October 12, 2020
Healer of our ev'ry ill,
light of each tomorrow,
give us peace beyond our fear,
and hope beyond our sorrow.
You who know our fears and sadness,
grace us with your peace and gladness;
Spirit of all comfort, fill our hearts. Refrain
[Evangelical Lutheran Worship #612]
The readings for Sunday, October 18, 2020, the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
I'm going to deviate a little from our lectionary this week to talk about Luke.
Sunday, October 18, the Church commemorates Luke, identified as the author of both Luke and Acts. However, when a festival day falls on a Sunday, the lectionary suggests transferring it to Monday so as not to conflict with the Sunday readings. Thankfully, some congregations go ahead and celebrate the commemoration.
The feast day focuses on the fact that Luke was a physician (Colossians 4:14) and a companion of the apostle Paul.
It is traditional on this festival day to emphasize the church's ministry of healing by showing concern for hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, nurses, and all those in the health care profession. Many churches observe the feast day by holding a service of healing with the laying on of hands and anointing. The COVID-19 pandemic makes this year a most appropriate time to do so, within the limitations of avoiding the laying on of hands.
For the past six months or so, we have been doing everything to avoid putting ourselves in harm's way, taking all the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the disease. So we wear masks, and avoid contact with people who we suspect to be infected. We scrub down everything. We quarantine people who have shown symptoms of the illness or have been in the presence of someone who has.
As in all instances of a major health crisis, there are also those who have resisted. I mentioned last week how some congregations have experienced conflict over the restrictions that have been put in place. It isn't unusual during a time of a public health crisis to observe those who express ugly attitudes toward their pastor or their fellow church members.
Lamentably, in this election year the illness has been politicized, creating even more division in our society. I torture myself sometime by reading the comments from people's comments online and in social media. And the things they say are often sinful. There's no other way to put it.
So on this upcoming festival of St. Luke, we would do well to focus not only on the ministry of healing, but also on the comfort and the strength that come through the presence of God in our lives, especially in times of suffering.
There are two stories in the gospel of Luke that are not found in any of the other gospels - that of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.
In the Good Samaritan Luke invites us to see our Lord in the face of the other, the wounded one in the ditch. To consider that perhaps it is we who are placed here to be the ones who put bandages and ointments on those who are wounded and carry them to safety. Or that maybe, just maybe, we are the guy in the ditch in need of the comfort of Jesus' healing presence. And Jesus comes to us in the form of someone unexpected. Someone from whom we would never accept help under other circumstances.
In the Prodigal Son we understand the limitlessness of the grace of God, transformative and welcoming even when we wander so far away that we can't think of a way home. We find ourselves wrapped in the arms of a God who runs down the road and embraces us, welcoming us home without our doing anything.
Luke is also the one who tells us that our Lord Jesus, at his very death, asked forgiveness for those who hated him, rejected him, killed him. Who in one moment demonstrated the depth of God's love for us and for the world, a love which has no end. Not even death can stop it. And certainly not our sinfulness or waywardness or even our rejection of God.
The Good News is that we know who the true Healer is. It is Jesus Christ - the Son of God who has come to restore all things. And who knows each of us. God's promise is to be with us in all our suffering, to strengthen and keep us, and to bring us to new life. And in that promise we find life - even if our other circumstances seem slow to change, or don't seem to change at all.
So whether your congregation recognizes this festival on Sunday or not, it is fitting that we honor the health care workers at some point, whether on the festival of St. Luke or some other day, for the worshipful work that they do in Jesus' name.
Thanks to Luke we know we are in the hands of a God who welcomes us home, feeds us with a feast of life, and clothes us in grace. This is life into which we have been called. May Jesus be the subject of all we say and do and may we live in his love and life now and forever.
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
Monday: Staff Meeting
Ohio Faith Leaders Prayer Gathering
Tuesday: NEOS Conference Deans monthly meeting.
Wednesday: Worship Committee
Thursday: Conference of Bishops weekly Check-In
Saturday: Synod Council
The next Northeastern Ohio Synod Rostered Ministers Monthly Gathering will be Wednesday, November 4, 2020, beginning at 10 a.m. Please email the synod office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact your conference Dean for the link.
Because of our Synod Council meeting on Saturday, the Lutheran Center offices will be closed on Monday, October 19. Therefore, the next edition of Musings will publish on Tuesday of next week.
As I mentioned last week, I will be bringing Monday Musings to an end with the October 26 issue. This will allow me to concentrate on transitional matters and take some unused vacation time during my final month in office. I have appreciated all the kind comments I have received over the past several days. Please know that it has been a joy to communicate with you in this manner, and to know that you have found these reflections helpful and hopeful to you.
Our closing prayer is the Prayer of the Day for the commemoration of Luke, and is found on page 58 of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal.
Almighty God, you inspired your servant Luke to reveal in his gospel the love and healing power of your Son. Give your church the same love and power to heal, and to proclaim your salvation among the nations to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, your Son, our healer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.