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In a world that many claim is ‘post-truth’, the Gospel of Luke is subversive and radical. The gospel begins with a clear purpose statement: ‘to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed’ (1:3-4). The purpose of Luke’s gospel, according to the Evangelist himself, is that Theophilus—a word which simply means ‘lover of God’—might know the truth about our faith and our Saviour. So that all of us, who are lovers of God, might be strengthened and grounded in Christian teaching through a structured and orderly account of the life of Jesus. For Luke tells us that his Gospel was written about ‘all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning’ (Acts 1:1).

This year, we walk through Lent focused on Jesus, from His birth and ministry to His betrayal and death, and finally to His resurrection and ascension into heaven. Along the way, we will encounter a huge range of faithful and stumbling followers of Jesus, we will learn more about Jesus’ words and deeds and the names He is given, andwe will grapple with Jesus’ final words on the cross, unique to this gospel and familiar to many from the Psalms and from Compline: ‘Into your hands, I commend my spirit’ (23:46).

This gospel and our focus in Lent is Jesus. For Luke’s gospel, Jesus is especially noted as a prophet and, more than this, a rejected prophet. In Him, the prophecy of the Old Testament is fulfilled. And this fulfilment has a very specific purpose: the lifting up of the lowly and the reversal of expectations. Luke’s gospel, more than any other, calls us to a clear concern for the marginalised in his world. Women play an important role in Luke’s narrative, supporting Jesus’ ministry financially and offering models of true discipleship. Children, those who are ill, those socially excluded (such as tax-collectors), and those excluded for racial and ethnic reasons (such as Gentiles and Samaritans) or moral reasons (‘sinners’) are included, lifted up, and loved. As the words of Mary in Luke’s beautiful and challenging Magnificat proclaim: ‘he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’ (1:53).

This Lenten season we are invited, through Luke’s gospel, to know the truth of Jesus Christ. We are called to walk with Him to and through the cross. We are called to include those excluded by our society, culture, world, and Church. We are called to fill the hungry and lift up the lowly. We are called to enter into God’s saving work through the radical love and teaching of Jesus Christ. We are called to join Jesus in His mission to those outside the places we gather. This Lent, may we be strengthened in our identity as lovers of God and may we not only know, but embody and proclaim His truth in our daily lives.

The Revd Canon Professor Jenn Strawbridge
Canon Theologian, Blackburn Cathedral

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