We celebrate today the feast day of Saint Luke. Luke was a gentile, from Antioch,
educated, Greek speaking, and it is said that he was a physician. He probably was
one of Paul’s cohort missionaries in the early witness of Christianity throughout
the Roman Empire. Luke is identified as the writer of the Gospel of Luke, Acts of
the Apostles, and scholars believe that he contributed to several of Paul’s letters
particularly the letter to the Hebrews.
Luke probably had not met Jesus, but knew of him through Phillip and Peter and
the early gospel writers Matthew, Mark and other early writings. Historians
believe that Luke had direct access to several of the early disciples, and perhaps
even to Mary the mother of Jesus.
Luke was a prolific writer, contributing over 30% of the writing in the New
Testament. There are over 25 stories that would not have been known to us if
Luke had not included them in his gospel: for example the birth of Jesus foretold ,
the birth of John the Baptist, the mission of the 70, the Good Samaritan, the
parable of the rich fool, the parable of the lost coin, the parable of the lost son;
Without the Acts of the Apostles there is little we would known of the early
Church, particularly in Jerusalem.
Today’s Gospel repeats a customary reading from the Torah, a tradition dating
back to the time of Moses. Jesus stood on the bimah, a platform where the Torah
is read, with two attendants which we might know as an acolyte to assist and a
clergy person to represent the synagogue. The Torah Portion for this day was
from Isaiah chapter 61, as we heard….
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..
Jesus reading Isaiah continues….
comfort all who mourn,
rebuild the ancient ruins;
renew ruined cities,
Foreigners will stay and shepherd your sheep,
strangers will be your farmers
We will feed on the wealth of nations,
I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and dishonesty.[c]
I will faithfully give them their wage,
All who see them will recognize that they are a people blessed by the LORD.
Jesus pronounces the words of healing, justice, and resilience that God promises
in the words of Isaiah. A God of justice for all, a God who desires goodness and
mercy for all people. Isaiah made the remarkable assertion that the promise of
God to the people after the exile was not about their land or their nationhood but
specifically about the outpouring of God’s loving spirit upon the people. God’s
inclusive nature is clear as we understand the recipients of God’s justice. 4
specific groups of people receive special mention as the object of God’s love and
mercy: widows, orphans, the poor, and aliens. They constitute the powerless in
society then, and now, the widows have no husbands, the orphans no parents,
the poor no money, and the strangers no roots or relatives in the land.
Modern theologians remind us of the importance of this and related prophetic
passages: Karl Barth writes that ‘God always takes stand unconditionally on this
side against the lofty, on behalf of the lowly and against those who already enjoy
right and privilege. Reinhold Niebuhr writes that there is a bias in favor of the
poor, that justice always leans towards mercy for those lacking power. John Rawls
in Theory of Justice argues that these inequalities are to be arranged so that they
are the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, based fundamentally on the
biblical principle that God’s prophets repeatedly voice concern for the poor and
victims of injustice and oppression.
Last week Lisa introduced the brilliant work of Resmaa Menakem, My
Grandmothers Hands, specifically related to the physical and historical effects of
trauma. Resmaa writes that White Supremacy is always functioning in our
bodies… it operates in our lizard brain, it causes to fear and hate whatever the
lizard brain feels will do us harm. For non-white Americans, recipients of
hundreds of years of this racist behavior through abusive systems, structures,
institutions or culture has impacted human genetics, and the traumas are
experienced at the level of DNA.
Walter Brueggemann in his recent book Truth Speaks to Power, references the
work of Robert Lifton, physiatrist and historian, and his work on political mind
control and the genetic impact on human consciousness. Bruggemann writes:
The present concentration of power and wealth among us, the collusion of much
of the media, and the alliance of the courts make it possible to think that Lifton’s
totalizing research is ready at hand among those of us who attend to and mean to
adhere to the testimony of truth in the biblical tradition.
We are called to pivot from the healing promise and vision of Isaiah and the
prophets, through Jesus, to our personal and communal commitment today to
share power with the powerless, and to commit to healing both ourselves and our
victims of the systems and behavior of racism.
Resmaa provides us an understanding of the power of human resilience, through
his clinical observation and research:
resilience is both intrinsic and learned it is a combination of nature and nurture.
resilience manifest itself both individually and collectively. Resilience not only
comes from inside, but from those in our communities that cheer us on.
resilience is not limited to moving through a difficult time. It is more about being
and just doing.
Resilience helps us to stay grounded, it enables us to protect ourselves over time.
It is our source of curiosity, possibility and energy that moves us through the
Resilience does not require that we carry pain and trauma on our shoulders.
The reading from Sirach gives us promise, and a path to resilience…. God’s works
will never be finished; and from him health spreads over all the earth.
We are called to be workers in God’s master plan and commitment to justice,
becoming the beloved community. We are likewise called by the Holy Spirit to
keep moving, not to get stuck in our trauma but to practice resilience.
In all three of the synoptic Gospels it is written that if a people do not welcome
you, and share your peace and love, shake the dust off of our feet as a witness
against them. Now is an acceptable time for us to shake the dust of our behavior,
our sins, and our trauma and move on and practice resurrection entering the
Beloved Community promised by God in the voice of the prophets, Isaiah, Luke
I am now going to play a video of the Oregon Poet Laureate, Anis Mojgani,
reading from his poem Shake the Dust. Bishop Prior introduced this poem to me
over a decade ago, and I have come to love his poetry. Settle your hearts and
minds for a moment, and imagine Anis as a prophetic voice, perhaps speaking
from a contemporary Torah, a modern Isaiah, reminding us of God’s love,
resilience, and heart of justice.