St. Luke Sunday - Healing now, salvation to come
The Lord will heal the blind and deaf
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
Luke 1:1-4; 24:44-53
[Luke writes:] 1Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
[Before he ascended, Jesus said to the disciples and their companions:] “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
This weekend in worship we are taking a little break from ordinary-time-as-usual, and we are instead celebrating the commemoration of St. Luke, whose feast day is this upcoming Wednesday.
According to history and tradition, Luke is three important things:
- He is an evangelist, the one to whom we ascribe authorship of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts.
- He is an historian, who was concerned in his writings to provide an orderly and, to the best of his ability, accurate account of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the church.
- Tradition also tells us that Luke was a physician, according to a reference in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Luke uses more medical terminology in his gospel than any other gospel writer, and terminology accurate to his day, comparing his gospel to other medical document of the same time.
Luke is decidedly concerned with showing how Jesus is healing and good news for all people; insiders and outsiders, and, especially, that Jesus is good news for those who are most often found at the margins: the poor, the powerless, the captive, the sick and the injured, those living under oppression, women and widows, Samaritans, tax collectors and beggars and repentant thieves.
When Jesus begins his public ministry in Luke, he does so in the temple, where he is reading from the scroll of Isaiah. He uses the words of the prophet to publicly declare that the Spirit of the Lord has been poured out upon him in abundance, and that healing and wholeness fulfilled on earth through him, for all people and all creation.
The prophet Isaiah, whom Jesus quotes, is a prophet who declares God’s judgement, as prophets do. Isaiah is also a prophet, more than any other of the prophets, who paints an extensive picture of God’s healing, reconciliation, and salvation, for God’s people, for all people, and for the entire created order.
This is what we heard in our first reading today. Isaiah proclaims God’s promises of healing for the blind and the deaf and the suffering in body. Isaiah also proclaims God’s promises of restoration for parched wilderness places, thirsty lands waiting to grow and flourish once again.
Our world is in a peculiar state of turmoil right now. We are a world at war, a nation divided, an earth groaning under the weight of our use and misuse. We watch loved ones struggle with long illnesses, and we feel pain in our own bones; we struggle with anxiety and depression, we marvel at modern medicine even as we wait in hospital rooms with those recovering too slowly from surgery, and sit with those awaiting test results, and hold vigil alongside worn-out bodies who long for a death that has not yet come to meet them.
In a world that needs healing from so many things, it is our greatest comfort that Jesus promises us an expansive vision of healing, for us and for all creation.
In the gospels, Jesus makes a point of healing those who have suffered under the hands of others who have tried to heal them and failed. Jesus seeks out those who cannot afford healing.
But for Jesus, healing is bigger than bodies. Jesus also restores people to the community. He mends relationships. He works to heal injustice and to bring compassion to the politics of his day. He nurses back to health the spiritual and emotional wounds of being marginalized and oppressed.
The healing Jesus brings is a two-part promise.
The promise of healing now.
And the promise of salvation to come.
These are the two things that we hold in tension in this life. We see gifts of healing all around us. But we also see all of the places that still long for healing, and we know the grief of all of the prayers for healing that seem to have gone unanswered.
We see glimpses of healing now, but we cling to a future picture of a world fully renewed, where healing springs up like waters in the desert to the vulnerable, the powerless, the thirsty, and the forlorn.
As we live in this waiting space, between hope for healing now and promise of healing in the future, Jesus promises us his soothing and strengthening presence, each and every day, for the long haul..
Wherever there is yet suffering, wherever humans are yet terrible to one another, wherever our creation groans, wherever there is pain, wherever we weep, wherever we pull the covers over our heads because we can’t face the day, in all of these places, Jesus walks with us.
Jesus’s presence in our sufferings is balm for our souls, even while we wait to be healed. Even while we wait for our world to be restored.
Jesus assures you, that when you feel most broken in pieces, that you are whole and beloved in God’s sight. And not that you will be beloved in God’s sight only after you aren’t sick anymore, and not that you will be whole only after your spirit and the world are at peace. But that even in the middle of your human condition, and even in the middle of the condition of our world, God loves you, and you are whole and well in the sight of the one who created you.
And so this day and all days, my siblings in Christ, we pray for many things as we pray for the healing of the world..
We pray for miracles of healing. And we pray that God would grant us the audacity to believe that miracles can and do happen, that God can and does break into our world, with gifts of unexpected grace and healing.
But we also pray for strength. And peace. And for God’s Spirit to remain with us in all of our waiting times, when healing seems slow or impossible.
And we pray for patience and for hope, clinging to that day when all things will be made new, when salvation will come to us, and life everlasting, when there will be no more crying or pain or death, for Christ will be all in all, our light everlasting, our tree of life, our new creation forever and ever.
And until that day, take heart. Be soothed and comforted and encouraged by this good news: Jesus is with you. Even as you wait for healing, Christ is with you. And he will neither leave you nor forsake you. You are not alone. You are not without hope. You are being healed.
Thanks be to God.