St Bride's: Sermons

St Luke

St Luke

Ministry is about bringing good news to the meek, binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives and comforting all that mourn.

A true story.  

A student nurse in America was due to sit her end of year exams at the nursing school where she was training.  She was a diligent and conscientious student, and prepared very carefully for them.  Most of her exams proved to be fairly straightforward, if a little challenging at times.  But she was completely unprepared for the final question she came to in her very last exam.  It was a question that was so bizarre that she had to read it several times to make sure that it really was saying what she thought it said - and she then found herself casting an eye around the exam room to see if any of the other students were as baffled as she was.  

It was clear from their puzzled expressions that she was not alone.  Because at the end of an exam that in all other respects had covered a fairly predictable range of questions about medical practice and patient care, the final question of all read:  What is the name of the woman who cleans this block of the Nursing School?

Our student was completely flummoxed - she certainly knew the woman by sight, but why on earth should she be expected to know her name - and more to the point, why on earth was she being asked this question in a nursing exam?  So she left that answer box blank.

As she was leaving the exam room she encountered one of her fellow students buttonholing the lecturer who had set that particular exam, and asking with great anxiety  'That final question - the one about the cleaner - it was was a joke, wasn't it?  'I mean, it's not going to count towards our final grade, is it?'  'On the contrary', replied the lecturer.  I can assure you that question was deadly serious.'  And the next time that he had the group together in class, he said this:

'If any of you hope to make a successful career in nursing, the first thing you are going to have to learn is that every single human being that you encounter, regardless of who and what they are, is significant.  Everyone deserves your attention and your care - even the person who mops the floors.'

And the student who recounted this incident, many years later, after a highly successful career in nursing, regarded it as one of the most significant learning experiences of her entire training.

Today our church commemorates St Luke the Evangelist - famously associated with the Gospel that bears his name - but also, by tradition, a medical doctor: in our second lesson from Colossians he is referred to as 'Luke the beloved physician.'

Jesus was interestingly vague on where the dividing line falls between health and salvation - indeed, at times he uses the language of healing and of saving as if they were interchangeable.  Which alerts us to something that is really rather important.  Because it is clear from the gospels that when performing healing miracles Jesus was never really in the business simply of sorting out people's physical ailments.  His concern was for wounds and diseases that went far deeper than that - the kinds of ailments that affect every aspect of our welfare, including our relationships and our sense of self-worth.  He was concerned about the kinds of destructive forces that can take us, and distort, the whole of life - including our addictions, whatever form they might take.  And in similar vein, a true healer will always look beyond physical symptoms; a true healer will always see the person, not simply the ailment.  And, as that nursing college lecturer was trying to communicate to his students, that requires a whole different way of understanding the work of the medical profession.

Today's collect - the special prayer for today, the Feast of St Luke, refers to Luke as an Evangelist and physician of the soul.  Physician of the soul.  As Jesus knew, and exemplified in his ministry, that is truly the point at which health and salvation meet - and that is the door that can open for each one of us, and lead us to the gift of new life.

Amen

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