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The Venerable Paul Slater: St Luke’s tide

St Luke’s tide

This weekend is St. Luke’s tide …. The feast of St. Luke being 18 October.

Luke is, of course, one of the evangelists whose account, whose gospel, made it into the New Testament when the books to be included in the New Testament were settled in the fourth century.  Other gospels such as the gospel of Thomas did not make it.

It is probably also true that Luke wrote the book we know as the Acts of the Apostles, the account in the New Testament of the spread of the early church in the Mediterranean basin, including Paul’s missionary journeys.  Luke’s gospel and Acts are very close in terms of style and vocabulary and both are addressed to, or dedicated to the same named person: Theophilus.

Whereas much of the New Testament was written with a specific local Christian community in mind … to be read at public worship when Christians gathered together, Luke-Acts, as it is sometimes known, seems to be the first, more general, reasoned defence of Christianity …. an apologia written after Christians had come to have a very precarious existence in the Roman world …. following the persecution by Emperor Nero….

The passage we had from Matthew as our gospel today has a parallel in Luke ….. the case is being made by Jesus that it is possible to live a good life as a Jew alongside keeping Roman law.  In Acts much is made of St. Paul’s Roman citizenry .… Christians are not just a band of lawless nutcases, so the argument goes, but responsible people in Jewish society.

Because Luke tends to use quite a lot of medical terminology, it has been assumed that he was a doctor – he is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons.  In fact, he uses no more medical terms than any other writer of literature in the time  of the 1st century …. Luke was certainly well educated and is adept at writing in a number of different styles of Greek …. classical, poetical as well as a more down to earth style.

What was Luke’s particular ‘take’ on Christianity?  Well, he was more interested in people than ideas …. There is a prominent place for women in the gospel of Luke and also in Acts …. Luke had a lively social conscience …. The parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son are both unique to Luke’s gospel – not found in any of the other gospels we have – a warm affectionate heart comes through  …. And Luke was clear that Christian faith was a universal faith – not limited to those who has previously held to the Jewish faith …. he believed that all men and women could have their dignity as children of God restored to them by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.  His gospel is littered with people who were often regarded by the then society as beyond the pale – who as a result of meeting Jesus completely changed their life style and life ….

One could well imagine Luke, in our day, writing the more generous paragraphs of the document which has been debated by RC bishops this week on receiving remarried Catholics to Communion and welcoming men and women with homosexual tendencies with respect and with sensitivity ….

At the heart of Luke’s gospel is an incredibly generous welcome of people ….  It’s an engaging message of God’s grace offered to all …. which we are called to live out in our everyday lives and as a church in this place ….