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18th October 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Talk for St Luke's Day - October 18th 2015
Acts 16. 6-12a
Luke 10. 1-9

Today - 18th October, is by tradition St Luke's day. Luke the Evangelist, the friend and companion of Paul, the author of the Book of Acts of the Apostles, but also famously known as "the beloved physician."

So it seems appropriate to be especially mindful today of all those who work in the medical professions to try and keep us healthy - but failing that, - to make us well again.

That isn't to say that the power of prayer counts for nothing. I think that God can choose to bring us healing - rather than cure - through many different means, prayer - sometimes with the laying on of hands - being one of them. But God also chooses often to bring us healing through the skills and knowledge of our doctors, nurses, therapists, radiologists and all the others who care for specialised bits of our bodies or who specialise in particular ailments. All with the aim of making us well.

None of us really likes visiting the doctor - far less the dentist (!) - so I wonder how often we thank God for them? For the years they spend studying; for the hours and hours they spend on duty; for the way they have now to contend with unending bureaucracy and spending constraints?

For all its failings I still think the NHS is a fantastic achievement. By and large delivering outstanding care where it is acutely needed - even though it may creak a bit around the edges as we know only too well. I am a child of the NHS - I grew up knowing no different, although my parents could remember very well what medical treatment was like before WWII - and they never ceased to be grateful for all that was made available to everyone - free at the point of need.

So I thought that this morning - rather than listen to me sermonising - you might like to spend some time thinking about and thanking God for the medical care that you have received through your life and the Doctors / Nurses/ etc. who delivered it.

Perhaps you can think back to your childhood and the doctor who habitually attended your family? In my case that was Dr White - a rather grumpy Irishman - but a devoted and caring doctor. Subsequently there have been many others - those who have patched me back together in hospital at different times - not all of whose names I can recall, but I still thank God for them.

And maybe you can recall the doctors and staff at a hospice who have cared for a friend or loved one in the last stages of life? This very specialised service - palliative care - brings huge comfort to so many, and is destined to be a growing area of medicine as we all grow older and live longer.

So now I invite you to turn to someone else in the congregation - someone perhaps whom you don't know so well, and in a few minutes of conversation, recollect some of the medical staff you have known and for whom you would like to give thanks this morning............

Father almighty,
whose Son was the divine physician,
and numbered among his disciples
Luke, the beloved doctor;
we give thanks to you for all
who share your own work in the practice of medicine.
We thank you for the skills they have learned,
the science they apply,
the wisdom they have gained,
the compassion they display.

We pray that you will sustain them
as they work long hours,
experience many stresses,
take great decisions,
and hold life and death in their hands.

Enable them to use
all the gifts you have given them
for the relief and healing
of your people in their need.
We ask this for your name's sake.

18th October 2015 - Sermon for Sunday Evening

Evensong Address - St Luke's day 2015

...but to serve... A meditation

In a world where service to others is either taken for granted,
or considered to be reserved for those who cannot make a success of their lives, how do we reverse this attitude, as Jesus said we should?

In a world where wealth brings power
and celebrity status is granted to anyone who has the right agent,
or is prepared to actively seek for publicity,
how can we elevate the quiet souls who spend their time in helping others?

In a world where connivance and greed
can result in evil people working their way into a position
where they can control by manipulation,
or fear,
what can be done to overthrow corrupt systems
and replace them with those that will work for freedom and peace?

In a world where we find ourselves
tempted to fame and fortune by any means possible,
but preferably the easy way,
how do we reconcile our way of living
with the knowledge that service demands self-sacrifice
and that is a hard route to follow.

Sacrificial God, this is your world.
Help us to live in it with integrity.
Show us how to follow Christ's example of self-giving.
Teach us your way of loving our neighbours as much as we love ourselves.

Only then will we have any possibility
of turning the world upsidedown,
as Jesus did. .

On this St Luke's day when we think especially of those who are involved in the medical professions, this meditation speaks especially powerfully to me.

And to think of the medical profession inevitably brings thoughts of suffering and illness; of dis-ease and pain - and quite possibly great anger at God. The God who seems to allow such suffering to take place without lifting a finger to prevent it!

Such thoughts are understandable, but they are wrong - it seems to me.

I am as certain as I can be that God does not send affliction of any kind on his people in some sort of perverted test - just to see how much they can take. He already knows that some of us will cope badly - while in others it will bring out the best. Neither do I think that suffering born bravely can be an inspiration to others.... well it can of course but I do not think it is part of God's purpose as such. Even if some people may indeed rise above their illness in a way that indicates they are sharing the existential life of the risen and living Christ...
The suffering of Jesus himself did not seem to have this effect. The disciples were not moved when he was in his time of need... indeed they slept through his agony in the garden and fled when he was arrested. Peter even denied knowing him!

However we do wrestle with trying to understand the purposes of suffering - and doctors and nurses perhaps more than most. One way of looking at it is the following - "The definition of Almighty - when we address God as almighty - means that there is no evil out of which good cannot be brought.

So while Creation may not - today - be perfect. It may be that we have a Creator who ceaselessly, patiently, works to transform and re-create what has gone amiss, above all in his entry into this creation to amend and redeem it.

So it is that we can always pray for healing - for that transformation and re-creation, whatever the circumstances. Healing is therefore not synonymous with cure or recovery. It may be, but is not necessarily so. For the dying patient, it may be that death will bring the only healing possible - which may be very hard for his or her loved ones to accept, but in such a case we can do no better than to pray that our loved one will be kept in God's presence, in his love, and therefore find peace.

Sometimes when a person accepts - in a positive sense - the reality of their situation, they are able not only to live through it themselves, but to encourage others to do the same. So they are able to experience 'life in all its fullness' - the gift of God himself.

So on this day, dedicated to healers and to St Luke - we can join our prayers with those who seek to bring healing and peace of mind to those who suffer.

Almighty God, whose will it is to bring order out of chaos.

We thank you for all who work in the emergency services,
in our hospitals,
in doctors' surgeries and clinics,
in accident and emergency departments
and on long-stay wards.

We thank you for the support
which they bring to people facing the unknown,
the unexpected,
and sudden crisis in their lives.

We pray for all who serve
in this area of human care.
Strengthen their trust in each other.
Deepen their respect for one another.
Uphold them in moments of trauma
and in times of lasting stress,
So that they may rest secure in you,
and bring to people in distress
the care and understanding which they need,
after the pattern of your Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen