The Lord stood by me and gave me strength

Preached by Carol Kidd LLM on 18 October 2020: Feast Day of St Luke
2 Timothy 4:5-17/Luke 10:1-9

 May I speak in the name of Jesus Christ, our strength and our redeemer: Amen

Like St Paul, many find comfort through their Christian faith when circumstances or illness bring physical or spiritual darkness and pain. Certainly, that was true for me several years ago when in the midst of a critical illness, in the middle of a bad night, I recalled how as a child I used to listened out for the bidding in the Communion service: “Hear the words of comfort our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to him”

Paul repeatedly turned to Christ for comfort and strength – through illness, persecution and imprisonment. Paul’s second letter to Timothy expounds the importance of trust and companionship. Trusting in God, who is ever faithful, Paul shows how we can draw strength from each other, and find the boldness to proclaim the message of the Cross, always being ready to share the good news of the kingdom that all may come to believe. Through faith, we meet Jesus in those who accompany us through difficulties and dangers, and we are called to be that presence for others.

In prison, with Luke as his sole companion, Paul provides a true example of trusting in Jesus’ constant saving love, even when others fail and fall away. Today we give thanks for St Luke, who Paul called: the beloved physician. Legend says that Luke knew Mary, Jesus’ mother, and was one of the 70 sent out by Jesus – the 70 were instructed not to be distracted or delayed in their mission but to always ready with words of peace, commissioned to pray, ‘to heal the sick’ and proclaim ‘the kingdom of God is near’.

In Luke’s gospel signs of the nearness of God’s kingdom are discovered through the story of the Annunciation and Mary’s song of joy. Only Luke brings us shepherds hurrying to welcome the newborn king. Only Luke tells how Simeon recognised the long-awaited Messiah as he took 8day old Jesus in his arms. And Luke reveals the importance of accompanying, and being accompanied, through illness and danger as he provides the story of the paralysed man lowered through the roof by his friends and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

As Christians, we too are called to share Christ’s peace in the way we act towards others, to offer prayers for healing, to share the kingdom message. In this time of unresolved tensions between nations, ongoing acts of unimaginable terrorism, many situations of discrimination, abuse, modern-day slavery, poverty and homelessness – as we encounter the consequences of a pandemic, for which there is still no cure – prayers for healing and wholeness are essential. Trusting Jesus as our compassionate companion, who is with us even in the midst of the anguish of illness and conflict, we can in confidence pray that we, and all who suffer, may know his healing love, comfort and peace – that can come through those who walk, sit and wait alongside in times of adversity and sickness.

Yes, prayers for healing can bring amazing, miraculous recoveries, but we must always remember that prayers are not magic formulas, and must always be offered in Jesus’ name.

We know that prayer does not always instantly overturn the nature of disease, illness or incapacity. Yet healing ministry can bring a sense of peace in the midst of anxiety, the confidence of knowing Jesus stands alongside and sends his Holy Spirit to bring comfort, hope and strength of body and mind.

Today’s Collect speaks of the ‘wholesome medicine of the gospel’. Luke’s gospel reveals Jesus’ promise that he will remember us as he comes into his kingdom, be with us in trouble and keep us in safety. Like Paul, we can pray for strength to cope with adversity, and the confidence to hand those struggles over to God. Healing and renewal may come in the here and now, or in the future that is known only by God. It is through our Christian faith that we can trust that, should suffering and illness lead to death – even so in death our prayers will be answered – for the healing peace of God is ever-present in His eternal kingdom and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

May we all know the comfort, and yes the joy of Jesus as our trusted companion, our beloved Saviour, that like Paul we can declare:

“The Lord stood by me and gave me strength”