Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Anointing

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. - Psalm 23:5

While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, "Why was the ointment wasted in this way?" But Jesus said, "Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me." - Mark 14:3-4,6

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 108:1-5; 1 Samuel 11,12; John 1:29-42

Anointing is an act of setting apart, of choosing. In today's verses, anointing is both something done to and done for. In the most well-known of all the psalms, David compares receiving God's blessings to being anointed with oil, and the psalm is written so that everybody can find themselves in it, affirming God's love and care. It can really by my head that's anointed, a table of blessings set for me in the presence of my enemies. We also have God's anointed king, Saul, in 1 Samuel 11-12, at the beginning of his power; and in John 1, Jesus is called "the Messiah (which is translated Anointed)." Then, in the Mark passage, the woman anoints Jesus (a little later, he says this is for his burial) with an extravagant offering of costly ointment. The focus is on her in this story. She does this as an act of love and devotion, possibly anticipating the challenges coming up for Jesus. She is criticized for the way she chooses to devote herself to him. But Jesus stands up for her, and affirms that she has done "a good service."

In our lives, we definitely receive blessings from God. We are anointed as God's chosen ones in baptism, washed with water and marked with the cross of Christ forever. And then what? As David says, those who are anointed now live in the house of the Lord (the way of life of the Lord) forever. As Samuel tells the people, anointing as God's chosen one is to be accompanied by a life lived after God's ways. Jesus calls his disciples to "come and see" and to follow him. The woman in Mark 14, whose name we don't know, shows us how our life as disciples and followers of God's ways could be seen as a pattern of blessings poured out for others. Regardless of what people around us might think, if we are listening and learning and praying and being guided by God, we can use our resources as we see fit to anoint someone else for what God has in store. Who and what will we set apart? Who will we choose to bless, and how?

Caring God, thank you for choosing and anointing me. Help me to receive and appreciate your blessings. And guide me in using what you give for the blessing of others. Let my eyes see clearly the resources you've given me, my heart and mind discern who you would have me attend to, and my hands be faithful in anointing them according to your love.

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