Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Not Worth Waiting For


October 18 is the day we remember St. Luke, but, this year, October 18 was a Sunday, so that means we get an excuse to remember him and his witness to the gospel on Wednesday at our midweek healing Eucharist. And how appropriate is that? St. Luke the physician points us to Jesus the great physician who comes to offer us healing as we come to seek healing in his name.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul calls Luke a doctor, but we know him less for his healing arts than for his faithful witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Luke and Acts are ascribed to him--a two-volume work in which he gives us the pure poetry and magnificent reordering of the world that the reign of Jesus Christ represents. As a missionary, he stuck with Paul through thick and thin. As we read about in today's lesson from 2 Timothy, Luke was the only one left with Paul as he sat in chains and the end of his life approached. We don't know much about his work as a physician, but, as I let my imagination run, I am drawn to the thought that Luke, as a healer, understood the work and ministry and promise of Jesus in a way that I struggle to see.

There are many unique passages to Luke's gospel account: the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, the healing of the ten lepers, Jesus' birth account, Mary's Magnificat and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis. I don't know if I have a favorite, but close to the top must be today's gospel lesson, in which Jesus quotes Isaiah in the local synagogue: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives  and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." For Luke, that was the summary of Jesus' mission. For Luke, that was the focus of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection--the transformation of the poor, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. And when will all of that happen? For Luke, the answer is clear: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

The Christianity of my childhood was an experience of being stuck in the middle. Jesus came a long time ago and will come again some day, and, in the meantime, we're stuck in between remembering the past and waiting for the future. Sound familiar? As my reading and understanding the scriptures deepens, however, I discover that Christianity isn't a time stuck in the middle. It's what Luke describes. It's now. The good news of Jesus Christ is too important to put off and wait for. We need it now.

There is an immediacy to Jesus' proclamation of the good news. There is an immediacy to Luke's retelling of the promise. I wonder whether he, as a physician, was familiar with the importance of now. I wonder whether he knew what it meant to not wait until the last minute, to act without delay, to provide relief in the present, to minister to the needs of today. Imagine, if you will, a physician looking at a patient and saying, "Well, we're all going to die someday. Why bother taking care of yourself now?" That's ridiculous. Yes, the inevitability of Jesus' return to consummate all of God's promises shapes our lives here and now, but the manifestation of Jesus' transformative and healing presence in our lives isn't something we can wait for. It must be now.

Jesus came not only to initiate a new order. He came to bring it to completion--not only someday but today. We have good news for the poor. The captives are released, and the oppressed are set free. The blind are recovering their sight. This is the year of the Lord's favor, which is to say that debts are cancelled and families are reunited and forgiveness is celebrated. We cannot afford to put that off any longer. That must be the world we live in now. Stop waiting. Do something. Do anything.

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