October 16 is our celebration of St. Luke’s Day. The scriptures mention Luke as a traveling companion of Paul, who referred to him as “my beloved Physician” and today’s letter from Timothy suggests that Luke stayed with Paul to care for him at the end of his life. Tradition says that Luke was also a physician for Mary in her old age, and that it was from Mary that Luke received many of the favorite stories of our faith, such as those of the shepherds going to the manger in Bethlehem and the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son – stories which the other gospel writers did not know.
Rather than high theological language, Luke tells the story of Jesus through stories of real people and real life. While the gospel of John is like classical music, the gospel of Luke is a little more country: a little more down to earth, a little rough around the edges, but filled with spirit and with soul. Luke’s Jesus was born in Bethlehem and spent his early childhood as a refugee in Egypt. However, it is Nazareth, a small blue collar town in the rural hill country of Galilee, that he would call home. In relatively recent years, archaeologists have discovered that Nazareth was not far from a Roman city named Sepphoris, which was under construction about the time Jesus’ family moved there. The scriptures tell us that like Joseph, Jesus was a “techton,” a Greek word which means “builder” (think architect). Though “techton” has been traditionally translated as “carpenter,” it is far more likely that Jesus and Joseph were stone masons. As stone masons, they would have worked on the Roman temples, the Roman amphitheaters, and other buildings in that Sepphoris. Jesus was at ease talking to foreigners and was used to addressing fishermen, soldiers, and tax collectors by their first names. He was comfortable having conversations with women – even women of the night. He didn’t get these things from Nazareth. He got them from Sepphoris. His preference for the poor, his compassion for people society had left behind, and his vision of a rainbow of God’s kingdom that extended far beyond Israel itself came from the people he met in that place. Along with his childhood experience as a refugee in Egypt, Jesus’ experience as a young adult in Galilee helped define both his ministry and our own.
As a physician, Luke would have rejoiced in the healing that happens every Sunday morning in the All Saints Chapel, every Tuesday and Thursday morning at our pantries, and every time someone walks through our doors to receive care or walks out of our doors to care for others. If Luke were here, he would have filled his gospel with stories from this place – stories of people who were rejected by their family or former church and found a home here, stories of families gathering for a funeral, wedding, a baptism… or around a table to share together in bread and wine. Have you noticed how when I break the priest’s host, I bring the two halves back together again? That is what Jesus does for us. St. Luke’s mission is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” Luke wrote his gospel to show people what this looked like. Luke wrote his gospel to show people that the Spirit was at work and new life was possible. Those who built this cathedral named it after Luke in order to do the same thing.