Sermon for Sunday October 20th, 2019, the Festival of St. Luke the Evangelist and Patron Saint of St. Luke’s Chapel in the Hills
The Lessons: Psalm 147:1-7; Ecclesiasticus 38:1-14; 2 Timothy 4:5-13;
The Text: Psalm 147:3
The Topic: Healing the broken-hearted
Today, as we celebrate the Festival of St. Luke the Evangelist, our patron saint, we give thanks to God for the healing ministry given to St. Luke and to the whole Church, a ministry which is highlighted in the vision statement of our Parish. This vision statement on our church website includes this statement:
We are here for those who are hurt or wearied by what has happened in their church or with their faith.
Two needs for healing seem to be mentioned here – people who are hurt by sin in the church, and people who, for one reason or another, have suffered some kind of weakening, breakdown, or loss of faith.
How is our Church a means of ministering this kind of healing? Our vision statement also refers to the church as a hospital for the soul. Where does this concept originate? St. John Chrysostom wrote of the church as a spiritual hospital:
For indeed the school of the Church is an admirable surgery, a surgery not for bodies, but for souls. For it is spiritual, and sets right, not fleshly wounds, but errors of the mind, and of these errors and wounds, the medicine is the word.
(St. John Chrysostom: Homily Against Publishing the Errors of the Brethren)
THE EXAMPLE OF ST. LUKE THE EVANGELIST
St. Luke the Evangelist sets us a noble example of the healing ministry, in that he was both a physician and the Evangelist who recorded the third Gospel and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. In these ways he showed us the value of healing through medicines as well as the supreme value of healing through the Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of healing that comes by receiving Christ through hearing the preaching of the Gospel. In his Gospel account and in the Book of Acts he also bears testimony to the supernatural healing gifts and graces that Christ has given the Church through the miracles wrought by the Apostles and others such as St. Stephen and St. Philip. He even demonstrates that these miracles and healings confirmed the power of God’s word to save souls.
PSALM 147:3 – GOD HEALS THE BROKEN-HEARTED
In today’s Psalter reading from Psalm 147, we find the statement that God heals the broken in heart and gives medicine to heal their sickness (Ps. 147:3). In the Hebrew, and in the Septuagint and Vulgate translations of this verse, the idea expressed in brokenness of heart is a complete crushing, affliction. God heals all such people who come to him for healing, and gives them the medicine that they need. If we think of our Church as a hospital for healing, then the principal medicines given here are the word of God and the sacraments. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism unites us with the Great Healer and Physician of our souls, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Sacrament of Holy Communion refreshes and strengthens the union we already have with the Lord Jesus Christ, and heals our souls.
To the Lord Jesus Christ we must all come daily for the refreshment, healing, and forgiveness that He alone can give, and this healing is often a gradual process, as this story illustrates:
A traveler was making his way with a guide through the jungles of Burma. They came to a shallow, wide river and waded through it to the other side. When the traveler came out of the river, numerous leeches were on his torso and legs. His first instinct was to grab them and pull them off.
This guide stopped him, warning that doing so would leave tiny pieces of the leeches under the skin. Eventually, infection would set in. The best way to rid the body of the leeches, the guide advised, was to bathe in a warm balsam bath for several minutes. This would calm the leeches, and soon they would release their hold on the man’s body.
Likewise, when I’ve been hurt by another person, I cannot simply yank the injury from myself and expect that all bitterness, malice, and emotion will be gone. Resentment still hides under the surface. The only way to become truly free of the offense and to forgive others is to bathe in the soothing bath of God’s forgiveness.
When I finally fathom the extent of God’s love in Jesus Christ, forgiveness of others will follow.
— Gary Preston, Character Forged
from Conflict (Bethany, 1999)
Each of us must come to the Lord Jesus Christ for this healing, if we are to be effective instruments of His healing for others.
HOW CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE BEARERS OF CHRIST’S HEALING GRACE
Now if the Church is to be effective as a hospital for souls, its members must reach out to one another and to everyone with the love of Christ. Our vision statement emphasizes this point by saying that we try to welcome and accept everyone, and we reach out to others. In fact, our vision statement concludes with the idea that we must all become physicians of the soul and evangelists to everyone. This is a high calling, which requires each of us to live in close communion with the Lord Jesus Christ, abiding in Him, following Him, loving God most of all, and our neighbors as ourselves. This is important, as you can appreciate from this simple example.
Imagine a hospital in which all the staff, doctors, nurses and all the other health care workers were concerned only about what they would do after their workday had ended, and were talking continually about shopping, golf, eating out at restaurants, jogging, cycling, watching sports games, and engaging in other recreational activities. What would the patients think? Surely they would receive the impression that the hospital staff weren’t concentrating on their work or on the healing of their patients!
In conclusion, in applying this to our Church as a hospital for souls, I stress that it is extremely important that we show the love of Christ both to one another and to all who come in through our doors, and that our conversation reflects a concern for people. The priorities of our lives as well as our way of life must indicate that we are evangelists and physicians of souls.