Sermon for the Festival of St. Luke the Evangelist on Sunday October 18th, 2015
Ecclesiasticus 38:1-4, 6-10, 12-14; Psalm 147:1-7; 2 Timothy 4:5-13; Luke 4:14-21
Text: Luke 4:14-21
Theme: The healing ministry of the Holy Spirit
One of the most famous musicians of the nineteenth century was a Norwegian violinist named Ole Bull [Ola Bulle] (1810-1880). He was a composer and artist of amazing skill who toured Europe and America with enormous success. During his lifetime, he was the world’s most renowned violinist.
But he wasn’t known by everyone. One day while traveling in the forests of Europe, he became lost and in the dark of night stumbled upon a log hut, the home of a hermit. The old man took him in, fed and warmed him, and after supper they sat in front of a blazing fireplace and the old hermit picked some crude tunes on his screechy, battered violin.
“Do you think I could play on that?” asked Ole Bull.
“I don’t think so,” replied the hermit. “It took me years to learn.”
Ole Bull replied, “Let me try.” Taking the old marred violin, he drew the bow across the strings and suddenly the hermit’s hut was filled with music so beautiful the hermit sobbed like a child.
We are battered instruments, in need of repair and tuning, but if we allow the Master to take us, touch and heal us, He will bring from these instruments the beautiful music of lives that resonate with God’s grace and love.
(p. 415, Robert J. Morgan: Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Illustrations, 2007)
ST. LUKE A WITNESS TO THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Today we celebrate St. Luke the Evangelist, our patron saint, and the writer of the third Gospel and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. From St. Paul’s reference to him as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) we know St. Luke was also a doctor by profession. He is the patron saint of all who are health workers or members of the medical profession, as well as of artists, writers and historians. When we consider the Christian doctrine that St. Luke has passed on to all who read his works, we realize the importance of the Holy Spirit and his grace and power at work in saving lives through the preaching of the Gospel and through the healing ministry of the Church. An instance of this is that St. Luke writes that Jesus was “full of the Holy Ghost” as he returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert (Luke 4:1). After the temptations which he successfully resisted, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee. St. Luke shows later that this same power of the Holy Spirit has been given to Christians, when he records Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8, “And ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Jesus is the Son of God, and supremely filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, but He and God the Father have given this power of the Holy Spirit to the Church for all generations.
THE PURPOSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
If we want to know the purpose of the Church today, and of our own Parish of St. Luke, we must know and understand the purpose of Jesus Christ in being sent by the Holy Spirit to carry out a mission on earth. So profoundly has the concept of mission affected the world, that even companies and business organizations have mission statements describing their business purposes. The Lord Jesus Christ’s concept of his own mission on earth is based on the prophetic words of Isaiah 61:1-2.
The first purpose of the Holy Spirit at work through Jesus Christ is to preach the gospel, or the good news, to the poor. This Good News is that everyone can belong to God’s kingdom and receive eternal life by turning away from living a sinful life, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and following His teaching.
Since the Church has been given the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church must also be first to preach the Gospel. To whom must the Gospel be preached? The Book of Acts predicts that it will be preached to everyone in the world; yet this Gospel is for the poor. John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage, interprets the poor to be all who know their need of the Gospel and of the Lord Jesus Christ and come seeking His presence in their need:
We are reminded…that we cannot enjoy those benefits which Christ bestows, in any other manner, than by being humbled under a deep conviction of our distresses, and by coming, as hungry souls, to seek him as our deliverer: for all who swell with pride, and do not groan under their captivity, nor are displeased with their blindness, lend a deaf ear to this prediction, and treat it with contempt.
(John Calvin: Commentary on a Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Luke 4:14-22)
By coming to Christ, and by continually knowing our need of God, we show that we are among those who are called “the poor in spirit.” By receiving the preaching and teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, we shall satisfy our hunger and thirst for the righteousness of God’s kingdom, and be filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit for our own mission of telling the Good News, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The preaching of the Gospel enjoys the priority in Christ’s mission to the world, since God’s word is the supreme guide for life.
Secondly, the healing ministry of the Holy Spirit is a priority in Jesus’ ministry. We see plentiful evidence of it in all his miracles of healing, including the raising of dead people to life (for example, the raising of Lazarus to life in John 11, and the widow of Nain’s son in Luke 7:11-16). The words of Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1 speak of binding up or healing the brokenhearted. God’s concern for the broken in heart is shown also in Psalm 147:3: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds,” and in Revelation 22:2, where God’s permanent provision for healing for the nations lies in the leaves of the tree of life in the new Jerusalem of heaven. Healing is a very comprehensive word, applying not only to the body, but to the mind, soul and spirit. The phrase “gifts of healing” in 1 Corinthians 12:9 is also an indicator of the varieties of healing gifts given by the Holy Spirit to the Church. In view of this, we should all pray that we may be “channels of Christ’s peace” and instruments of grace in the healing of our fellow human beings. The ministry of healing is vital to the Church and to the world. We see much of it happening through medicine and surgery, but not enough of it supernaturally through the faithful prayers of the Church.
But here is more to Christ’s mission than preaching the Gospel and healing the brokenhearted and the sick. There is also the proclamation of deliverance to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind and the setting free of the oppressed. Christ came to set captives free. Anyone who is a captive to anything can be set free by the power of Christ. The ministry of exorcism, or casting out of demons, has been a part of the Church’s ministry from the beginning, though often misunderstood. In the longer ending of St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus prophesied, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils…they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17-18). Oppression by demons is not that something that a Christian should have to live with on earth. There is the hope that in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, demons can be driven away, and their hold over people broken forever.
But none of all this happens when Christians have no zeal, no perseverance in prayer, no faith, no eagerness to meet with the faithful, no reading and study of God’s word, and no repentance in their lives.
For us all to be instruments of God’s healing grace and life in this crooked world, we must be walking with the Lord, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Will you do all in your power to draw close to God by a repentant life, by faith, by prayer, by study of the Bible and by obedience to the Holy Spirit in all things?