Monday, February 28, 2011

Luke 1 - a worthy storyteller

Luke tells a good story. Actually he tells two good stories: one about Jesus, and another (Acts) about the foundations of the early church, focusing especially on its providential, at times painful transition from a Jerusalem sect to a universal faith. The inclusion of gentiles is clear in Luke's salutation, which is addressed to Theophilus, a Roman name meaning "lover of God", who was probably the publisher/patron of his two-volume work.

And what a work it is. While only the "Holy Ghost Writer" could tell the story of the Son of God, of his human collaborators Luke is pre-eminent. He researches, organizes, and writes better than any. His books tell vivid story after story of real people and yet maintain their tight focus on Jesus, the Christ for all peoples. You can't tell a book by its cover, but you can tell this one by its salutation: Luke delivers on his promise to include accounts from "eyewitnesses and servants of the word," he has "carefully investigated everything," and he did "write an orderly account." How well he achieved his aim: that not only Theophilus but two millenia-and-counting of Christendom "may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

It is believed that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, may have been a key source. This seems likely. Luke has a pronounced emphasis on women and their perspectives. The details of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus are particularly rich. It is as if we are sitting around a family reunion (as praise God we all shall some day!!) and Mary and Elizabeth are swapping stories about their kids. "Remember when I was carrying John, and you told me you were pregnant, and John leaped in my womb?" As a reader, I enjoy Luke's poignant depiction of God's presence and promise with "real people" and their day-to-day lives. This style of writing was not always the case among Greek-trained scholars. But new wine calls for new wineskins. Luke weaves together threads of theology, contemporary reporting, and good, old-fashioned Old Testament-style storytelling.

Joe often asks me, "Dad, what's your favorite book of the Bible?" I usually tell him, "Luke". So I hope that March will be not only a month of slushy slogging, but also of blessed blogging.

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