Will you find space for anointing Spirit
to love you, guide you, help you to be brave?
By other paths, hap you might achieve it--
for me there’s just one path from self to saved.
Check: see if lurks some anger, bias, fears.
Might self-centered tendencies unglue?
It takes soul work to lead in sweat, laughs, tears
in acts of wisdom, love and justice true!
Do you desire to seize the servant mandate?
How equipped your shadows to engage?
How purified your soul to advocate?
How purposed is your heart to take the stage?
Spirit God burns to turn your shadows alight.
Let Him banish darkness. Let Him sharpen sight!
By now, it’s my hope that you see the links in the chain beginning to form. To put humanity back on a healing path, the world needs capable, ethical leaders. Given today’s vast technical capabilities to advance good or ill, leader goodness is more consequential than ever before. Leader goodness depends on piety– strengthening your relationship with God.
The Christian path to God is the trinitarian path: we experience God in three persons. God the Father– supreme moral force, immanent in all things, transcendent beyond space and time– the Source of love. God the Son– Jesus Christ our brother, our Messiah– the Word of love. And God the Holy Spirit– the Spirit of love. Three in one, in mystical communion.
For the past three weeks we have explored fire, wind and water– the first three of the four symbols of the Holy Spirit. Now we turn to the fourth symbol– oil. God anoints us with the oil of belief, the oil of healing and the oil of leadership consecration. And then He shares His holy oil as fuel for our holy fire, igniting us with love, lighting our journey, and so completing the circle.
I admit that, for me at least, embracing this fourth symbol of the Holy Spirit requires a bigger leap of faith than does fire, wind and water. I didn’t grow up having ointment placed on my forehead. Not until I fell in love with and married an Irish Catholic, and became one (Catholic, not Irish). But as I ponder it more, I see how the metaphor of anointing conveys honor and respect. The Bible tells us that God anoints us. And that blows my mind. How can it be that the God of all creation would stoop to honor and respect me so, especially in such a tangible way? It is I who am called to honor and respect Him. What kind of love is this?
And yet we learn that Spirit God does indeed anoint us in the oil of belief:
“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”-- 2 Corinthians 1:21-22
God doesn't push. He gives us the choice to let Him anoint us in faith. The rational brain clamors: “show me a sign– only then will I believe!” But God doesn’t work that way. We are given our own free will, to see or not see– to trust or not trust.
Spirit God also anoints us in the oil of healing:
“And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.”-- Mark 6:13
“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord”-- James 5:14
Whether it be our physical ailments or the demons that lurk in our souls, we all need healing. Holy Spirit God stands ready to anoint our wounds with healing balm. And so we come to Him, acknowledging our need, and accepting the support of our community. We let the “elders of the church” pray and anoint, in the name of the Lord. To take this step, to admit our woundedness, is an act of humility. Are we ready to become poor in spirit, so that we may be anointed?
The Bible also says that Spirit God anoints us in our roles as leaders, so that our leadership itself is consecrated in goodness:
“You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister as priests to Me.”-- Exodus 30:30
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.”-- 1 Samuel 16:13
Leadership is fraught with risk. Far too many leaders succumb to power’s addictions—such as pride, greed, envy and gluttony. It takes hard, courageous and continuous soul work to become a true servant leader. Where to start? The third step in the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve-step program is to surrender yourself to a higher power-- to the God of your own understanding. A quite successful person I know and love who is in recovery begins each day by falling to his knees in prayer, asking for the strength to remain sober today. We all would be well advised to do the same. As long as our pride-filled ego seeks independence from God, we deny ourselves His anointing oil. Only in kneeling surrender may we be consecrated.
And then Spirit God gives us oil to light our holy fire:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”-- Matthew 5:14-16
Let us make our hearts ready, like wicks moist with holy oil, to be lit by the fire of God’s love. This oil-fueled flicker of flame completes the Spirit circle (fire, then wind, then water, then oil, then fire). Anointed in belief, healing and consecration; lit up by fire; we are made ready by Spirit God to go out into the world and serve.
Next week, I will share some soul lessons taught by the most important person in my life: Jesus.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”-- Galatians 5:22-23
With prayers for you,
Previous Weeks' Letters: