Sermon for the Day of Saint Luke the Physician – October 17, 2021

Amandus J. Derr, Interim Senior Pastor

Isaiah 35:5-8; Psalm 124; 2 Timothy 4:5-11; Saint Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-53 

In nomine Jesu!
We live in a vastly different world than the one we inhabited in 1987, when the ELCA’s Constituting Convention designated the Sunday closest to October 18 as the Day of Saint Luke the Physician and ask congregations to include prayer, anointing and the laying on of hands and anointing for healing in our liturgies on that day. HIV/AIDS, and all who were broken was the issue then.  Today virtually everything and everyone is broken; every environment – this fragile planet, our fractured world, our increasingly fragile nation, too many bodies, our very souls. We’ve begun to think that there’s nothing we can do. We’ve begun to feel paralyzed. In this context, Luke’s message of Jesus as not merely a healer of the sick, but as the mender of every form of brokenness; and of Christ’s Church as not merely a community of wholeness-seekers, but a community of wholeness-makers, in more needed than ever.

To be sure, Luke’s Gospel and its companion volume, the Acts of the Apostles, are filled with acts of physical healing. Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, as well as the Apostles Peter, John, and Paul and the deacons Stephen and Phillip in Acts almost follow Isaiah’s script for the emerging age of God’s reign:  the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the mute speak, and the dead are raised. In Luke, from barren Elizabeth and speechless Zechariah, to the centurion’s slave, the Nain widow’s daughter, the Gerasene demoniac, Jairus’ daughter, the epileptic child, the crippled woman, the ten lepers, the blind man, the repentant bandit crucified and dying with Jesus, to, in Acts, the beggar at the Beautiful Gate and a host of others, physical healing is the hallmark of Jesus’ and his disciples and the Church’s mission and ministry.  But it is Jesus’ response to his critics in Levi’s (Matthew’s) house after Christ called him to discipleship that best sums up the full measure of the healing Christ came to bring: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have come, not to call the righteous but sinners;” and it is in the identities of their “patients” that we understand healing’s scope:  Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles, Romans; Africans, women, men, children, slaves, soldiers, rich, poor, prostitutes, convicted felons, prisoners, refugees, priests –– in Luke’s writings, Jesus, his apostles and Christ’s Church not only heal physical ills, but repair historic, ethnic, religious and relational brokenness and division; brokenness and division that regularly led to hatred, oppression, violence, bloodshed, and war.

Luke comes by his emphasis on healing, wholeness, and peace honestly.

He peppers his books with the First Century medical jargon. He betrays a physician’s acumen for acute observation.  While these shape his way of describing certain events, they do not fully explain his more integrated approach that links the physical and emotional, with the civil, societal, and global and proclaims Jesus’ dying and rising as both the micro- and macro- cure for all.

Luke proclaims this as central to the Church’s ministry not merely because he is a practitioner of the healing arts, but because he is a joyful recipient of Christ and Christ’s Church’s healing ministry. As an uncircumcised Greek adherent to the faith, Luke experienced firsthand the transforming power of inclusion after exclusion, acceptance after denial, respect after apathy, and unity after deep and painful divisiveness. For Luke, Jesus’ death and resurrection meant the end of all brokenness; the healing of every breach. The repentant thief as well as the observing centurion, the dying slave as well as the rich young lawyer, faithful women as well as stalwart Apostles; Samaritans, Greeks, Ethiopians, Romans, Jews; criminals, prostitutes, tax collectors, as well as Zealots, virgins, and observant Pharisees – all these are made whole and restored into a diverse but united community by the dying and rising of Christ and the proclamation and ministry of Christ’s Apostles and Christ’s Church.

For Luke, the great gathering of male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free, rich and poor at Christ’s Table actualizes as well as symbolizes the healing, wholeness, and peace that God wills for all people and desires for the whole creation. Therefore Luke sees himself and the Church the Apostles left behind as the Holy Spirit’s agents to effect healing, peace, and wholeness “in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

We are that same diverse people, gathered at Christ’s Table, made whole and one by the crucified and risen Christ, sent out as agents of the same Holy Spirit. Healing, forgiveness, comfort, unity, and hope are ours together in Christ, actualized at Bath and Table, personalized in the anointing and the laying on of hands that we experience this day. Therefore, our calling, like Luke’s, is to live as healers, and peacemakers in our wounded, pain-filled, broken society, church, and world.

Every day brings news of greater brokenness, division, and violence. God invites us to see ourselves, one another, and our congregation through Luke’s eyes, as recipients of Christ’s healing, but also agents of Christ and heirs of the Apostles, called to proclaim and offer to all Christ’s priceless gift of wholeness and peace. That is Christ’s gift to us. That is our calling in a broken world, desperately needing us now.