How our world is longing for some good news! Every time I catch up on the news of the day I’m torn between hoping I’m going to hear some good news, and bracing myself for bad. There’s so much that’s wrong and broken; so much that needs healing and hope. We’re all hungry for good news that’s true, reliable and brings light into the darkness.
St Luke was the bearer of good news in his day, and we celebrate him today. Luke was the author of the third gospel and of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. He was also a doctor, a physician. Luke’s writings that have come down to us 2000 years later are all about good news and healing, wholeness, salvation. He had a story to tell that was life-changing, joyful, and it was a story that he started to tell in his gospel, and then continued in the book of Acts. None of the other three gospel writers did that: their stories all ended with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. But Luke’s story has a longer trajectory, and it reaches down through history to us.
Theologians use the term salvation history to refer to the telling of the story of God’s work in the world to heal and save it. It’s a story as long as human consciousness itself, from our first awareness of the reality of sin, injustice, deceit, violence. Our faith story, our history of salvation, tells of a God who calls us away from sin, teaches us a better way, and enters right into the world in Jesus to show us this way – the way of self-giving love that pours itself out and is willing to take on even death itself.
But our history of salvation doesn’t end there, as Luke shows us. Jesus’ death is followed by resurrection, and our experience of resurrection leads us to forgiveness and transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Luke tells the story of Pentecost, when those failed disciples who gave up on Jesus and fled are changed into courageous witnesses to the resurrection, and to God’s amazing grace. And then Luke tells how they go out into all the known world to spread that good news. That’s the story of salvation that Luke tells in his two books. He writes about the Jesus story, and he writes about the Christian story, our story. It’s healing and good news not just for back then, but for today and tomorrow as well.
It's as though Luke is saying to us, “Look, this is who Jesus is and this is what he did. And this is who the disciples were, and what they did. Now it’s up to you. You are the ones who have the good news now. You are the ones I’m telling it to, so that you can carry it forward.” God’s history of salvation continues on, and we are in the story now.
So what’s our role? Like Luke, it’s to be bearers of the good news and healing power of God. Like Luke, we have good news to tell and good news to be. And there’s more: Luke is passing on to us Jesus’ particular concern for outsiders: Gentiles, the poor, the sick, children, women. He includes material that none of the other gospels have, and he has a compassionate focus on those outsiders. (Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son, that only Luke tells.) So perhaps we too should be particularly attentive to the ones on the margins – the disregarded or despised ones, who yet are so precious in God’s sight. Luke knew that Jesus saw them and understood them and loved them, and that must be our calling too: to be good news to the people who are downtrodden; to be healers in whatever way we can.
Good news and healing: salvation and wholeness. They’re two sides of the same coin, and in Luke they come together so clearly, in this physician and evangelist. They’re also the two things we most desperately need in our world today as then. We’re living in a bizarre time of fake news, fear-based news, divisive news of wars and hatred. And, of course, we’re still in the midst of this pandemic, with the toll it’s taking on all of us in so many ways. We need God’s healing, and - thanks be to God – the healing that Luke tells us was so evident in Jesus’ ministry continues today in a vast array of people and places, from research labs to vaccine makers to family doctors to seniors’ care providers to ICU nurses to those public health officers with their unenviable job of telling us what we don’t really want to hear – that we have to make sacrifices for the good of others.
How would St Luke tell our story, the Gospel of St Aidan’s in the Beach, as we try to follow Jesus? Do we still proclaim the greatness of the Lord, as Mary did in her Magnificat? Are we filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, as Jesus was and the Pentecost disciples were? Do we run to embrace the prodigal, the one who squandered everything and turned back to start over again? Do we work to bring freedom to the oppressed? – the Black lives and Indigenous lives that have been treated so poorly? Do we consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and learn to see God through them?
Good news and healing. It was St Luke’s work, and he gave us the salvation story in his gospel and in Acts. And it’s our work today, here and now.