Big Healing: St. Luke's Legacy
The Rev. Sara Cosca Warfield
Scripture: Luke 4:14-21
The Feast Day of St. Luke
Today is the feast day of our dear namesake, Luke. The evangelist who wrote Luke and Acts. Purported companion of the apostle Paul. And, yes, a physician. Honestly, I really like him for us. Because a physician’s main goal is to heal. And Luke, our physician, was a man not only committed to healing but a man committed to Jesus. He suits us, I think.
Each of the gospels has a bit of a different flavor. Each was written to a different audience with different ideas about who Jesus was and why he was here.
John was on a theological campaign to convince everyone, Jews, Gentiles, whoever would listen—that Jesus was the Word made flesh, divine and majestic. Mark was writing mostly to the Gentiles, letting them know that Jesus was a great teacher and miracle-worker. Matthew was writing to those Jews who chose to follow Jesus, emphasising how he was the greatest prophet of their tradition and a Messiah.
But Luke, our physician, is interested in Jesus as a healer. And not just a healer of sickness or injury, but a healer of community, of the world.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
That’s how Luke sums up Jesus. He takes these words of hope from Isaiah and says, “this is the kind of healing that Jesus is about.”
Last Sunday was Rachel’s birthday. Rachel’s my wife, for those of you who may not know. It was raining, so we mostly stayed in and relaxed. A friend of hers suggested that we watch the new David Attenborough documentary, A Life on Our Planet.
Just some advice: if it’s your birthday, do not watch this documentary. It is gorgeous and it is devastating. Attenborough is 94 years oldand has spent his life exploring the natural world. He’s visited every continent, every ecosystem on earth. Forests, savannahs, icecaps, desserts. This documentary is his witness to how drastically our natural environment has changed in his lifetime.
In 1960 the world’s land was 64% untamed natural wilderness. By 1997, that number was 35%. Attenborough describes how he has been an eyewitness to half the world’s rainforest being destroyed, leading to uncounted species gone extinct and the ocean’s life slowly dying because of its rising temperature. He illustrates for us in brutal and beautiful visual detail how the way we humans are living is tipping the balance of life on earth towards irreversible destruction.
This documentary is Attenborough’s plea to us: We need to change how we live. Our world needs healing.
I think healing is the quiet center of this difficult year, and everything that has happened is rotating around it, being pulled by its gravitational force. The pandemic seems like an obvious one—at first. It’s a virus that people get. Some people get it and then get better. Some people get it and never even get sick. And some people get it and die. There are physicians doing their best to heal people, and others who are working day in and day out to create a vaccine to keep us all safe. There’s that kind of healing.
But there’s other kind of healing that needs to happen at a higher level, a community level.
This is how David Attenborough puts it towards the end of his documentary:
With all these things, there is one overriding principle. Nature is our biggest ally and our greatest inspiration. We just have to do what nature has always done. It worked out the secret of life long ago. In this world, a species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives, too.
(Go to 6:25 of video above to watch this clip from the documentary)
In this world, a species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives, too.
It’s really just a different way to say what Jesus said. In this world, we can only thrive when every single prisoner is released.
We can only thrive when every single person struggling with their health is given access to care.
We can only thrive when every single person who is oppressed is set free.
Each of us can only thrive when everyone else around us thrives, too.
St. Luke the Physician knew this. In no other gospel is there such care for people on the margins: women, the poor, prostitutes, tax collectors, and others that society cast out. Luke saw a Jesus who intuitively understood that every person’s healing is bound up in the well-being of everyone else around them.
Just as our well-being as a species is bound up with the well-being of every other species.
We best honor Luke, our saint, when we live our lives like we know this. We are most faithful to Jesus, our teacher and our savior, when we live our lives like we know this.
When we let ourselves feel the devastation of those who mourn each of the 220,000 people who have died from COVID in this country.
When we look into the eyes of those pleading with us to recognize that their lives matter.
When we let ourselves soak in the beauty of this earth and know that the way we choose to live has real consequences for the environment.
So let us go forth and honor Luke and live our faith in Jesus. Let us go forth and create thriving for all. Amen.