This last Sunday Morning's sermon was on St Luke. Here's what they got...
St Luke (2009)
St Luke the Evangelist…
When I lived in London, which was some time ago, there was a visit from an American Evangelist to Earls Court Arena. He was coming to bring his ‘healing ministry’ to the UK – his name was (and I assume still is) Morris Curello. London was plastered with huge posters which had pictures of abandoned wheelchairs and dropped crutches, and various medical impliments discarded in the wake of this man’s healing campaign.
There was some controversy over these posters because a number of people said they degraded those who were wheelchair bound, and in the Church there was an adverse reaction to what was derogatorily referred to as ‘Faith Healing’. Derogatory because faith healing seems more to do with the person that has such a ‘ministry’ than the God who Christians believe is the great healer, or Christ who is referred to as ‘the Wounded Healer’. And for Curello the greatest criticism levelled at him was that he emphasised the work of the Holy Spirit in performing astounding ‘tricks’ of healing at the expense of those firstly who weren’t healed and secondly of the God who we describe in Trinity.
That sets the scene for today! You may be wondering why this reference to healing ministry to begin our thoughts for this Sunday service this morning. Well, today is St Luke’s day, St Luke writer – according to tradition – of the third Gospel, St Luke who, tradition (and a late 2nd Century document) also says was a healer, a doctor. St Luke, companion of St Paul who is also patron saint of doctors and all those in the medical profession.
So I thought it worth kicking off my thoughts today on the theme of healing. Even though the writings of Luke – commonly accepted to be both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles – don’t make a particular issue of healing in themselves. They don’t show a particular bias towards healing miracles at the expense of say, parables, or other teaching, or even other miracles. It seems that to Luke healing was a wider issue, of which we will say more later!
Whilst Luke talks of Jesus healing and writes of the miracles of Jesus they always have a meaning, a depth behind them. At the start of his ministry, in Chapter Four of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus having been thrown out of the synagogue for speaking with such authority then goes on to perform an exorcism and the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law which proves that he has authority over demons and sickness. In Chapter Six of the Gospel of Luke Jesus has a debate about the Sabbath, then proceeds to heal a withered hand on the Sabbath, showing himself to be Lord of the Sabbath.
In Chapter Seven Jesus heals a centurion’s servant to show that even those outside of the Jewish people are able to share in the life of God. In Chapter 10, today’s reading, Jesus sends out disciples to preach the Gospel and heal, not as a magic trick but to show and to share the presence of the kingdom, the reign, of God.
I could go on, and often do, but the accounts of healings and miracles we have in our Gospels don’t exist for novelty or to impress people into the life of faith, but as signs of God’s work in the world.
There are arguments in the Church today about whether such miracles are still possible today, or whether they were only for what we would call the age of the apostles, the early Church. I believe they are possible and indeed happening, but I’ve not seen any, or as someone said a day or two ago on Twitter – a website I use – “I believe miracles are not only possible but happening, but I can't attest to any with confidence.”
Actually, the miracles we see day to day are those we take for granted. The health and healing that comes through the skills of our medical staff, doctors and surgeons. The freedom from depression and loneliness that comes from love and support given by both professionals and communities. The everyday miracles of generosity and grace and love and faith that take place in a thousand unseen ways in our parishes and in towns and villages and remote places in our land and throughout the world.
And I believe healing is not just about feeling better, or having a miraculous experience, God’s healing as well as coming about through the work of inspired medical practitioners can take place at the deepest level. I have seen people healed of their fears and bereavements and brokenness through prayer and through the love of Christ. People may not necessarily get better, but that doesn’t mean that their brokenness is not healed, or being healed. And in some cases I have seen people embrace death as healing, longing to meet God and to let go of the pain and suffering that comes from sickness and disease.
We confuse healing at its deepest level with the spectacle of the Morris Curello’s of this world. God is at work beyond the brokenness of our bodies and though there may be times that he does act in an obvious and visible way God is at work constantly in many ways we cannot see. In our healing services here in the Five Alive Mission Community we would welcome God choosing to act miraculously and spectacularly, but most of us know God to be infinitely more subtle and gracious than that.
So on this St Luke’s day we give thanks for the one who shared the story of the greatest healing of all, the healing of all creation in Jesus Christ, in his death and resurrection. As Christ has restored us to the fullness of a relationship with God our loving heavenly father and as he has brought us new life through his own suffering and new life, we give thanks that he continues to work in us is more ways than we can imagine or fully know.
And we give thanks that for St Luke his concern was to share the good news with us, to let people know about Jesus and to inspire us to do the same. And we can do that in all sorts of ways – they may not be spectacular, they may be subtle, they may feel understated or even ineffective, but every act of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy that we perform through the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit is another way in which Christ is made known and in which the kingdom of God is made real in, through, because of and for us.
May we be those who continue to know God’s healing in myriad ways, and may we know the love of the wounded healer Jesus Christ, and may we share that healing with those we meet, and live with, and whose lives we touch. Amen.