Sermon Text: Luke Who?
2019 is the year I finally get to do a Star Wars wedding.
I’ve been a priest a long time, but this will be a first. I am scheduled to perform a number of weddings this year. And they are for people I really like. One of them involves a groom who is a big Star Wars fan. And his sweet fiancé is willing to go along. Within reason. My suggestion was for the bridal march to be the Darth Vader theme. She did reject this great idea.
Star Wars was a huge phenomenon when it first came out in 1977. My wife and I were living in Chicago, and newly married. We saw it in a giant theater with several hundred people. It was very exciting. And a whole generation grew up with these movies.
One of the main heroes, of course, was Luke Skywalker. Now, my son the pilot is named Luke. But he was not named for Luke Skywalker. Since he grew up in the early Star Wars era, kids in high school always said things to him like, “Luke, you don’t know the power of the Dark Side!” But I would always breathe like Darth Vader and quote the movie in words only I can say: “Luke, I AM your father.” Then like the movie Luke, he would scream, “NOOOO!” He also started calling me “Dork Vader.”
But my son is not named for Luke Skywalker. He is actually named for a book. He was named after the Gospel According to Luke.
I love the Gospel of Luke, almost as much as I love the Gospel of Mark. Luke was probably the only Gentile writer, the only non-Jew, whose writings are in the NT.
Jesus was a faithful Jew all his life. So were his first followers. In later years, Gentiles who became his followers needed help in understanding his Jewish background. Luke translated Jewish names and customs to help these new Gentile disciples.
This is the year we focus on Luke’s Gospel on Sundays. Luke is great. Only Luke has the parable of the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan. Only Luke tells the story of the Risen Christ on the Emmaus road. More than Matthew, Mark, or John, Luke shows us how much praying Jesus did. And more than the others, Luke makes the point that
Jesus was always concerned with the needs of the poor.
Judging by the Gospel, you can see that whoever wrote it had a compassionate heart and an interest in healing. The old tradition is that it was Luke the doctor, a friend of the apostle Paul. Maybe that’s fact, and maybe not. Doesn’t really matter.
Today’s story from Luke is about the time Jesus gave a sermon in his home town and in his home synagogue. He chose a text from the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” That word “anointed” is the same word as “Christ.”
Luke makes it clear in his Gospel that Christ’s love is universal. Christ’s love is for everybody. And he has a special place in his heart for the poor, the outcasts, the sinners, the children, and women.
I love the words of one of my favorite writers about Luke. Frederick Buechner wrote, “To put it in a nutshell, Luke shows himself to be a man who believed that if a person is jail-bait, you still treat him like a human being. And if you pray hard enough, there’s no telling what might happen. And if you think you’ve got heaven made but don’t let it worry you that there are children across the tracks who are half starving to death, then you’re kidding yourself. These characteristics may not prove that he was a doctor, like the Luke in Paul’s letter, but if he wasn’t, it was a serious loss to the medical profession.”
That’s the Luke my son is named for, not the Hollywood Luke Skywalker.
One of my favorite prayers in the Book of Common Prayer is the one for St. Luke’s Day, October 18: “Almighty God, you inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son. Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal; to the praise and glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” I have even set that prayer to music.
And here we are, all these years later, almost all of us non-Jewish followers of Jesus, just like Luke. The good news of Jesus is for us, too, according to Luke.
Back in Advent, when we heard Luke’s story of the preaching of John the Baptist, Luke used the text from Isaiah about “Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness.” The other Gospel writers use that text, too. But only Luke goes on to quote the next part:
“All flesh will see the salvation of our God.”
All flesh....Everybody....It’s for everybody. It’s for you and me, just as much as for those first Jewish Jesus people.
But that means it’s not JUST for you and me. It’s for everybody. If we are to be authentic followers of Jesus, we need to spread that love and care around, like Jesus. We need to treat everyone with respect, like Jesus. We need to have a special place in our hearts for the poor, the outcast, and the broken, like Jesus.
Luke Skywalker is a great movie hero. Luke the Evangelist is a better role model.
So today we have a checkup with Doctor Luke. And his prescription is clear. We live in Christ’s grace, and Christ’s love. We will act in grace and love toward everybody else.
And whether or not the Force will be with us, I don’t know --
but I do know Christ’s love will be with us.