The Good Book Club
Ever since I served in a church named St. Luke’s, I’ve had a special interest in what St. Luke had to say. He is credited with authorship of the third gospel, as well as the book which describes the start of the early church, the Acts of the Apostles. As author of those two books, he is responsible for ¼ of the New Testament. Just by virtue of word count, he merits our attention.
Luke was a Gentile, an outsider as far as the early Christian community was concerned. Tradition holds that he was a physician, which may explain his connection with healing ministries. He had a heart for the poor, those pushed to the margins. A remarkable story teller, he includes the parable of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the Good Samaritan in his gospel. Our tradition would be diminished without those stories of grace and forgiveness.
One of my favorite stories, told only by Luke, describes disciples on the road to Emmaus, days after Jesus had died. These disciples are joined on the journey by the resurrected Jesus, though they don’t recognize him. The disciples walk for a while with Jesus and when they reach their destination, Jesus acts like he’s going to continue walking. They convince him to stay for dinner. He enters as a guest. He ends up as host. (See the hymn text for “Come Risen Lord” below). As Jesus breaks bread, the disciples recognize him, and realize that their dashed hopes are renewed, resurrected. They see that Jesus is alive. I love that turn of events. We imagine we are inviting God into our lives. Big of us. It turns out he’s been the host all along. Nice.
Stories of resurrection told by Luke lead into the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the narrative of how the early church grew. That book tells us about the power of the Holy Spirit, in evidence on Pentecost. It reminds us that the church expanded because outsiders looked at the church members and said: See how those people love one another. Is that what folks would say about the church today? The Acts of the Apostles tells about Peter and Paul’s efforts to widen the doors of the church, so that in Christ there is neither Gentile or Jew. Again, important stuff. Where would we be without it?
If you haven’t read Luke in a while, I want to invite you to take part in this specific spiritual practice during Lent (and beyond), beginning this coming Sunday, February 11. Be part of the Good Book Club, which is a spiritual experiment/adventure sponsored by Forward Movement, RenewalWorks and the office of our Presiding Bishop. This book club will read the Gospel of Luke in the season of Lent, which starts soon. Then we will read the Acts of the Apostles in the season of Easter, ending late in May. Each day, a short portion of Luke’s writing will be assigned.
The work I do is based on research that shows that reading scripture has a transformative effect on the people who do it regularly. We are wondering what kind of power could be unleashed if a whole denomination read the same biblical material. There is one way to find out. Just do it. If you’re intrigued, tempted to give it a try, go to www.goodbookclub.org which provides all kinds of resources to assist you in this project. You can order a poster, a calendar for each of the two seasons. There are study guides. Forward Day By Day will use readings from Luke’s books as guide for meditation.
And for the next couple months, these Monday messages will reflect something from the passages we’ve read over the week. I hope you’ll join in this journey.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[k] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest;
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