A Life Lived for the Gospel
A Homily for St. Luke the Evangelist Day
October 18, 2020
All St. Anglican Church, Prescott AZ
Text: Luke 10:1-6
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
I think there’s an internal urge in many people, especially in our present age, to want to be someone, to be known, to make a significant difference in the world. I have talked to many people who “want to do something big” for the world, who want to leave their impact and legacy.
Social media has made this urge all the stronger. We want everyone to like our photos, to say pithy or uplifting things to us.
We wonder – how will I make my mark on the world? Will I be noticed?
We want to have a big impact.
But what if I told you, it’s okay not to make a big impact that will be remembered for generations?
What if I told you it is better to do Christian good where you are, to Love God with your whole being, and love your neighbor who resides in the house next to you with diligence?
What if the whole church committed herself to these two tasks instead of everyone building their personal brand?
This morning is the Feast of St. Luke – this morning we remember the life of St. Luke and give thanks for his ministry as an example to us.
But why do we remember the saints? How do we apply their lives to our simple lives?
We diligently remember saints – for the simple reason that they lived faithfully as redeemed sinners, who the Lord used to do great things. In seeing their lives burning for Christ – we are reminded that God can use the unexpected, the unusual, the lowly, and the humble to gloriously build his kingdom.
He can use sinners who have broken down and have nowhere else to go but to God – to lift up the whole church.
We remember the saints – because they encourage us, and their lives and ministries continue to lift us up. We remember the saints – not because they call us to perfection – but because they show us how God can use us in our imperfection.
We don’t know a ton about St. Luke, but here is what we do know.
He was a physician and well educated, even if St. Paul hadn’t attest to the fact that he was trained in medicine, we would know that he is quite intelligent from the grammatical style of his Gospel account and the Acts of the Apostles which he also wrote. Furthermore, the books he wrote are methodological histories of their time, mimicking other histories.
We know that St. Luke was a traveling partner and co-laborer with St. Paul. We see St. Paul refer to him from time to time, and even in the Acts of the Apostles he occasionally use the first person, imply that he is with people, traveling, risking his life for the sake of the gospel.
Beyond that, not much can be said for certain, but we know that he found the gospel so attractive that he was willing to leave behind his life – whether it was that of an indentured physician caring for an affluent family or physician who was well off. He risked his life with so many others for the sake of the gospel, he stepped out into the world where death was a real possibility.
St. Luke was devoted to His call to be an evangelist and seemed to work tirelessly in order that others would know that the kingdom of heaven had in fact come into the world.
While it is less likely that any of us will be remembered like St. Luke – but that does not diminish our gospel call, it does not diminish our call to let our light shine before all, it does not mean that our impact for the sake of the kingdom of heaven will be any less.
At the center of what we learn from St. Luke is that our calling is to place the ministry of the Gospel at the center of our lives. We are called to make Christ know – to let Christ convert our heart, to let the Holy Spirit conform our hearts to the will of God, and then to go out – to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. To preach – repent and believe for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Each Christian – significant and insignificant is called to let our little light shine in this world, to bring hope to the dying.
This morning, in contrast to St. Luke, who we know a little bit about, we read of the 72. 72 anonymous people who had the same call as our saint.
There are various theories as to why there are 72, or in some translations 70. Some have hypothesized that this is an echo of the Old Testament when 70 or so nations were cited – and so we are reminded that the gospel is for every nation – that the gospel is for all people.
Others just think that this was a historic detail.
Regardless of whether St. Luke had intended that we get a more significant reading from this – we know that 70 or so went out to prepare the way – we know that they attended to their calling and were obedient to Christ. So, let us attend to the more important thing which is the nature of their calling.
For unlike St. Luke, unlike the apostles, unlike the church fathers, the reformers, and some famous modern teachers – it is unlikely that we will be remembered, but that does not make our calling any less significant, that does not mean that we are any less called to proclaim the gospel.
It is from these unknown 72 that we can learn the nature of our calling – the same calling which St. Luke fulfilled.
First, they were called to go in pairs – there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. You cannot survive as a Christian without being in communion with your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are built up, encouraged, and pushed along in our calling, as our brothers and sisters walk with us.
We are reminded how critical it is that we continue in our Christian communities, that we encourage one another, that we confess our sins, that we work to live in harmony and love with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We learn to love better – not when our communities are perfect – but when we learn to forgive, and care in each other’s imperfections.
There is a story of a pastor who grew concerned about a family who he had not seen in church. In talking with them they seemed fine – but still he couldn’t seem to coax them back. One night he visited them. They had a warm fire going in the fire place.
The pastor walked up and took a coal out of the fire and set it upon the hearth.
For awhile the coal burned bright – the coal shone red like the rest of the embers, but slowly it dimmed, and eventually grew cold.
The message was clear – we cannot burn bright – we cannot be alight for Christ if we are removed from the fire – if we are removed from the church.
We need to be in communion with our brothers and sisters.
We need each other to press on.
Next – we are reminded that the Lord is always at work, the 72 would have gone out to at least 36 different communities, which shows us how busy Jesus was, yet, the Lord never grows weary, the Lord has more than enough ability to be there for us, and for the whole world.
So often, especially amidst our struggles we wonder “what are you doing Lord?”
Perhaps we’ve read the statistics of declining membership at churches in our country.
Perhaps we’ve seen churches died or drift away from their doctrinal core.
