Luke the Evangelist | Salisbury Cathedral

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Luke the Evangelist

A sermon preached by Canon Kim Stephens, Chaplain, SDH  

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Luke the Evangelist

Posted By : Guest Preacher Wednesday 18th October 2017

A sermon preached by Canon Kim Stephens, Chaplain, SDH


It is wonderful that I have invited to share with you this evening on the festival of St Luke especially as tradition see St Luke as a doctor/Physician. A man particularly interested in healing.

In the text from the Gospel Of Luke we have just heard  Jesus sending out his disciples exhorting them that Whenever you enter a town and the people welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick who are there, and say to them the kingdom of God is near.

I would like to reflect with you for a moment on these words not  with an academic perspective but  within the context of the ministry of a hospital chaplain, to eat what is set before you-  heal the sick - and say that the kingdom of God is near…. 

To eat what is set before you …

As a hospital chaplain I find myself daily working with those who are facing illness, bereavement, and often life changing situations, it is a huge privilege and blessing. It is a ministry which finds one out and about meeting people from all walks of life, each person with their own story to tell, and many trying to make sense of what is happening to them.

We meet patients/their relatives and staff on hospital wards, out patients department in the corridor, the chapel, basically wherever we go.

We meet and greet as we go offering a ministry which is not intrusive but if we are welcomed we will come along side and receive whatever is given to us. We may stay only a few moments but often find ourselves accepting the hospitality of the other and will sit and chew over whatever they have given us. For that moment we are companions on the journey, in other words we share bread together but sometimes there is no bread only dust. This speaks to me of connecting one to another and connection is a word that I associate with healing…

Jesus exhorts us to go out and heal the sick-

 Sickness as most of us know can be a great leveller for it has the ability to strip away our defences and the many things we place our security in. It can  leave us with huge amounts of uncertainty , loss of control  and far too much time to reflect. Very often it is at these times we seek to find someone who will listen to our story.

There is so much controversy and questions over the ministry of healing especially around physical healing. Why does God appear to heal some and not others? Can God actually miraculous heal today?  Big Questions around suffering and why if we have a loving God he allows it?

 I see God heal physically using medical intervention on a frequent basis , I pray for miraculous  physical healing  but have never yet seen it although I will always continue to pray for it. 

   I don’t have a concise answer to any of these big questions, but I do know  that the words healing and wholeness often come together and wholeness speaks to me about harmony/peace within ourselves in body mind and spirit. Healing for me is about the whole person not just about our physical state. If you believe God is in the business of transforming lives and with transformation comes inner healing that is what I see on a daily basis . For it is the transformation and healing which comes from listening to another’s  story and to have our story told and listen to.  

 A quote from Matthew Stone one of our chaplaincy visitors ‘let us look at what I see when I visit the wards; stories, more stories, a whole awesome tapestry of stories! Patients describing their lives; where they’ve come from, where they’d like to go back to, who they’ve loved and those they didn’t – striving to touch the face of meaning by articulating their lives into a narrative…

So often our stories involve living with the big questions .  But Helen McLoed in ‘Dancing Down a Rainbow’ speaks about not living with but to actually live the question  she says…

Maybe some distant day I’ll live the answer,

 but for now I live the questions-

Not live with them, live them,

All the unsolved questions

Those locked rooms

My mind cannot explore

Those closed books I’ll never understand.


Each and every one of us here has a story to tell our own life’s story our own big questions and as people of faith we are conscious that that story fits into a much bigger one God’s story of his creation the story of humankind… and we continually seek to find  meaning  and make sense of it all.

To both listen to another’s story or tell our own makes us very vulnerable but I believe that’s when we start to touch what makes us truly human.

I was recently called to the bedside of a dying woman who had requested to see a chaplain. I had met this lady a few weeks before who on meeting me had said to me that she wasn’t religious so didn’t really require regular visits from the chaplains. This day however she had expressed a wish to speak with a chaplain. As we met she spoke of what she had been told by the Doctors about her medical condition which was terminal . She said the doctors have told her what is going to happen from a medical perspective now she wanted me to tell her what was going to happen from a spiritual one. Together we embarked on a conversation where her life’s story began to unfold and we explored together where if ever she had felt that God’s presence was evident to her. She dug deep within herself and began to realise that although she had never found God in traditional religion his presence had been with her throughout her life and was very near to her as she drew near to the end she recognise that the kingdom of God was close at hand.. This speaks to me of healing.

The kingdom of God has come near to you

St Francis of Assisi said  ‘preached the gospel wherever you can and use words if you have too.’

One of the nurses I work with said to me one day ‘I never really notice what a person is wearing or even what they look like but I always notice what they bring into the room and what they leave behind.

We are all in the business of sowing the seeds of God’s kingdom

Sowing the seeds of compassion ,love, mercy, light hope joy and peace …

What we bring into the room and what we leave behind….

Henri Nowuen a Dutch Roman catholic priest wrote  “Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable , and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.

I’ve been reading a book recently by a Hospice chaplain who speaks of chaplains as a hopeful presence .  A presence which just by being there symbolises that the kingdom of God is very near that despite everything that is going on in this world and in your personal circumstances  God is very near .  God is with us.

The harvest is plentiful and God calls each of us into his mission field to accept the hospitality and welcome of others - Eat what is set before us, heal the sick and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near .

 God calls each of us to be a hopeful presence in this world as Helen McLeod writes

Maybe some distant day I’ll live the answer,

 but for now I live the questions-

Not live with them, live them,

All the unsolved questions

Those locked rooms

My mind cannot explore

Those closed books I’ll never understand.

And you, Lord have the keys

To rooms and books and puzzles.

You have the Keys to life,

To meaning and to death;

And one glad day-O, not so far away-

When I come dancing down

That radiant, shining rainbow,

You’ll open all the doors, interpret all the books,

And mystery

Will be plain as day

And all transformed

In radiant , rainbow wonder Amen.