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Service for St Luke’s Day

[Keep a moment of silence, calling to mind that, though we are unable to gather together, we share fellowship as a Church family as we offer this short act worship in our own homes]

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Collect

Almighty God, you called Luke the physician, whose praise is in the gospel, to be an evangelist and physician of the soul: by the grace of the Spirit and through the wholesome medicine of the gospel, give your Church the same love and power to heal; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Reading: Luke 10.1-9

A reading from the Gospel of St Luke.

Jesus appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you."

Reflection

Today the Church celebrates St Luke’s Day. We know him as the ‘Beloved physician’ who accompanied Paul on a number of his missionary journeys and who wrote the Gospel that bears his name. He also penned the first history of the early Church, the ‘Acts of the Apostles’. But we know very little else about him other than the long held tradition that he was a Gentile.

It’s likely that he wrote his Gospel with a wide readership in mind, for he is the most inclusive of the four evangelists. He gave women and non Jews a greater prominence in his telling of the good news. He recorded many of the familiar details about the story of Jesus’ birth and ministry that we don’t find in Matthew, Mark or John. He tells us about the birth of John the Baptist, the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, the Presentation of the infant Christ in the temple, and the account of the boy Jesus lost for three days in Jerusalem.

Three of the great canticles of the Church are unique to his Gospel, the ‘Benedictus’ [the song of Zechariah], the ‘Magnificat’ [the song of Mary], and the ‘Nunc Dimittis’, [the song of Simeon]. Luke alone records the parables of the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the lost coin and the rich man and Lazarus. The Gospel celebrates what his angels sang at the birth of the Saviour; ‘Good news to all people.’

The traditional reading for St Luke’s day tells of how Jesus commissioned seventy of his followers to go out as ‘labourers in the harvest’. This is because of an early tradition that Luke was one of the seventy who were sent out. Though this is not widely accepted today the reading has much to say about our calling to take the Gospel into the world, as Luke did.

First, the number seventy is significant. It was the number of elders appointed to help Moses as the Israelites travelled through the wilderness towards the Promised Land. It was also the number of the Jewish Sanhedrin [Council].

Jesus sent out the seventy by reminding them that though they would experience opposition and indifference, like ‘lambs in the midst of wolves’, the harvest of the kingdom would be plentiful and many would be receptive to their message. He told them to ‘travel light’ and not to be weighed down with the baggage of this world; to go out ‘two by two’; to accept the simple hospitality offered to them; to pray over the sick; to pronounce the blessing of peace; and to proclaim that the ‘kingdom has come near.’

Later in the chapter, the seventy returned overjoyed by all that they had been able to do in Jesus’ name.

The kind of ministry that Luke described in today’s Gospel is what he also experienced when he accompanied Paul in his missionary journeys around the Roman Empire. He was so valued by the great apostle that he became known as the ‘Beloved physician.’ Luke’s two fold ministry as a doctor and an evangelist was to proclaim healing of mind, body and spirit, our salvation.

The experience of the last seven months has led many of us to re-evaluate what our own beloved physicians, nurses and frontline workers do for us. It has also been a time to reflect on the spiritual dimension of the pandemic and the lockdowns we have lived through, though the more secularly minded speak of this aspect of the experience in terms of mental health. It’s why most of our Churches have offered online spiritual support to regular worshippers and many others.

Luke’s telling of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news and healing for all. It’s what the two other traditional Bible readings for St Luke’s Day celebrate.

The reading from the prophecy of Isaiah says today, “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong and do not fear! Here is your God. He will come and save you.” [Isaiah 35] The New Testament has St Paul facing martyrdom, and saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  [2 Timothy 4]   

On this special day our prayer should be that we will know that healing and faith in our lives and, like St Luke, bring Christ’s kingdom and his saving love to others too.

Prayers

Lord, empower your Church to proclaim the universal and saving message of the Gospel. Bless John our Bishop, the Churches of the Mumbles Ministry Area and all who minister in your name. May your Holy Spirit who inspired St Luke the Evangelist be our guide into all truth.

            Lord, hear us.

Lord, open the way for the spread of the Gospel into places where people still live in ignorance of its message. May the way of Christ inspire those who lead the nations of the world, especially at this time of pandemic. Bless those who work through translation and teaching to make the faith more widely known.

            Lord, hear us.

Lord, as we give thanks for the ministry of the Beloved Physician, we pray for all doctors, nurses, carers and staff who serve in our health services. Sustain and strengthen them in their healing ministry, especially as we face a second wave of Covid 19. Guide those who are searching for better treatments or a vaccine for the virus.

            Lord, hear us.

Lord, keep us constant in faith and eager to work as labourers in the harvest through what we do and say in your name. Bless the work of Housing Justice Cymru and its Christian outreach the homeless and vulnerable of our society.

            Lord, hear us.

Lord, we pray for those who are ill, whether in body, mind or spirit; that they may know your healing presence with them.  

            Lord, hear us.

Lord, we give thanks for those whose lives in this world were led by the light of the Gospel.  May they rejoice for ever in your presence.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Prayer for those who are unable to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion

O Blessed Lord, in union with the faithful throughout the world, at every altar of your Church where the Eucharist is being celebrated, I desire to offer you praise and thanksgiving. I present to you my soul and body with the earnest wish that may always be united to you. Since I cannot now receive you in the Sacrament, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you and embrace you with heart and mind and soul. Let nothing ever separate you from me, so that I may live and die in your love. Amen.

[Keep a moment of silence for spiritual communion with the Lord and with our brothers and sisters]

Saint Luke, beloved physician,

with honour now recall,

who served his Master's mission,

who ministered to Paul;

whose skill to distant ages

bequeathed a gift unpriced,

a gospel in whose pages

we see the face of Christ.

Timothy Dudley Smith [b.1926]

God, who has prepared for us a city with eternal foundations, bring us, with St Luke and all the saints, to the eternal and triumphant joy of that city; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always. Amen.

 

Bible Readings: New Revised Standard Version [1989]  - Word of the Lord: Church in Wales - Leading Intercessions [adapted] - CCL Parish Copyright Licence:  753662