St. Luke, 2015
The Epistle. 2 Timothy 4:5-15
The Gospel. Luke 10:1-8
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Our Collect today, interestingly, was written and composed for the 1928 Book of Common Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Charles Morris Addison of Massachusetts…prior to its printing.
“ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The emphasis in this prayer is on the healing power and love of Christ toward people and that same healing power and love would be given to the Church, that we would continue to reflect those two attributes toward one another.
In the original BCP of 1549, Cranmer’s prayer that he wrote: “ALMIGHTIE God whiche calledst Luke the phisicion, whose prayse is in the gospell, to be a phisicion of the soule; it may please thee, by the holsome medicines of his doctryne, to heale all the diseases of our soules; through thy sonne Jesus Christe our Lorde.
In the 1549 version, Cranmer, being a child of the Reformation, and its recovered emphasis on the Gospel, wrote the prayer to reflect the fact that it is the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone that is medicine to the soul….delivered to us by Luke the physician of the soul.
It may be, as they say, a distinction without a difference.
The more recent prayer reflects a growing or at least a highly popular understanding that Love is at the heart of everything that God does….which we do not dispute.
But it also is popular to separate the Gospel from Love, (unintentionally, I am sure) and almost making the Gospel a different thing from Love….when in fact it is out of an eternal and perfect Love (the love of God) that the Gospel, the Good News…springs or exists.
The Gospel is the Good News of God’s Love for us. To emphasize love without attaching it to something or giving it shape, sort of makes the concept vague.
God is love, is a true statement and worthy of all men to be received. But if not properly understood how and in what way God is love, it becomes very open ended.
Even if we act in Love toward a brother or a stranger, it is because we are aware of the Good News of God’s love in salvation….or it should be.
Some might wonder why we show compassion to them, or why we have helped them or shown love. We have a reason why. It is because we have been set free to love and serve one another through the Gospel.
Specifically, God is love in that He sent His Only Begotten Son, to be a propitiation for our sins and to bring us to everlasting life through faith in Him.
Luke the Physician and Evangelist falls on this day in our calendar.
He was a companion of Paul on his journeys to plant Churches and preach the Gospel. He knows first-hand the power of transformation that the Gospel has and brings. He saw Paul preach and argue and defend and even land in prison, all because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Justin Martyr wrote very early on: “On Sunday, there is an assembly at the same place of all [Christians] in the cities or countryside, and the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows.
When the reader has finished the president (i.e. the bishop or his deputy) makes an address, an admonition and an exhortation about the imitation of these good things.”
So, here is the address, exhortation and admonition.
Luke, the beloved physician of souls and evangelist of the Gospel, through his writings and subsequent spread of the Christian Faith, sets just one of many examples for us today.
We don't get from Scripture, the “Acts of St. Luke.” Not much is known of him that we are sure of other than he wrote the Gospel attributed to him and the Book of Acts….and that he was a close companion of Paul, recording much of what he witnessed first-hand.
So thanks to Luke’s writings, we are directed to the Acts of those early Christians…what they did….how they both suffered for the Gospel and how they triumphed in making many converts by preaching God’s love.
Rather than seeing or reading about what Luke did, God in His providence had inspired Luke to write down what Jesus did. Luke wrote about Jesus not himself.
It is an important example for us to have. All that is important is what God in Christ has done, not what we have done. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what is important, not anything about us.
We see this very thing in what Luke records for us today.
Jesus appoints 72 men to go on ahead of Him into towns and other places where He would soon follow.
There they were to preach the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus Christ…the long awaited Messiah had arrived….that the Kingdom of God had arrived…and would soon be coming to their village or town.
As is true today, Jesus’s words are pertinent in every way. He says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
An admonition to us to continue today. Pray that God would continue to call not only men into the ministry, but Christians into the world to witness to the faith of Jesus Christ…to show the love of God in the death of His Son for the world, as we began with here this morning.
So the first step, is we are to pray to God, who is the Lord of the Harvest, that He would be successful (and we know He will be) in calling or harvesting souls even to the far reaches of the world.
Then He immediately offers a warning. “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
In other words, showing the love of God in the Gospel is not something that will always be accepted with open arms and open hearts.
The world will in many ways reject this message. It will hate what it hears.
It will not in any way see the love of God in Christ as good news, but oppressive, insulting, offensive and something to be shut down, silenced and put out of the minds and memories of men by any means necessary.
In other words, Christians are to go out as lambs in the midst of wolves.
Bishop Ryle writes: Christians “…must make up their minds to be hated, and persecuted, and ill treated, by those who have no real religion. They must look for no favor from unconverted people, for they will find none. It was a strong but a true saying of Martin Luther, that “Cain will murder Abel, if he can, to the very end of the world.” “Marvel not,” says St. John, “if the world hate you.” “All that will live godly in Jesus Christ,” says St. Paul, “shall suffer persecution.” (1 John 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:8.)”
From Paul’s letter to Timothy this morning, we have a perfect companion lesson.
Paul is giving some final instructions in this letter to Timothy. Luke may have been aware and may have at some point read this letter.
If not, he was certainly aware of what Paul was talking about being a close companion.
This final chapter to Paul’s second letter to Timothy begins this way, which sets the stage for today’s lesson. Paul starts out this way:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
Preach the word;
Be ready in season and out of season;
Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
For the time is coming when men will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
[Then as we pick up today, Paul continues] As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
As Justin Martyr says, we assemble each week to hear the writings of the Apostles and Prophets. And then we are exhorted and admonished to the imitation of these good things.
Be ready in season and out of season to make a defense for the Christian Faith.
Be ready to be a sheep among wolves.
Be ready to reprove and rebuke false doctrines and false religions and false teachings.
Paul’s final words to Timothy are good as final words for us today. He began today by saying this to Timothy, but we can and should hear this:
“As for you, always be sober-minded,
Do the work of an evangelist,
Fulfill your ministry.”
And not only for the sake of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world, but also for what lies ahead.
We know that God will call in and harvest all those who are His. Yet we labor on.
We know that the Good News of the Love of God in Christ will fulfill all that it is intended to fulfill. It will call men from all walks of life to come unto Christ.
But listen here to what Paul says as his ministry winds down:
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”
Paul’s time of departure or dissolution had come. He reiterates to us the nature of death. That is, the separation of the soul from the body.
Once the labor of life on earth is done, God will call each of us to Himself more fully and soul will be separated from body and eternal life will be entered into.
He says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:5-8 ESV)
That is the eternal reward we are all to look forward to once our labors are finished….once the harvest has come in. Once the Gospel has spread as far as God designs it to.
So we thank God this morning for Luke and Paul and others, of course, for their labors and their writings….and even their martyrdom. For in all these things, the Love of God is shown forth and His Glory is proclaimed to all creation.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 1, p. 346). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.