The following sermon was preached by Rev. David Duke in the seminary’s Martin Luther Chapel for the Festival of St Luke, Evangelist, on 18 October 2013. The text was Luke 10:1-9.
St Luke, Evangelist, a gift to us from God. How is he a gift to us? Well, among many things, it seems he did a lot of important administrative work. Many have speculated, which can get wild and into the area of, well, speculation, but we can make a pretty educated guess that he was the one who managed to collect and catalogue the letters of St Paul the Apostle, at least some of them. In that way he became a teacher himself, teaching us that he thought Paul was important, not just in the work he accomplished, but in his very person. Certain odd passages in Romans and Galatians come to mind, but those are for consideration on the festival of St Paul, the Apostle. On the festival of St Luke, Evangelist, we have the one to thank for giving us a rich deposit of artefacts concerning the one who spoke in tongues of men and angels, artefacts through which we have been sifting for well-nigh two millennia now, with no end to discovery in sight.
What would we do without the Acts of the Apostles, given to us through the clinical eye of the physician? He distinguishes for us with a scientific mind and all the wisdom of the Classical world all these otherworldly happenings and goings-on, like prison cells breaking open, snakes being shaken off, and tongues as of fire falling from the sky, coming to rest upon the heads of the Apostles on that great festival day. Moreover, it is a student of the human condition who teaches us, carefully delineating the more mundane realities of the life of the early church, namely how confused they were as an organization. He reports to us the efforts the Church made to keep the program from fracturing into a zillion little sects, the efforts of those early councils, as they tried to understand the old wineskins and the new wine, that is, what are we supposed to do with all these Gentiles who are flooding into the kingdom of God? Returning to Paul again, how dull is it to know that he was in his house at the end, teaching and preaching? But how important is it to know that, even under persecution, the teaching and the preaching continue?
It’s St Luke, Evangelist, though, not St Luke, Praxist. Nevertheless, what he wrote to open his Acts teaches us what his great contribution is to Christianity as one of the four canonical evangelists. “Lord,” they asked him, “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Here, our Lord answers very directly and with a punctiliousness with which we are very unfamiliar, and, therefore, by which we are surprised. We have grown accustomed to Jesus answering such questions with rebuke or with parables, or even apocalyptic prophecy, all of which cause us to labour over the meaning of the questions and the answers. But this time, he answers directly, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
Luke appears to be the leader, if not the first of the early church teachers, of those who were beginning to recognize that the Parousia would be delayed. And what a gift to us from God in that teaching because here we are at the end of two millennia, waiting for the Parousia, but not with any embarrassment, as Linus experienced in that ever-sincere pumpkin patch one fateful All Saints Eve. Instead, we anticipate the Parousia with confidence, being filled up by the words of St Luke, as he carefully deliberated over the life of Jesus as it was told to him by many witnesses and according to some of his own research, inasmuch as many had undertaken to do so before him. He was dissatisfied, wasn’t he? He had a question and it was not being answered, and he searched, and he found the answer in the words of our Lord: “Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Even now, as Christianity in North America coexists with an ever-increasingly cold and clinical society, which happily aborts its own children, ravages the institution of marriage, and celebrates every kind of hedonism under the sun, we have our clinician of faith declaring to us that all the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ without remainder, but with much remaining, that the Kingdom of God has come in full, but with a lot more yet to come, and that the end is near, very near, inasmuch as all nations have heard the evangel. Even the demons are subject to us in the name of Jesus, but we rejoice further that now, even now, and here, even here, our names are written in heaven.
How many more millennia will that edifice stand on that foundation? As many as it takes, I suppose, and those promises will never be exhausted. St Luke, Evangelist.