2020-10-18 St. Luke, Evangelist
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
What would you think, dear friends, if you went to your Doctor and all she ever told you was good things about yourself? Your blood pressure could be through the roof but she didn't say a word. Your blood sugar could be in the basement but all you heard was "You're doing great! Keep up the good work!" Or, what if you took your car to the mechanic and he checked it over but wouldn't tell you if anything was wrong? Head gasket is about to blow, engine fixin' to explode over the next 1000kms and transmission's ready to fall out on the pot-hole ridden streets O' Moose Jaw but all you hear is "Everything looks fine! Car's got lots and lots of miles left on it!" You might like to hear those kinds of reports. But are they helpful? All of sudden you have a stroke or get diabetes or stranded on the side of the Buffalo Pound cosway with billowing black smoke from your engine compartment! "Why didn't the doctor and the mechanic tell me the truth, even if it wasn't happy news?!" we lament.
Truth. This is indeed the crisis of our time. We may have the information of the whole world in our pocket through our smart-phone, but is it true? Is it trust worthy? Is it reliable? Is it just telling us what we want to hear? Or is it telling us what is good, right and salutary? Or, conversely, what if said media and internet and social media was telling you blatant un-truth? What if they were out to tell you what they WANT YOU to believe? What if they sold you sensationalized information, made up "facts" and enveloped it all in a cloak of fear? How would we know? There was a time when journalism and news was there to provide you with the truth and facts and then let you make up your own mind. But now, it's totally different. Media, Social Media, 24 hour news networks, they exist now to bamboozle! They exist to make you afraid, because fear keeps the viewers coming back for more. More viewers equals more ratings which equals more money for the networks.
As we read through the scriptures, what is the consistent message that Angels delivered to people? Upon seeing these amazing spiritual beings, the people were filled with fear! But the Angel's message is always consistent: "Do not be afraid." "Do not fear." Do not be consumed with a debilitating hysteria and terror. Instead, fear the Lord. Fear the One true God who can kill and who can make alive. It's exactly what Martin Luther wrote in the Small Catechism about the first commandment: You shall have no other gods. What does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all things. Fear belongs to God alone. Not media outlets, not social media feeds, not angels, not Covid19 or any other created thing. "Do not be afraid" of these things, our Lord tells us.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" Proverbs 9:10 tells us. This shows us overwhelmingly that fear of earthly stuff is the opposite of wisdom which is foolishness. In other words, don't be a fear-filled-fool! Turn off CNN, CBC, and every other non-stop hysteria machine. Instead, submerge your heart and mind in the Gospel of Christ our Lord. St. John writes in his first letter "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (4:18). This is precisely why our Lord appointed the Gospel writers Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to bring this message of love into our fear infested world. For the love we see on our Lord's cross drives out fear. For we know that in the victory of Christ crucified and resurrected, sin, death and the devil have been vanquished. All the sources of evil, lies and earthly fear are crushed. And all such things in us have been drowned through the waters of our Baptism.
We arise from that baptismal water, albeit soggy, but not saturated in fear! We find there our identity as the people of God. We have been cleansed of our sins and filled with the Holy Spirit. His presence upholds us every step of the way through this life. We cling to the Scriptures that always tell us the truth, whether we like it or not, that we poor miserable sinners have eternal life and salvation through faith in Christ our Lord. This is the message we need to hear day in and day out - not the negativity and fear-mongering of the media. Read the Gospels. Read them over and over again. Fill your heart and mind with the promise of our Lord's perfect love that drives out fear. This heavenly focus gives us rock solid confidence that "whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s" (Romans 14:8).
Now today in the life of the church, we commemorate St. Luke and his massive contributions to the Scriptures. He was a medical doctor - and not the crazy quack kind I talked about earlier in this sermon! He was a good one. He was governed by facts, logic and sought to tell his patients the truth. How do we know this? Well here's what he says in the very first opening lines of his Gospel: "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught." Right there it tells you what he's doing. He's assembling eye witness accounts of people who were there from the very start so that the people who read it may have certainty. This word "certainty" is where we get our English word "asphalt" from. Certain. Solid. Reliable. Security. Cypress Paving! All good, high quality well-founded stuff!
St. Luke compiles this orderly account about Jesus our Lord so that people like us, for these last 2000 years, can have certainty and know that what he writes for us is true. He lets us know that he was compiling the Gospel for a guy named Theophilus. Most likely, he was a patron to St. Luke. He probably funded St. Luke's work because commissioning writing books way back then was exceedingly expensive. If you wanted a copy of the Biblical book of Romans for instance, it was easily $5000.00 - for a copy - let alone an original manuscript. St. Luke wrote the Gospel and also the Book of Acts in this two volume set. So this Theophilus guy no doubt had lots of bucks to fund the writing of over one quarter of the New Testament by length!
From our Gospel reading appointed for today we have: "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (LK 10:1-2). Tradition tells us that St. Luke was one of these seventy-two people who were sent out to the places Jesus was about to go. We could say that they were the rototillers who went out first before the sower went out to do the planting. They went out to prepare the way of the Lord and get the people ready to hear the Good News that Jesus the promised Messiah of old had come.
Our Isaiah reading today spells out this message: "Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" (35:4-6). Be strong and fear not says the Lord. Just as the 72 were sent out, so are we as God's Baptized people. We proclaim this same message of strength and victory in Jesus Christ. We are not locked in a prison of fear and anxiety. Our eyes have been opened and our ears unstopped by the message that Christ is risen. This ancient Good News fills us with His blessed assurance that no matter how difficult or hostile this world is, fear will not confine us. Pandemics will pass away. But the Word of our God shall stand forever. Thanks and praise be to our victorious Lord whom St. Luke proclaimed for us and the world! Amen!