A Service of Healing / Resurrection Lutheran Church / Fredericksburg, VA
Text: Luke 4: 31 – 37 / Message by: Rev. Carol Kniseley / November 18, 2007
Speaking of Luke
On a day when we are intent on focusing on the healing ministry of the church, it would seem only natural that we should turn our attention once again to the Gospel of Luke. Luke was, according to tradition, a physician who no doubt spent many of his days and nights moving among people who very lives depended upon him. He knew how wonderful it was to take part in someone’s healing…and how awful it was when the healing did not occur.
But those of us who have been baptized know something else about Luke as well. What we know has to do with his life as a believer and a follower…a dreamer of God’s dreams and a partner in God’s work. We know that Luke thrived on a mystery greater than life and death, success and failure, joy and sorrow. Luke lived the good news that God has become one of us and that however bleak things may look to us at any given time…life will never be the same…live will never finally be lost…again.
We remember Luke as a physician but the plain fact is that once he had been baptized…like us…into the body of Christ, he assumed a whole new identity. While he may have continued to practice medicine, chances are that when he came to that line on the application that said “occupation”, he did not put “physician”…but “disciple” instead. That is why we know Luke at all; not because he was a physician but because he was a disciple and one of the four writers of the gospel.
Without Luke, we would never have heard young Mary singing the Magnificat…or old Simeon praising God for allowing him to live long enough to hold the Christ-child in his feeble arms. We would never have heard about John the Baptist’s birth…or the shepherds keeping their watch over their flocks by night. We would know nothing about the parables of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son, because they are stories that only Luke set down in writing so that we could hear the good news told in our own time…and be healed by it, even saved.
I would like to think that Luke never resigned his job as a healer. He just changed his medicines. Instead of prescribing herbs and spices, hot compresses and bed rest, he told stories with power to mend broken lives and revive the faint hearted. Instead of pills and potions, he carried words in his black bag. Words like: “Weep no more,” “Don’t be afraid,” “Your sins are forgiven,” even…”Stand up and walk.” His medicine was “gospel medicine”…which in reality was a good dose of Jesus’ own medicine…medicine that works, strangely enough, through words.
It would be easy to miss: that Jesus’ ministry with the poor, the prisoners, the blind and broken of this world is first and foremost a ministry of words. In his very first sermon before his hometown crowd, it was Jesus himself who stated very plainly that he had been anointed to do what? To preach…and to proclaim the good news of release, recovery, sight, and liberty. All of which he will do before he is through, BUT…from the very beginning of his ministry…his was not to be a ministry of doing…but a ministry of saying: saying what God has done….saying what God is doing…and saying what God will do. Why? Because he speaks as one with authority.
Luke knew that. So when he recorded today’s story about Jesus confronting a man said to have a demon…he was very intentional about getting the words straight. Apparently it was Jesus’ authoritative teaching that stirred the demon in the man who was present in the synagogue. The unclean spirit in the man recognized that the word of God could destroy not only him but “us”, that is, the whole realm of demons. The demon sought to gain power over Jesus by calling Jesus’ name. But it was the power-filled word of Jesus that prevailed in the command to be silent and to depart.
Notice that the event itself is framed on either side by statements about the authority and power of Jesus’ word. Nothing is said about any rituals being used, or incantations of any kind. Luke is focused solely on what he wants us to hear, namely that this Jesus is a teacher of the word of God…and that word alone has power to heal. Because Jesus speaks with authority…it is no sooner said than done, and…the good news puts into effect what it proclaims. The word of God does not come back empty. It accomplishes what it proclaims, however things may happen to look at the time.
On the one hand, it would be easy to listen to the gospel and hear just a bunch of words: “Weep no more,” “Do not be afraid,” “Your sins and forgiven,” “Stand up and walk.” For some, they are just words being thrown at what must appear to be insurmountable odds to those looking in from the outside. And yet, what they can not understand, is that when we proclaim these words as ‘gospel’, we are in reality saying that they are words that belong to someone. And that every time we speak them that someone is present and speaking them through us…so that we never speak them alone. They put into effect what he proclaims: they dry tears…they quench fears…they forgive sins…they even bring life out of death. All because that someone is Jesus himself…the authoritative Word of God…who continues to speak through us here today. May we be so blessed to follow Luke’s example, and continue to practice gospel medicine throughout our lives…beginning with this, our thanksgiving day. Amen