Sunday, February 02, 2014

According To Luke

Luke 1:1-4    (NRSV)
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

For the last couple of years I have had the desire to preach through an entire Gospel.

Over the years I have preached through some of the shorter prophets and some of Paul's work. 
          But I have never had the courage to preach through an entire Gospel.

It is a daunting challenge.

One of the problems is just the time that it will take --- and I have no idea yet how long that will be. (Part of it will depend on you --- you need to let me know if this series works or if it is a train wreck)

Secondly, it will pass through several "seasons of the year". 
  • I actually started the series during Advent by using Luke's account of the birth of Jesus
  • But then --- as you know --- I took a break so that I could preach my annual VISION sermon series
  • When we get to Lent (which begins on Wednesday March 5th) we will continue the series, but we will jump from where we are in the story to the stories of Jesus and his final journey to Jerusalem.

Sometime this summer I hope to conclude this look at Luke's Gospel.  But I think that is probably a little unrealistic and it will take most of a whole year to really tackle this challenging and important Gospel

My plan is to follow Luke's chronology as best we can

Some things that might help you along the way
          1.       Read the entire Gospel
                             Make notes on the verses that:
                                      Inspire you
                                      Challenge you
                                      Confuse you
Share with me what you learn ---
          You can do that via Facebook, email, phone call, or visit
That way I can address those issues when we come across that passage

          2.       Find a daily devotional based on Luke's Gospel
One that I found that is ok is available both in a daily online format or in a paperback book format --- online is free

Information on how to get it is printed in your bulletin

          or for $10.99 at

Maybe the first question that we need to address is:
          WHY LUKE?

Why did I decide that we needed to journey together through this particular book of the Bible?

Let me try to answer that question this way:

First, I really wanted to journey together through one of the Gospels --- we are Christians after all --- and the Gospels are the good news about Jesus.

Second, Luke, to me, is one of the most interesting Gospels.

Let me back up for a second ---
I believe that each of the Gospel writers has an agenda --- they have a particular message or understanding of Jesus that they want to share.

That is why we have four different --- yet similar Gospels.

You cannot attempt to line up the chronology and treat the four Gospels like a single history book.  They tell the stories in four different ways.

It is not important right now that we look at the different emphasis that each of the Gospels has --- for us --- it is important to understand the unique emphasis that Luke has.

I choose Luke because --- of the four Gospels --- Luke wants to show that Jesus came for the Least --- the Last --- and the Lost.

That's not saying that this emphasis is not found in Matthew, Mark or John. 

But clearly --- for the Gospel writer of Luke --- understanding that Jesus came to deal with some of the social justice issues of his day --- is paramount in Luke's Gospel.

I also chose Luke, because it is the understand of Jesus that many of those who now categorize themselves as "Nones" have.

Elizabeth Drescher has a new book called: Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s None.  She writes:
the majority of the Nones I interviewed across the country. Regardless of where they stood with regard to religious belief or unbelief, or attendant practices, the people I interviewed told me repeatedly how much they admired the Jesus of the Christian Gospel, radical defender of the poor and outcast. 

She shares a number of stories from Nones.
“Being an atheist doesn’t mean I hate Jesus,” a None from North Carolina who had been raised in a nondenominational Evangelical family told me. “You have to love the whole Good Samaritan story, or the way he stood up for the adultery woman. You don’t want to throw that away, because we need those stories.” He paused, “It’s just that my church experience didn’t really focus on that. It was about no sinning, avoiding temptation. It was about helping yourself to get saved, not helping others so much.”

For me --- Luke is important because he helps us to understand the Jesus that many in our society embrace --- Yet they won't darken the doorway of a church. 

Maybe if we can understand this same Jesus --- we can team up to change the world --- because isn't that our mission?

So that is why I chose Luke.
If this is successful, and you want me to tackle another book in the future, we can look at one of your choosing.

So let's begin our journey through Luke by asking: who Luke is, when it was written, and why?

