Over the summer, I have been on a preaching and book tour. It’s been fun to be in a number of churches, to talk about my book Simply Grace and, because I donate all the funds from preaching and the book, to be able to financially help our ministry in Haiti.
This past Sunday, I was in a church in the western part of South Dakota. It was a very welcoming and gracious group. The worship was relaxed and felt people were interested in the information I shared about our non-profit, LaGonave Alive, and attentive to my sermon. After I finished my sermon, I saw a man approaching me from the right. He’s someone I’ve known and a leader in the church. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked if it would be alright if he anointed me with oil and prayed for me. When I said yes, he invited others to come forward, to put their hands on me and join in the prayer.
Honestly, I don’t remember much of what he said, but he prayed for me and our work in Haiti. It was such an unexpected and holy moment and it’s also possible that my eyes might have been leaking a little.
On my way home, I was thinking about this man’s grace-filled act and wondered about the act of being anointed with oil. So I consulted the fount of all knowledge, Google. Anointing people was a common practice with the Hebrews as they welcomed people into their homes. It was an act of hospitality.
Anointing with oil is also both medicinal and sacramental. In the Bible, there are examples of using oil to heal others. There are companies today, that sell oils and advertise claims of healing and calming properties. Oils were also used in ceremony, to set people apart for their service of God and to help us focus our attention on grace or the love of God.
I sent a note to this man and the pastor of the church how much this moment meant to me. But my words were really inadequate. Being anointed and prayed for by this church was an act of hospitality. It was medicinal. It was sacramental.
The following morning, I met with a men’s group from my church. We’ve been studying a book about the 23rd Psalm. Each chapter of the book examines a phrase from the Psalm. The chapter for this week – He Restores My Soul.