Recently, the Pope attempted to offer an orderly account of the birth narratives of Jesus. He was so bold as to say that the manager was probably more like a cave and that there is no scriptural evidence of animals being present despite the beauty of Silent Night’s prose. He was nearly universally lambasted. I guess he didn’t pick up the list of things you learn in seminary that you should never mention to lay people. Benedict’s “orderly account” snafu seems to have lead to Benedict’s Twitter account (@pontifex) and another round of Public Relations cleanup for the Vatican.
Thankfully, Luke wasn’t treated with the same disdain as he set out to offer an orderly account of the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus as well as the opening years of the Church founded in his name. This Sunday, we get our first real taste of Luke the Physician’s eye for detail. Our Gospel lesson opens with a rousing rehearsal of the incestuous Roman political family tree. It is a list of details that mean next to nothing to the modern reader (unless you’re the Pope), and yet it means a great deal in the grand scheme of things.
Luke’s orderly account puts the ministry of Jesus into historical context. It places him in a place and time: a political and religious context. It sets the stage for the next 50 years of struggle between the disciples of John and Jesus on one side and Rome and Israel on the other. It takes what could easily be construed as a generic philosophy and places it very conspicuously in the real world.
As Year C unfolds, Luke’s care for being orderly will come in handy, and it is even more present in his second book, Acts. But this week, I give thanks for God’s gifting Luke with the mind of a Physician and a heart for the Kingdom.