Fr David's sermon
17th October 2004
Remember the BT advert of a few years ago. Maureen Lipman played the mum who was impressed that her daughter had an '...ology.' Presumably she was impressed that her daughter had a degree even if she had little understanding of what the subject was really about. The point was that it sounded impressive.
I'm sure we've all had a similar experience when asking someone what he or she was studying. Their answer can be a conversation stopper. Behind this is the fact that in our society learning and knowledge are fragmented. We are expected to know more and more about a very little and therefore often very little about anything else. Just occasionally we come across someone who bucks the trend. Broadly and well educated they are good at many things. They cross the divide between art and science. They may be good at sport too. Admiringly we describe them as a 'renaissance man.'
St. Luke whose praise is in the gospel and whose feast day is tomorrow was such a man. (We'll have to forgive him for not sending a St. Luke's summer this year.) As well as being a gospel writer with an historical concern he is also remembered as a physician. The tradition also tells us that he was an artist who painted a portrait of the Blessed Virgin.
The Collect for St. Luke refers to the wholesome medicine of the gospel. It suggests the proper Christian concern for wholeness of body mind and spirit that is itself a definition of the word salvation. The high middle ages knew no such modern fragmentation. You'll remember how Bishop Christopher showed us slides of the famous judgement that hangs as an altarpiece in the hospital in Beaune in Burgundy. The physical and spiritual needs of the sick and the dying were cared for together.
We are reminded that the Church was once the primary agent of education, health and social care in society. It was also the leading patron of the arts. The western tradition of art grew out of the Christian faith that provided its first great subject matter. Only later through the Reformation and the Enlightenment came the fragmentation that we are now familiar with together with the disease of alienation.
St. Luke is the patron saint of a view of reality that acts as a foil to the claims of post-modernity. We can see this when we identify the concerns of his Gospel, the Gospel we have been reading this year.
By picking out the main features of St. Luke's Gospel, we can see his relevance for today's world with its competing truth claims and suffering resulting from rival religious fundamentalisms. In a world of poverty and disease he speaks with compassion and hope. He reminds us of the wonderful richness of humanity to be valued and celebrated as the creation of a loving God and redeemer.
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