should give us a mission or ministry focus for each year – that in Mark’s year (which we will soon begin again this coming Advent) we might ought to focus on ourselves and our relationship with Christ, the urgency with which Mark tells us his story and its key turning point of realising just who Jesus is and the cost associated with being his follower, that Galilee is all very well, but we have to not avoid the Jerusalem times too.

In Matthew’s year, perhaps we should be focussing on believers – thinking about how we are as church, what we do to develop our discipleship and deepen our fellowship with eachother. We should perhaps spend some time thinking about how the gospel really is relevant to our existing story as church, and how it challenges us to step forward.

And Luke? Luke the Evangelist? After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way.

I guess Luke’s year is the year we make a determined effort to take that renewed faith and zeal and focus out, become the Evangelists we have just spent two years deepening and building our faith to be. Obviously we shouldn’t only do that, just we shouldn’t only think about our own faith in a Mark year or our collective faith in a Matthew year, but perhaps it’s a good cycle to think about priorities for the church.

We cannot avoid the need and the desire to go out and share the gospel if we are truly Christians. We may rail at fundamentalists who upset people by excising the few verses of scripture they don’t like, or choose to work from only a few verses, and withhold the richness in the rest of it, but if we do not accept the invitation – the instruction of the great commission, to go and make disciples of all nations, if we choose to hide inside and pull the doors to, then we are negating so very much of what Jesus was about. And then how do we call ourselves Christian.

 

If we value our faith, if we love our Lord, then in a year of Matthew where we are reminded over and over in Matthew’s parables to the Pharisees about looking at ourselves, then today is a glimpse to remind us that beyond the Jews there are the gentiles, the women, the outcast, the marginalised, the sick, the foreigner, a whole world waiting to hear the good news. Jesus knew it would scare us: ‘See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.’ But so did Isaiah:

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

So as we honour Luke, the physician of souls as well as bodies, let us mind his gospel invitation to go out. For it is Christ’s invitation, ‘sending us on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intends to go.’ It is the King’s invitation to his slaves, to go out and invite everyone to the feast.

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