Luke’s Gospel and its Sequel
As our preacher noted this morning, the words contributed by St. Luke to the New Testament canon (with the third gospel and Acts of the Apostles) is second only the Pauline Epistles. The Acts of the Apostles provide a unique and invaluable account of the early church, but it was only earlier this year did I realize the unique contribution of Luke’s gospel.
Yes, Luke has unique parables, including the the Fig Tree (13:1-9), Lost Coin (15:8-10) and Prodigal Son (15:11-32). Luke 18 has the remarkable contrast of the Pharisee (“I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”) and the tax collector (“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!“).
But what I find remarkable is how much of what we know of Jesus before his ministry — from the promise to Elizabeth through Jesus in the Temple — is found only in the first two chapter of Luke.
And as a musician (and an Episcopalian from childhood if not birth) what is also remarkable is how much of our liturgy comes from Luke. This includes the Benedictus of our morning prayer, the rejoicing of Zachararias after the birth of St. John (Luke 1:68-79):
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; * for he hath visited and redeemed his people;Perhaps more significantly — at least for many Catholics (and Anglo-Catholics) — the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) (used at evening prayer) from the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary:
And hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, * in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy Prophets, * which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies, * and from the hand of all that hate us.
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, * and to remember his holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham, * that he would give us;
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies * might serve him without fear;
In holiness and righteousness before him, * all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: * for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people * for the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us;
To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, * and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.Finally, there is the Simeon's recognition of the diviity of Christ in Luke 2:29-32 (which we now use as the Nunc Dimittis in evening prayer):
For he hath regarded * the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth * all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me; * and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him * throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; * he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, * and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; * and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel; * as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed, for ever.
LORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.Note: from my Lutheran days, all three can be found in the Missouri Synod liturgy (TLH, LSB), but the Nunc Dimitiss is used in the everyday communion service rather than evening prayer).
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
How do we acknowledge Luke? The 1928 BCP has a collect for this day
ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.that was modified in the (traditional) version of the 1979 prayer book:
Almighty God, who didst inspire thy servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son: Graciously continue in thy Church the like love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of thy Name; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.The 1662 collect strikes similar themes with different words:
ALMIGHTY God, who calledst Luke the physician, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul; May it please thee, that by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed, through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.and is only slightly modified from Cranmer’s 1549 original:
ALMIGHTIE God whiche calledst Luke the phisicion, whose prayse is in the gospell, to be a phisicion of the soule ; it may please thee, by the holsome medicines of his doctryne, to heale all the diseases of our soules; through thy sonne Jesus Christe our Lorde.Singing Praises for Luke
Although the hymn was written by Maclagan — a Cambridge graduate then rector at Newington and later Archbishop of York from 1891-1908 — it doesn’t appear in TEH, Songs of Praise (Extended Edition), or the New English Hymnal. Instead, Hymnary.org implies that its first appearance was in the U.S. Hymnal 1892. The hymnal lists six (original texts) of the eight verses in (#172), set to Ely. The same six verses (#1,2,5-8) and tune appear in Hymnal 1916 (#292).