2nd Sunday in Advent - December 10, 2006 “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your word, that we might hear it with relevance in our time and place. Enable us to hear your call to prepare for your kingdom through sincere repentance, and give us the ability and courage to amend our lives. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
As I mentioned last week, our Gospel lessons for the coming year will be read predominately from the Gospel of St. Luke. Thus, I would like to begin my meditation this morning, by taking a few moments to share with you some background concerning Luke and his particular emphasis, which he brings to his Gospel of Jesus the Christ.
Luke was not originally a disciple of Christ. He was a Greek physician and historian, who had been attracted to studying the Jewish faith. But then Luke met Paul, when Paul visited the city of Troas, and as a result of Paul’s witness, Luke came to faith in Jesus the Christ. As a result, Luke became a close friend of Paul, dropped his professional practice, and traveled with Paul on his missionary journey as Paul’s assistant and personal physician.
It is because of Luke’s scientific training and concern for history, that we owe insights into our Lord’s life and ministry that we would not have otherwise. According to most modern Biblical scholars, Luke wrote his Gospel and the Book of Acts between 80 and 90 AD. By this time, most of the first generation Christians who had personally known Jesus or were eyewitnesses to the events that had taken place in the life of Christ, were almost all dead.
As a result, Luke, being the historian that he was, set out to record the events in the life of Christ and the early church, that they might be preserved for generations. In his own words, writing to Theophilus, Luke states, “I decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account…so that you may know the truth about which you have been instructed.”
Of course, Luke had to rely on the stories and reports of others in order to compile his research, which may account for some of the discrepancies that exist between the synoptic Gospels. However, Luke’s concern for historical accuracy provides us with two important insights that can help us understand our lesson for this morning.
First, it was important for Luke to date the events that ushered in our Lord’s ministry, to insure that we understand that what he is describing about the life of Jesus took place at a particular time in history. And he does so in a manner common to his day. Luke tells us that “It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, etc. In this way, Luke grounds his story to events that are verifiable outside the context of his Gospel. As a result, historians tell us that the date that Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry of preparing the way for Jesus took place in 26 or 28 AD.
But it is not just the date that is important. According to the commentary published in the worship guide Sundays and Seasons 2001, “Here Luke wants the reader to know that the ministry of John the baptizer, and the subsequent ministry of Jesus, did not happen off in a corner of heaven somewhere, but the word of God came to John at a specific time and place in history…
The importance of this documentation for Luke is to show that God is active in the events and people of history… God does not simply act in heaven and then send the results to us, but God acts within our history, among human beings to accomplish God’s will.” End quote [Augsburg Fortress, 2000]
This says to me that John the baptizer was the human instrument by which God acted to proclaim his will for the people living in that time and in that place. It was at that time that God’s Word came to John in the wilderness, that rough hewn man dressed in camel’s hair, and he became God’s voice crying out to call the people to repentance as the means of preparing for the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God.
But more importantly, it tells us that as we hear these words of John, read and given voice in this place and time in history, God is still active among human beings to accomplish his will. It tells us that through the reading of the Scriptures, the preaching of God’s word, and in the celebration of the sacraments, God continues to speak to us, calling us to prepare for and embrace his kingdom, which is in our midst.
Secondly, Luke’s astute perception of history gives us another insight by which we might understand our text for this morning, as well as his whole Gospel. Luke was not only concerned about establishing the fact that the life of the John and Jesus occurred at a specific verifiable time in history, but as a Greek, Luke also understood that time can be measured in terms of eras or periods of history.
For those of us who have even a basic understanding of history, we know that time has been measured in terms of the Stone Age, the Iron Age, to name a couple, and that the time in which we now live has begun to be referred to as the Technological Age of human history. But although Luke understood the measurement of time in terms of eras, I believe that through the power of God’s Spirit, God used Luke’s insight to give us a unique perception of time.
Again, according to Sundays and Seasons, “in addition to believing that God acts in the history of humankind and brings about God’s will through historical events, Luke also wants to say that what happens in Jesus of
Nazareth is a unique historical event, one through which all of history needs to be interpreted. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, he writes from the perspective that everything that has happened from creation up to Jesus is in preparation for Jesus’ incarnation. Everything that has happened since Jesus’ death and resurrection is affected by and interpreted through that event. To Luke, Jesus is the center of history, the center of God’s work in our world.” End quote.
Now, I realize that what I have just shared with you has been rather academic. It’s the kind of sermon that I can expect to hear from Josie, when I get home and ask her what she thought of it, to hear, “Well, Ron, it sure wasn’t one of your better ones. You need to be more personal.”
But then, I could pass the buck, and blame it on Pastor Blair, whose comments to me after worship last Sunday indicated his desire to lead a Bible study, in response to the survey that was passed out, to help our members to interpret Scripture in light of the scientific advancements of our current age. But I won’t do that.
For if anything, Pastor Blair brought to my attention the fact that, we as Lutherans, and the other mainline denominations of Christianity, have an understanding of the Scriptures, that does not have to fear or defend against the scientific or technological advancements or our age. And it is my hope, that if Ralph is willing to lead such a study, to bring the Scriptures alive in our present age, that there will be several members of our congregation, who will take advantage of this great opportunity to hear God’s word as it applies to us living today – in this time and place.
For the truth is, as we progress through the various ages of time, Luke reminds us, through his unique perception of history in which God has led him to use his skills in writing his Gospel, that these events that took place at that specific time in history, are truly at the center of history. He is saying to us that regardless of the various ages in which we might live, the events that have taken place back during the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, are still relevant today.
Oh, we might need to interpret them differently, but the message is still the same. It is God, active in the lives of human beings, through whom he calls people to repent and prepare for the coming of his kingdom among us. And it is through the power of God’s Spirit, still active in our world, that true repentance and the ability to come to faith in God’s gift of salvation, is realized.