The Needed Oil

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Book and Article Reviews

Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite observances of the Church year.  We recognize our dust, our nothingness without God’s Spirit breathing new life into us.  These two realities are symbolized in the ash and oil mixed together that is applied as a paste in the sign of the cross on the foreheads of believers as they prepare for the Lenten journey toward Easter.  In my preparation for Wednesday night I used all of the oil I had left for my batch of ashes.

Sunday morning rolled around.  We were preparing to baptize our daughter.  I had set out the water and the towel.  It then struck me… I had no oil.  Oil is an essential part of baptism.  After sprinkling the water on the infant’s head, oil is applied in the sign of the cross on the forehead as a tangible expression of the Spirit’s blessing.  We had no oil.  Major problem.  I panicked because I literally have no place to go quickly and pick up oil for anointing.  What to do!?

It wasn’t too long after this moment of shock a congregant approached me.  She had received a letter in the mail and had received something in it she didn’t need.  She thought we might be able to make use of it.  I was a little confused.  She handed me a small vial of anointing oil.  Stunned doesn’t begin to cover the sensation I experienced.  God had provided what we needed in an unexpected way.

I’m hardly advocating that we come into worship unprepared.  But, it was a tangible reminder that God is the one that provides for the needs of the worshiping community – even before we know what we need.  And, as oil is the sign of the life of the Spirit in our midst, it was also a visible token of God’s continued presence in our midst.  May the Spirit enliven our ashes, empower us to live out our baptisms, and inspire our worship.

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