good oil

Olive oil is good for our health we are told by health professionals.

Last Sunday at church we shared in olive oil, not to dip bread into or to cook with it, but to be anointed with.

This is yet another way that olive oil can be good for our health.

We were engaging with an ancient practice, something that people in first Jesus communities did. In the early church people would anoint with oil, in the name of Christ, those among them who were sick (e.g. James 5:14).

I think many of us, in our own ways, yearn for healing. And so last week in worship the invitation was given to re-engage with this ancient practice and receive anointing with oil. There was no compulsion or expectation to do this, only invitation for those who wanted to respond.

When people did come forward they were greeted with little fingers dripping with fragrant olive oil.

I didn’t anoint those who chose to participate, instead children who are part of our community did the anointing. Many who came forward, spontaneously, knelt so that the children could easily reach their heads. As the children quietly spoke the blessing for each person: “We anoint you in the name of Christ” they made the shape of the cross on each person’s forehead.

A precious woman who is 90 came forward. She is no longer so steady on her feet and, therefore, as she chose to kneel several of us rushed to help her to safely reach the floor. But she didn’t need our help. She knew what she wanted.

As the 6 year old anointed the 90 year old saying: “We anoint you in the name of Christ” they gazed upon each other, and the blessing of that moment extended not just to them, but spilled over to those of us around them.

Healing is not about easy cures. Christian faith is not about quick fixes. Healing from the perspective of Jesus’ way is about attending to the divine who enters right into our suffering with us and who, through the Spirit, seeks to birth strange, often unexpected, new life from within that. In Celtic tradition one of the ways of describing God’s Spirit is “Spirit of healing balm”.  I love this imagery.

This kind of healing is more authentic and challenging and liberating than any quick fix solution could ever be.

I pray that the Spirit of healing balm be upon all the bruised parts of our living.


Rev Dr Sally Douglas