I love the opening of St. Luke’s Gospel because I feel, even more than in the other Gospels, that St. Luke is talking to me. “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” we ask.
St. Luke’s answer (which is really God’s) is, simply, “Yes.”
Why do I feel as if St. Luke is talking to me?
First, Luke is the only Gentile privileged to have been inspired to write a book of the Bible. In fact, he was privileged to write two: his Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles (which I think of more as “The Rest of the Words and Acts of Jesus Christ”). In St. Luke, we see the coming of Christ to the Gentiles incarnated.
Second, Luke is the only one who has given us an account of how he came to write his book of the Bible. Knowing that we Gentiles needed a different kind of proof, and understanding the Western mindset, which most of us have now inherited, he gives us a brief account of how he came to write his Gospel. Others had taken in hand to set in order a narrative of the things which had been fulfilled (presumably Matthew and Mark), but Luke wanted to write his own orderly account.
Luke, being a companion of St. Paul, had a perfect understanding of the things concerning Jesus Christ from the beginning, and so he was in a position to write his own account. Though Luke himself was not an eyewitness of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, he received the facts of his account from such eyewitnesses. Luke was, therefore, privileged not only to have the eyewitness testimony of some of the original 12 apostles but also the revelations and insights of St. Paul.
The third reason that Luke seems to be talking to me is that I am Theophilus. We aren’t sure who the original Theophilus is, but I consider myself Theophilus, a “lover of God.” Luke’s account is written to and for all who are truly lovers of God and want to know and follow Jesus Christ. I’m also Theophilus because I am “loved by God,” and the name Theophilus could mean either “lover of God” or “loved by God.” I prefer to think that it means both.
Finally, Luke is speaking to me because he tells me why he has written his account: it’s for me (Theophilus)! It’s so that I may know the certainty of those things in which I have been instructed.
Having been so personally welcomed into the Gospel of St. Luke, I feel inclined to walk into the pages of his Gospel and make myself at home there. I feel as if I belong in these pages, and even as I’m writing I feel like a kind of St. Luke, and, as I read and consider verses 5 and following, I feel like Zacharias and Elizabeth.
I feel barren sometimes. In all honestly, I feel a little like that this morning. I’m not feeling particularly perky or motivated. It’s difficult for me to get up in the mornings, and I’m not sure at what moment of any given day you might actually consider me awake. For that matter, I’m not sure sometimes that I ever fully wake up. And so sometimes, my life feels barren. For other reasons, I’m sure some of your lives feel barren at times, and may, in fact, actually be so.
But God loves barren lives. They are the kind of soil into which He loves to plant His garden (apparently, He loves a challenge and loves taking the dead and making it alive). He begins by planting His seed, which is His Word. And so we read the beginning of Luke’s Gospel this morning. As I read, unwilling though my body might be, and as I meditate on His Word, I know that something real has taken root inside me.
And then God comes and waters me by what Luke has written. God speaks to me this morning, and I begin to feel revived a little. Sometimes He also waters me by something so simple as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, to which I’m now listening (more specifically, my favorite moment: the end of the 3rd movement [the Presto] of the Summer concerto).
Suddenly, I am like Elizabeth. I, who woke up barren, have had the Word planted in me and have been doused by the Living Water during this season of Pentecost, and I conceive. Life springs within me, a life that God has given me, and I am able to say with Elizabeth that this very day is the day when the Lord not only spoke to me but also looked on me and took away the reproach of my barrenness.
He looked at me! I still remember the barren years before God favored me with the presence of the Lady J (Jackie, my wife). I remember being in high school and college and feeling honored when a good-looking girl would look at me (more likely she was looking over me, or overlooking me). I even wrote a poem once based on such occasions:
Sue Ann was beautiful
very, very beautiful
and she looked at me once
or maybe even twice.
But this morning I have a more heavenly poetry being recited to me by St. Luke, for he’s telling me, through the words and experience of Elizabeth, that God has looked at me. Not some girl that I never had the nerve to even talk to, but God Almighty Himself. And unlike the beautiful girls who may have overlooked me because I wasn’t attractive to them, God delights to look at me.
This is all the more amazing because spiritually, I have really greasy hair that hasn’t been washed in a month and zits and pimples erupting over the surface of my face like miniature Krakatoas and Vesuvii. I have eyes so weak that you can’t even see them but only my glasses, and my pants are so short they come up to my calves. My voice is as squeaky and irregular as a spastic chimp playing Vivaldi on a broken Stradivarius with one string, and I have a lot of annoying and gross habits that you really don’t want to hear me talk about (spiritually speaking, of course).
And yet, spiritual nerd and geek and wimp and loser that I am, God looks at me. I think, “Lord, who am I that you would look at me?” To which He says, “It’s not who you are but who I AM.”
Who am I? I am the one who the I AM has looked at. I am the one who is last but who God has made first. I am Theophilus, loved by God so that I may be a lover of God.
Resolution: I resolve to listen today to God’s proclamation of His Good News in my life, and to meditate on the fact that He has looked at me.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for inspiring St. Luke to write for me an account of the life of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for looking at me and giving me the sight to be able to look at and see You. By Your Word, by Your Son, and by Your Spirit, may You make the barren places of my life the place where You dwell. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- Remember a time in your life when you experienced joy because of something wonderful that suddenly happened to you. Transfer that joy to the fact that God has looked at you today.
- In what ways is your life barren? When God offers Himself to You, do you receive Him as you should, and do you believe the promises He has made to you?
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day