Recently someone asked me about commentaries on Luke, and it got me thinking about the journey ahead of us as a new Christian year approaches. I, for one, am eager for the year of Luke, because I love a good story – and Luke is an amazing storyteller! Think of all of that special Luke material that has fundamentally shaped your understanding of Jesus and what it means to be a Christian: the infancy narratives replete with the songs of Zechariah, Mary and angels; the parables of lost sheep, coins, and the prodigal son; the good Samaritan; the rich man and Lazarus; the persistent widow and the judge; recognition on the road to Emmaus; and, of course, the grand narrative of Acts. Over and over, Luke calls us to his table to encounter Jesus and a vision of the kingdom, made alive and real through the Holy Spirit.
The Year of Luke reminds us that, as the Body of Christ, we are a people anointed to bring good news to the poor and sent to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Lk 4:18-19). In every year, this is a timely reminder, but what will it mean for you this year? What good news has God given you to share? And to whom will you go? Because, make no mistake about it, Luke expects you to get out there and go! Luke invites you to follow his wandering Messiah whose face is set on Jerusalem (Lk 9:51) and to follow God’s unruly Spirit that regards not our human boundaries, but beckons us on to unimagined places and peoples.
So, are you ready? Not quite?
Before breaking out your commentaries, you may want to set aside some time to read all the way through Luke and Acts – uninterrupted. We rarely do this. It takes a while, but it will be worth it to you. Because of the way our canon is organized, we so often read Luke in relation to the other gospels and Acts as a gateway to Paul’s letters. That approach does not quite do Luke-Acts justice as a single text in two parts. If you have the luxury of having a committed small group who can gather with you for an afternoon in a comfortable space with food, you might consider taking a time of retreat to divide up the text and read the entire work out loud. If you do this with Luke-Acts, make sure that everyone knows that they can move around as needed during the reading, and consider assigning the texts ahead of time so that your readers can bring their story-telling best.
Once you have read Luke-Acts, there are a couple texts that I have found to be particularly rich resources that are a little off the beaten path:
Luke Timothy Johnson’s little text, Sharing Possessions: What Faith Demands, is now available as a second edition (yes, Kindle too). A review of this text, which I am currently re-reading, will soon be available here.
Grace Imathiu’s book of sermons, Words of Fire, Spirit of Grace, takes several of Luke’s texts and preaches them in ways that surprise and inspire.
Some have recommended to me Eugene LeVardiere’s Dining in the Kingdom of God: The Origins of the Eucharist According to Luke and his companion piece The Breaking of the Bread: The Development of the Eucharist According to Acts. You will likely only have the stomach for one of these, and I recommend the first. LeVardiere speaks eloquently about how Jesus goes about forming a new kingdom at table.
I would love to hear what texts you have discovered in your journeys with Luke-Acts. Feel free to comment!