Who was Luke ---- The easy answer is WE HAVE NO IDEA.

Tradition has ascribed him as the physician who accompanied Paul on his journeys, but that theory is not accepted by the majority of Biblical scholars.

We don't know who he was --- what his name was --- or what his profession was.

Eduard Schweizer in his commentary: The Good News According To Luke writes:
Who is Luke? His name does not appear in the text; it is first mentioned toward the end of the second century by Irenaeus, . . . and in a list of canonical books.  Both identify him with the Gentile Christian physician mentioned in Philemon 24 and Colossians 4:14 as a companion of Paul.  This identification, however, is unlikely since Acts disagrees at many points with the information provided by Paul's letters and has little to say about the long stay in Ephesus when Luke was with Paul.
There is no definitive answer to where it was written.  Some argue for Antioch, but that was not mentioned until the 4th century

What we do know --- is that the book was probably written sometime between 70CE and 90CE with most scholars settling in the mid 80's.

Just a quick aside: ---- Most scholars would suggest that:
          Mark (68-73)
          Matthew (70 - 85)
          Luke (85)
          John (90-110)

Matthew and Luke probably had Mark and another source lost to history known as "Q" for quelle the German word for source.

John is very different from the other three Gospels

Scholars call Matthew, Mark and Luke the synoptic Gospels from the Greek words syn, meaning "together", and optic, meaning "seen" because they include many of the same stories.

Back to Luke

So we don't know who wrote Luke

Our best guess is Luke used Mark as a source and another Gospel lost to history which has been designated "Q".

Probably written around the year 85

But why?

Why was the Gospel According to Luke written?

Our text this morning gives us a clue.

Luke 1:1-4   (The Message)
So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

The author understands Jesus as the center point of God's movement in history and as the clearest revelation of God's desire for humankind on earth.

Jesus, in Luke, is the embodiment of the grace, mercy and salvation of God.

But, as we will come to see --- for Luke, Jesus embodies salvation not as a set of things to believe, but rather as a way of life. 

A new vision of the world.
a vision that often turns the world upside down as the poor become rich,
a vision that challenges our understands of who is our neighbor
a vision that helps us to understand God's amazing grace

So why Luke?

If we want to impact the world for Jesus --- we need to really understand him. 
Not the homogenized --- sanitized version that we have been taught over the years --- but the raw and radical Jesus that Luke wants to show us.

Let's wrap this up with two stories.

First from Lloyd Douglas who tells about a man who on a visit to his old violin teacher asked:
"What's new?"
 "I'll tell you what's new," said the teacher.
 He grabbed a tuning fork and banged it --- an A came out loud and clear.
 "Do you hear that?  That's an A.  Upstairs a soprano rehearses endlessly and she is always off key.  Next door I have a cello player who plays his instrument very poorly.  There is an out-of-tune piano on the other side of me.  I'm surrounded by terrible noise, night and day."
 Again --- he plunked the A
 "Do you hear that?  That's an A --- yesterday, that's and A today, and it will be an A tomorrow.  It will never change."

I think Luke is saying the same thing --- Jesus doesn't change. 

The challenge for us it to meet Jesus again --- maybe for the first time.

Back to Elizabeth Drescher:
The appeal of Jesus to Nones may also have to do with the practical, material enactment of his ministry—his willingness to walk across religious and other social boundaries, through the lives of ordinary people, attending to their suffering, healing their afflictions, welcoming them into relationship—over against the credal or doctrinal expressions of Christianity that have largely characterized the tradition since the Reformation.
 “I honestly couldn’t tell you what it means to be ‘saved in Jesus,’ or ‘baptized in the Holy Spirit,’” a former Evangelical None from Missouri told me.
But I get what it is to help someone out, to really put yourself out there for someone going through something bad. I think that was what Jesus was all about. Was that Jesus truly God? At this point in my life, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. But I do believe it probably felt like that to the people he helped.

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