2 Timothy 4:5–12
Dedicated to my beloved friends at Berkeley Divinity School.
Only six short weeks ago,
Across quite a large pond,
I sat reciting morning prayer,
In a familiar place,
With familiar faces,
And familiar accents.
That Friday morning before my departure to an unknown land,
As I sat in St. Luke’s chapel,
The worship space for the Episcopal students at Yale,
Tears slowly began to well up in my eyes.
And I doubted the decision I had made to leave my beloved community for a time.
Amongst my closest friends,
Amongst those who understood my vocation,
I felt as though,
For once in my life,
I finally fit in.
At Yale Divinity School I feel safe,
I feel known,
I feel loved.
Yet in a pair, two Yalies departed their homeland
Perhaps both with a good deal of trepidation.
And were once again outsiders instead of insiders.
We were both called to leave the safety of our seminary environment.
And I do not think it a coincidence that I have been pushed out of the nest,
Away from the community dedicated to St. Luke.
For at the heart of St. Luke’s Gospel is a challenge.
A challenge that may be the most difficult for us to hear
Of all the four Gospels.
St. Matthew offers us rules by which to abide,
I got to say, not too difficult for this Type A personality.
St. Mark offers us a narrative that is short, sweet and to the point,
Making it ideal for those of us with shorter attention spans.
And St. John offers us the christological depth
That any ordinand would crave.
But Luke is different.
Luke’s social justice emphasis
Provokes us in a way the other four Gospels writers do not.
He first dramatically draws us into his narrative
with the poetry of the Magnificat,
The Nunc Dimitis,
And the Benedictus,
Creating an ascetic space in his Greek prose,
Perhaps his is the best written of the four Gospels.
But early on Luke asks us to turn our world view upside down,
To leave our work at home left undone,
To hate our fathers and mothers,
To take no purse, bag, or sandals along on the journey.
At the heart of Luke’s Gospel
And at the heart of today’s passage
Is a mission–charge,
The call to “Go!”
To step outside of the safe and known
Into the dangerous and unknown.
And Christianity’s lack of comfort with Luke’s message
is perhaps never more prevalent than today.
When the small groups of the first year life and service class
Gathered together last Friday,
We collaborated on the characteristics of Anglicanism.
Characteristics such as sacramental theology,
The Book of Common Prayer,
Richard Hooker’s three–legged stool
But not a single group spoke the words of
Why are these words so frightening to us?
Today we celebrate the life of an evangelist
The life of St. Luke.
But taken outside of the Gospel writers’ context,
Evangelism and mission become infused with negative connotation,
Become words representing colonialism,
Perhaps for some,
And we think to ourselves
We don’t want to be one of THOSE Christians.
But today with St. Luke’s example and the words from the second letter to Timothy,
We are called to be something quite outside our comfort zones,
We ourselves are called to be evangelists.
In Luke’s narrative account,
Unlike the other three Gospels,
The mission–charge by Jesus to go and proclaim the good news
Is not limited to the twelve,
But is extended to the seventy,
It is extended to us.
We are commissioned.
We are appointed.
We are called to “GO!”
We are called out into the harvest,
To cure the sick who are there
And say to them:
The kingdom of God has come near to you.
To be disciples of Christ,
We cannot have one without the other.
Although we may prefer reconciliation over proclamation.
We cannot have healing without preaching,
Or word without deed.
We should not fear our own utterance of mission or evangelism,
For when we both proclaim God’s love
And show God’s compassion concretely,
The word takes on a dimension it otherwise might lack.
To be an evangelist,
Is to both proclaim and enact God’s love in the world around us.
This is our calling as future ordained ministers.
Will we walk in the footsteps of St. Luke?
Embracing the unknown,
The discomfort that is mission?
Will we recognize that the haste in spreading the love of God,
Is just as serious and necessary now as it was two thousand years ago?
Will we realize that being a disciple of Christ means stepping outside our comfort zone?
And eventually leaving the safety and love of our seminary community for a world that may seem quite foreign to us.
Whether that be Jerusalem or Cambridge,
Judea or East Anglia,
Samaria or Slough,
Or even to the ends of the earth.
Will we reclaim St. Luke’s challenge to us as disciples of Christ
And be the evangelists not of the first century,
But of the twenty–first century?