(The BCP Readings for this Feast Day can be found here)
The Gospel according to the Doctor
The four Gospel accounts tell us the story of how Jesus entered human history. Four very different men were inspired by the Holy Spirit to each write an account of what they’d seen and heard. Their names were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and their written accounts are found in our Bible’s New Testament. Together these Gospels form a rich, layered narrative that helps us to better understand how and why Jesus came to earth, lived, died and rose again.
But it is October 18, and today is the day in the Christian calendar when we celebrate Luke in particular. So what do we know about this Gospel-writer? Well, Luke was a Gentile convert, and tradition tells us that he was a physician. One of the things that makes his Gospel unique is its focus on the compassionate and healing ministries of Jesus.
A Different Perspective
The collect for today invites us to consider the believers’ calling in a way that is just a bit unusual:
who calledst Luke the Physician, whose praise is in the Gospel,
to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul:
May it please thee that,
by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him,
all the diseases of our souls may be healed;
through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The phrases used in today’s collect can challenge us to reaffirm two beliefs that the modern world can tend to erode in the Christian heart: the vital importance of evangelism, and God’s sovereignty over all our ailments, spiritual or otherwise.
A Physician of the Soul
Luke, the physician, became a doctor of souls. He “doctored souls” through evangelism by pointing others towards the Great Physician. What did it take to make this man of medicine commit his life to missionary endeavour? It took a whole-hearted belief that the most important thing he could possibly offer another human being was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Modern Christians can often find themselves somewhere on the denial-embarrassment-complacence spectrum when faced with the exclusive claims of the Gospel. But if we are sincere in our belief, then we, like Luke, must consider that earnest call to compassionately point others to our Lord and Saviour.
Wholesome Medicine for Diseased Souls
Where do we find our answers when life hurts? In today’s collect we entreat God that by “the wholesome medicine” of true doctrine, “all the diseases of our souls may be healed.” The collect is specifically speaking of salvation, but I think there’s a broader application. Now I should state upfront that my goal is not to suggest pharmaceutical medicines are ineffectual or should be shunned. Instead, I’d like to invite us to reflect on where God fits into our understanding of these things.
The beautiful prayer book prayers for ministry to the sick offer something of a road map. We acknowledge God’s sovereignty over healing. We ask for his peace. We ask for his blessing on the “means” of medical intervention. And we ask for his grace to enable us to submit to his will.
This road map is not just suitable for those who are sick in body. Whatever form of brokenness we find ourselves in, the best medicine must involve seeking our sovereign and compassionate Lord: for his intervention, for our surrender to his will, and for that peace that passes all understanding.