Books in the time of Saint Luke could be reproduced only by hand copying and were consequently both expensive and relatively scarce. Partly because of this, authors of the period tended to be extremely careful in their composition. They chose their words very precisely and generally included in their narratives only those details that they considered significant. This is one reason why I so frequently urge attention to all details in any Gospel reading. What may at first seem like an extraneous detail to a modern reading often proves to be a significant one. Consider last Sunday's Gospel reading from the seventh chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Luke:
“And it came to pass the day after, that Jesus went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.”
Note that the passage includes none of the sort of details that a modern writer would use to make the scene more vividly imaginable. No descriptions of the weather, the town, the clothing or physical appearance or even the names of anyone other than Jesus. Those details are unimportant to Saint Luke. But there is one detail that he not only includes but emphasizes by repetition, and that is the fact there are a large number of witnesses to this event. He tells us that when Jesus came to Nain “ … many of his disciples went with him, and much people,” and also reports that when the funeral procession appeared with the widow “ … much people of the city was with her.” Why does Luke include this detail?
Two reasons immediately suggest themselves. One might be called cultural, the other historical.
The cultural reason has to do with who Saint Luke was and the literary culture of his day. Both Scripture and tradition tell us that he was a physician and both the style of and the vocabulary that he uses in his Gospel and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles make it clear that he was an educated and cultured man by the standards of the Hellenistic world in which he lived. One of the most significant aspects of that culture was theater. In Greek tragedy there are a limited number of characters whose words and actions tell the story of the drama and a chorus whose role as a group is to react to and comment on the meaning and significance of the main actors' words and actions. The literary convention of having a group of spectators performing the chorus' function can be found in all four Gospels and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The words of what those books often refer to as “the crowd” or “the multitude” are significant explanations of or commentary on the words and actions of Jesus and of His disciples. As Father Roddy pointed out in last week's sermon, Jesus' miracles are not merely acts of power or compassion, they are signs of who He is and what His mission is. In this text the crowd's commentary is easy to understand; Jesus is a prophet and more than a prophet, He is God among us.
I believe that there is also an historical reason for this emphasis on the presence of a large number of people being present. The earliest date proposed for the writing of the Gospel is around 50 AD and many scholars date it around 80 AD. This means that it was composed after Saint Luke had already done a good deal of traveling with Saint Paul on their missions to the Gentiles in a number of different cities. Despite the modern intellectual arrogance that assumes all first century people to have been naive, superstitious, and credulous enough to believe anything they were told, the truth is that a centuries-old philosophical tradition had made the questions of how to determine truth the subject of a great deal of critical thought. As early as at least Herodotus and Thucydides in the fifth century BC it was taught that the two most reliable (though admittedly not absolutely reliable) sources for truth about the past were documentation and eye witness accounts. By making the point that many people, some of whom would have still been alive as Saint Luke was writing, saw this event, Luke is attesting to its reliability.
This seems to me very much in accord with the first four verses of the Gospel, where “Theophilus” may be understood either as the name of an individual or as a term applied to all believers – it literally means “lover of God,” and the Greek alphabet of the day had only uppercase letters. Here are those four verses as translated in the King James Bible:
“Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
Saint Luke was no fabulist. He was an educated, well-traveled, and sophisticated man writing what he knew to be both true and supremely important. Read him, study him, and believe what he has to say.
REMEMBER THE WORDS OF THE LORD JESUS, HOW HE SAID, IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
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Saturday, October 8, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM, Blessing of the Animals (annual pet blessing -- please bring your pet and also invite family, neighbors and friends to bring their pets too; setup 8:30 AM)
Sunday Services, 7:45, 9:00 & 11:15 AM nursery care provided during 9 & 11:15 AM services (for online participation for the services go to: https://www.facebook.com/saintsofscotland/ )
Sunday, 10:30 AM, Sunday School
Wednesday at Noon – Holy Communion and anointing for healing
Saturday, October 15, 8:30 AM, Men's Group, Breakfast & Bible Study, come enjoy a great breakfast, fellowship, and an interesting and thought provoking Bible study
Monday, October 24, 7:30 PM, Vestry Meeting, church undercroft
Ordination of Deacon Anton Yoe to the Priesthood– Saturday, November 19, at 11:00 a.m. A reception will follow the ordination service.Bishop’s Annual Visitation – Sunday, November 20 – If you wish to be received or confirmed by Bishop Lerow during his visitation with our Parish, or if you are unsure of your status, please contact Fr. Roddy as soon as possible.
SAVE THE DATE: Wednesday, November 30, 7:00 PM, St. Andrew's Day -- Kirkin of the Tartans with bagpiper and Scottish music followed by festive reception with Scottish foods and beverages
Please pray for everyone on the parish's prayer list that is in the attached bulletins.
Donations to the Food Bank and Marih Center are greatly needed. Across the country, crisis pregnancy centers have been attacked or vandalized. The needs are great. Please help with either a goods donation or a monetary donation. You can give through the donation button in this newsletter and use the drop down menu to choose "Charity & Mercy." Thank you.
Please help this month with a food donation if you are able. Christ House is very thankful for the food we provide to them each month. Please also buy low sugar cereals (and not the kid's types that have lots of sugar). Current needs include the following:
• canned meats (chicken, corned beef, spam)
• peanut butter
• canned vegetables (corn, green beans - (regular and low sodium)
• individual fruit cups (low sugar)
• canned fruit (low sugar)
• cereal (low sugar)
• pasta (regular and gluten-free)
• instant potatoes
• Macaroni & cheese kits
• Coffee, cooking oil, flour, sugar
Updated List of Needs for MaRIH Center (crisis pregnancy center)
MaRIH Center with its all volunteer staff has been providing help to mothers-to-be and mothers in need. If you can provide some of the items that are needed, please do so. (You can leave the donations where the food for the food bank is collected on the pew in the undercorft.)
Baby wipes (an ongoing great need)
Diapers (sizes 1, 4, 5, & 6)
Diaper rash ointment
Clothing for boys and girls (0-6 months)
Sleep Sacks: Girls 0-6 mos.
Socks: Boy/Girl 2T
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