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Receiving the Great Commission: Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist - October 18th.

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


The Collect for the Feast of Saint Luke the Physician is very encouraging. In it we learn that the Evangelist Luke was called by God to preach the Gospel. In his preaching, Luke exhorts us to be like him, active in ministry. We are to be caretakers of the soul through “the wholesome medicines of the doctrine.” The spiritual balm or salve for the individual is received through the words and deeds of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. Saint Luke makes it clear that we are also called to be and do the same thing; namely being a healer of “the diseases of our souls.”

When I reflect back over the last 20 years at Holy Cross, I recall great moments of joy, but I also see long periods of struggle. From our very inception it's been a challenge to remain hopeful that somehow we would come out a vibrant and active faith community. It's not been easy. I daresay that most of our Faith Communities have experienced the same thing. There seems to always be turmoil in finding a steady course for our parishes and missions. It feels like a hard ditch to dig ourselves out.


But I also think it's fair to say that the challenges and promises we read in the Gospel of Saint Luke offers us hope for new opportunities especially if we preach the repentance and remission of sins to all the nations (Luke 24:47). Saint Luke tells us that we are to bear the Good News of Jesus Christ to the World as His Witnesses, and as Evangelists. We are to minister to all people, Gentiles and non-Gentiles alike, with the hope of repentance and forgiveness of sins.


Saint Luke tells us clearly that in the presence of the Apostles, Christ sent the promise of the Father, blessing them, and then immediately ascending into heaven. It's no wonder that they returned to Jerusalem with such great joy, praising and blessing God continuously.


"You are witnesses of these things". (Luke 24:48)


The Apostles, as witnesses to the Risen Christ, help us understand that through the proclamation of Jesus's Death and Resurrection there is a divine plan for the salvation of humanity. There is an invitation for all of us to repent and receive God's forgiveness for our sins , thereby acquiring the Gift of the Holy Spirit. This is incredible news! No wonder the Apostles were so happy, and no wonder they recognized the new life which flowed through their very core. Their minds were opened to understanding the scriptures (Luke 24:45f) which enabled them to be authentic witnesses to the Divine Nature of God, alive and present in the World. This is the Great Commission which began in Jerusalem.


And today that Great Commission can flow from us, no matter what our situation may be. The key to it all is that we hold to our faith, bear witness to the story the Good News of Jesus Christ and share it with the rest of the world. So, in our more pessimistic moments it is important to remember that our role has been assigned to us, and though our task may be a difficult one, it is also a simple one.

Saint Luke was an eternal optimist; there is no question about it. He saw a world that was not necessarily ready for the Good News. The Church on the other hand, though new, was in crisis. Christ as its head was going away and it needed to refocus. Many, I believe, wanted to give up and quit, and proclaim that it was all over. Fortunately, Christ's ascension was not the end of Christianity. No, it was actually more of a beginning then an ending.


I believe that in the Apostle's mind, Jesus isn't just the Messiah of Israel. Jesus is now the Lord of history and the Saviour of the entire world. It is after the Resurrection, when all the dust had settled, that Luke looked to the Church as the body of Christ alive through the power of the Holy Spirit active in the world.


"And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49)


The Holy Spirit is the great driving force. The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to continue on in our ministry. It enables us to plant that mustard seed that will, in God's time, bear fruit. It is, after all, the role of a good Apostle to plant that seed.

In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we learn that there is a great opportunity for rebirth and the promise of a glorious future. All of this is granted to us with the help of God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. And we are all to be witnesses to these things given to us by the Lord of history and the God of all people’s salvation.


"As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully." (2 Timothy 4:5)

And as we continue to work hard in our particular vineyards, we are also to take note of the words of Saint Paul in his letter to St. Timothy, when he implores believers to stay alert, watch the ways of the world and be prepared to respond. I think it's important to recognize that the writer of this Epistle knows that there are afflictions awaiting us in our ministry and that there is a price to pay for our responding to a less than favourable world. According to Saint Paul, we are expected to endure and keep on working in our ministry.


I like the way he uses the phrase “make full proof of thy ministry.” It is the evangelist’s way of saying if you talk the talk you must walk the walk. In essence, our ministry is identified by the scars that we possess. Saint Paul is explaining to us that if you truly desire to do the work of an evangelist then this is the way to carry out your ministry fully.


"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7a)

I would imagine that for many of us at this point in our ministry, be it lay or ordained, we can look back and see the long journey and articulate quite well what it has taken to get to this point. Many of us can reflect and come to the conclusion that we've done the best we can under very difficult circumstances. Could we have done better? Possibly, but thing are what they are. And like the Apostles, we can be comforted by the knowledge that we “have fought a good fight.

As for the future, I certainly hope that the course is not yet finished and our race continues. I believe that possessing and professing sound doctrine and discipline is our best way of keeping on with it. If we've done this and continue to do so, then we can truly proclaim that we “have kept the faith” .

"From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:8a)


We must not look to our particular parishes and missions as something which will reap great rewards in this lifetime. Our reward will be on another day. And because we have fought the good fight, stayed the course and kept the faith, our reward will be as Saint Paul wonderfully puts it, “the crown of righteousness”. Now I don't exactly know what this will entail, but I believe that it will be for all who have shared in the Good News of Jesus Christ; and what a glorious day that will be.


"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple blessing God." (Luke 24:50-53)


This New Life is promised to all Christians who choose to proclaim absolute fidelity to Almighty God. The New Life gives us all a chance, through our blessed Lord, to rise again. The struggles we have had in this life should no longer frighten us. Our victory is already won; we have received the Risen Christ’s blessing.


So, with this knowledge let us return to "our Jerusalem" with great joy. Let us in our chapels, churches and homes proclaim our faith and accept the Apostles challenge to be hardworking Evangelists and Healers, continually praising and blessing God.


Amen.

Published on October 15th, 2014 in The Traditional Anglican News Volume 2 Issue 10 {Revised on May 18th,2023}

© Dr. Charles Warner 2023

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