Some of us have, perhaps, even been parts of churches, or had to deliver the bad news that it was time for a church to close.
Amidst all this, we may wonder – is the Lord working?
Meanwhile, around the world, it would seem there is a revival happening, in Islamic countries, in Southeast Asia, it seems that the church is growing in leaps and bounds.
We may not see it or know what the Lord is doing right now – but the Lord is working in this world, the Lord never tires.
Finally, we are reminded that our calling to proclaim the kingdom of heaven does not depend upon us, we are merely called to obedience to our Lord, called to follow him, have confidence in Him, but it is the Holy Spirit that converts, it is the Lord who does the work.
So what is the nature of our calling?
The other day, I had a great conversation with another Christian leaders in our community. Afterwards, I felt totally overwhelmed by all that we had talked about and I wondered how I could ever do the things that it seemed the Lord was setting before me.
I wonder if after hearing Christ’s charge these 72 became frightened, I wonder if they thought “how could I ever do that?” or perhaps “this is too much for me.”
Even the simple call of loving our neighbor authentically, and in their messiness and our messiness can feel overwhelming and we can be prone to make excuses.
But Christ’s first charge is simple:
My friends – do not underestimate the power of prayer.
With this call to pray – Bishop Ryle wrote:
Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. It is a means within the reach of all who have the Spirit of adoption. Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts, or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel,—and they ought to pray for it daily. Many and marvellous are the answers to prayer which are recorded for our learning in the Bible. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16.)
Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:4.) He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication. (Eph. 6:17, 18.) This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work. Colleges may educate men. Bishops may ordain them. Patrons may give them livings. But God alone can raise up and send forth “laborers” who will do work among souls. For a constant supply of such laborers let us daily pray.
Prayer is so critical – that if we do not start our Christian endeavors with prayer, if we do not start any endeavor with prayer – the tasks we are called to with be to no real affect. Prayer is central to our efforts.
But my friends, here’s the other thing – anyone can pray.
The smallest child, to the most elderly person – prayer is a great equalizer – the elderly woman who has nothing else to give can pray just as affectively as me – maybe even more so. The prayers of a small child are as sweet to the Lord as the prayers of the most experienced saint.
For prayer calls us to humility, prayer calls us to total dependence upon the Lord, prayer means that my earthly strength does not matter – but my dependence upon the Lord opens the door for prayer to be all the more beautiful.
In the words of St. Paul, our calling is that we would pray always, pray without ceasing.
Our calling – is that we would offer every moment of our lives to the Lord in prayer.
But obedience to God is not without risk – we have just been reminded that prayer requires meekness, requires humility, requires that we join Christ in His lowliness. Our call as Christians is to become meek so we can abide in Christ’s strength.
Yet if we become meek in the eyes of the world– if we become humble – we become as innocent lambs, lambs who in no way can defend ourselves and Christ sends us into the world, it can feel as though in our meekness we have been sent among wolves.
And we may wonder Is he a cruel God?
Is this an absurd calling?
Or do we believe that we serve the good shepherd?
The 23 Psalm reminds us of this beautiful truth – that the Lord is our shepherd – we will be asked to go amongst wolves, we will be asked to go into risk, our good shepherd may bring us through scary places
– but God is not cruel,
the calling is not absurd,
while the calling is not safe
– the calling is good.
And so, though we going into this dangerous world, though we find the devil has his sight on us, though all of this can feel huge and scary – we are called to trust this good shepherd, for in Him do we have our assurance.
So, we go into the world as Christ’s faithful witnesses, armed with prayer, and trusting the good shepherd, trusting that he will be our good guide.
Elsewhere, we are reminded that we are called to prudence, in fact we learn that prudence is a Christian virtue, but this prudence must go hand in hand with total dependence upon the Lord.
The 72 were sent out with no money, no possessions, not even extra footwear.
So, yes – be sure to be wise with all you have – but be sure that your dependence is upon God – not upon anything else.
I know that I have talked about this many times – but a wise question to ask yourself over and over and over again is whether there is anything that you depend upon, other than the Lord. Are there places you need to trust the Lord more?
Finally, Christ calls us to wholehearted attention to whatever he has called us to.
Christ exhorts the 72 to not even greet anyone on the road.
Some commentators posit that this is because middle-eastern greetings could be long events, but we should be reminded from this that we focus on the Lord – focus on what he has called to and not waver in that task.
Our calling is the same calling as the 72, the Lord calls them to bring peace. To bring the peace of knowing we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
But here we should note that the Lord makes clear not to let it bother us whether we are heard or not. Rather – simply preach the good news of the peace we know in Christ. It is not up to us as to whether we are affective, rather it is the working of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit that converts heart – and so we simply say – peace be upon this house and the Lord does the rest.
If we remain faithful – the Lord will do the work.
St. Luke did not endeavor to bring attention to himself, did not to promote himself – but endeavored to make Christ known, to leave us with an historical account of who Christ was, so that those who loved God would know Him all the more intimately.
Our calling, likewise, is to be witnesses, to reflect the kingdom of heaven in this world. Our calling is not to bring attention to ourselves, but to prayerfully venture into the world, as meek lambs – trusting in our shepherd, and making Christ known.
So, we dwell in the Lord’s perfect love – we dwell in that love that drives out fear – living to His glory and not our own.
So, let us be devoted to prayer, live in the meekness that allows us to trust the Lord, and trust him whole heartedly.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.