Devotional for March 29: Oil
PRELUDE: Today, Lent in Plain Sight: A Devotion through ten objects, invites us to look at Psalm 23. The object for this week is oil. The title of the meditation is “Anointed with Oil”. If you have the book, read the meditation.
If you can, watch the following video based on the passage: Psalm 23 by Dan Stevers.
OPENING SENTENCES Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I lack. God guides me in proper paths for the sake of God’s good name. God bathes my head in oil; my cup is so full it spills over! Yes, God’s goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life.
Before, we lived in darkness, but now we know the true light, we have stepped into the light. Nevertheless, sometimes we do not live as someone who knows God. We do not act with kindness, justice, or truth. We do not try to do the things that please God, and we become accomplices to the ones who do not know God.
Wake us up! Forgive our sins, raise us up from death, and let the light of Christ shine on our lives. In his name, we pray. Amen.
PARDON AND PEACE
Jesus has said, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. . . I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”As we confess our sins to God in Christ’s name, he intercedes on our behalf as we are awakened from death to the hope of new life. Listen to the good news. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven.
(Take time to think about one thing during the week that has given you peace. It can be the sound of birds chirping, flowers coming out, or hearing from someone dear.)
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
REFLECTION: Camphor Oil (Pastor Marissa)
As I was thinking about oil and about Psalm 23, I thought about two things. The second one was a song that Puerto Rican children sing as a game called “El hijo de mi tía” (My aunt’s son). If you want to listen to the song, it was immortalized by a singer called Bobby Capo, and you can access it on the link in the song’s title. These are the words:
///El hijo de mi tía tiene una fuerte tos///. (My aunt’s son has a strong cough). Se le cura con aceite alcanforao. (It’s healed with camphor oil).
Children used to sing this time and time again, taking away one word with each repetition. Camphor oil, like many other oils, was used to heal. In this case, it was to make the symptoms of a common cold more tolerable. It has a distinct smell… and it was part of the first aid kit in any Puerto Rican household along with Vick’s Vapor Rub and Humphreys Maravilla (Wonder) Lotion.
The first thing I thought about was a trip to Costa Rica. I traveled there with a delegation that was supposed to help the Presbyterian Church of Costa Rica, one of the youngest Presbyterian denominations, to train leadership about what it meant to be Presbyterian. We visited local congregations and in one of them, we were called to anoint the sick. As we were doing so, I was called on to pray. While praying, I remembered that, in the Bible, oil was not just used to heal the sick, but also to symbolize God’s calling and commitment to care for the one being called.
Jill Duffield’s meditation shares an experience of anointing. Her grandfather had sent a picture book about Psalm 23 the summer before she went to seminary. Going to seminary is a big deal for a lot of people. For me, it was the decision to dedicate my life to God’s purpose and to God’s church. For Jill, it was an unexpected journey, but one that she felt that her grandfather, using this book, had anointed her for. She remembered this anointing every time she felt uncertain about the journey that she had decided for her life. This and other anointings had reminded her, time and time again: “Do not doubt God has called you.”
But as I read her meditation, I could see the double purpose of oil coming through. It symbolizes God’s call… but it also symbolizes God’s care. As she says, “God’s unmistakable care and attention, the confirmation that God hears and notices, sees us slogging through dark valleys…”. Oil gives us certainty but also gives us comfort. Oil gives us courage but also gives us love. Oil reminds us that we have a specific purpose, but also that even though we are walking through the darkest valley, we fear no evil because God is with us.
Rachel Held Evans, in an article called “You Anoint My Head with Oil” speaks about the oil’s capacity to make a memory:
“To the freed slaves, God smelled like cinnamon, cassia, olive oil, and myrrh — sweet and earthy, nutty and warm. When Moses met God on Mount Sinai, God sent him back with a recipe for oil. This oil would anoint the temple, the altar, the religious furnishings, even the priests. No one else was to use that same perfume, God said.”
I guess that, for Puerto Ricans, God smells like camphor oil… oil that communicates feelings of love, of care, of being connected to the ones that call our name and that give us our identity. Maybe for you, it is a different kind of oil that comes to mind. But the important thing is, in this time where coughing is so ominous, and when we fear being sick because it can be deathly, that we remember, through Vapor Rub or any other thing that gives witness… that we are still children of God, that we are still being called and that we are still being cared for. My prayer is that, like that aromatic oil that reminded David and his people of God’s call and care, we have moments and things in our life that do the same.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION (Duffield, Jill. Lent in Plain Sight (Kindle Locations 1086-1090). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition)
Have you ever been anointed with oil? When and why? Have you ever witnessed someone being anointed with oil? What was the context and occasion?
When has someone confirmed your sense of call to a particular work or service?
Can you remember a time when God ministered to you when you were “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”?
HYMN: Fill My Cup GtG 699
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION (“Prayers of the People” Slats Toole.)
we come to you with words
we come to you with songs
we come to you with sighs
we come to you with our selves,
our whole selves
which are hurting
and sometimes just too many things at once.
All our jumbled thoughts and feelings cry to You,
screaming out in different tones and colors,
longing for You.
You are the rock that steadies us.
You are the refuge that keeps us safe.
You are the water that give us life.
You are the Spirit that surrounds us even now.
When we cannot see each other face to face,
You still bind us together
with cords that cannot be broken.
You assure us that neither life nor death,
nor angels or rulers or things present or things to come
or any pandemic or disease can separate us from Your love for us in Christ Jesus.
We are united in our gratitude
for all those who are working on the front lines,
from healthcare workers to janitors to grocery store workers.
We are united in care for those businesses we love
who have to close their doors,
for the millions of people who have lost jobs and income,
for everyone who has been barely holding on,
who are now falling into their own personal states of emergency,
for those who already could not make ends meet,
who now see no way out.
We are united in our hope
for a way forward in this wilderness,
for testing opportunities and enough equipment to go around,
for scientists to find a cure,
and for all of us to find ways to live safely
in these days like no other we have ever experienced.
We are united in our concern
for all those who are sick,
with COVID-19 or anything else,
all those who cannot access care
all those who don't have enough symptoms to get a test,
all those who are trying to manage their physical or mental health.
We particularly pray for [specific community needs]
We pray as a united community
and we also pray as individuals in our own homes,
with our own needs,
our own fears,
our own joys.
We lift these prayers to You now.
Hear us as You heard Jesus,
in our weeping and our words
in our songs and our sighs,
in all the ways we call to You.
Even while we remain apart,
we join all our prayers together in the one Your Son taught us,
saying... [Lord's Prayer]
DISMISSAL 1 Tim. 6:21
Unison: The grace of God be with us all,
now and always. Amen.
Bless the Lord. The Lord’s name be praised.