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You Anoint My Head with Oil; My Cup Overflows: Psalm 23:5

You Anoint My Head with Oil; My Cup Overflows: Psalm 23:5

By Ted Schroder,
June 19, 2016

The Lord commanded the prophet Samuel to take a horn of oil and anoint David to be king in the place of Saul. "And from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power" (1 Samuel 16:13). To anoint someone was to set them apart to be gifted by God for their calling. The oil was the outward sign of the inward transforming and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. A formula for the making of the sacred anointing oil was given to Moses (Exodus 30:22-30). The tabernacle and everything in it was anointed and so consecrated. Moses poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him chief priest" (Lev.8:12). In the Coronation Service of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 the Archbishop of Canterbury anointed her head, and hands and feet.

Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate (1995-2003) writes, "Anointing in the Hebrew-Christian tradition means the blessing of the Lord, the healing of the Lord, the appointment of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord. To be anointed by Him is to have Him place His loving hand upon us and fill us with His Spirit. Cup is the portion - literally in Hebrew 'my life'. God makes our lives overflow. When He anoints us with the oil of His healing, our inner heart is filled with a joy that we cannot contain."

So what does this mean for us? How are we anointed? How does our cup overflow with joy? We are not kings, queens or priests are we? Yes, we are! Jesus Christ is the Anointed One -- that's what 'Christ' means. When we are baptized in Christ, we are christened, i.e. made into little Christs, followers of Christ, part of the body of Christ. Some churches even use anointing by oil (chrism) in Baptism to make that point.

We are "a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9) consecrated to God's service. "God anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (2 Cor.1:21, 22). "You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth... the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit -- just as it has taught you, remain in him" (1 John 2:20.27). This anointing is by the Holy Spirit who brings us the Word of truth in the Gospel.

If we understand what this means it will result in an overflowing of grace, love, value and purpose in our lives. God has given us what we need in order to fulfill our calling. He consecrates us and equips us by his Spirit to be a royal priesthood in the world -- to represent the King of Kings to the world by our witness, and the world to the King of Kings in our intercessions.

When I was ordained in 1967 in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, the service included the singing of this hymn:

Come Holy Spirit, our souls inspire
And lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy seven-fold gifts impart.

Thy blessed Unction from above,
Is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soiled face
With the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home:
Where thou art guide, no ill can come.

My being set apart by the anointing of the Holy Spirit in that service did not mean that that I could do no wrong. Our anointing as Christians does not mean that we will always be able to live up to our calling. David failed -- but he still affirmed his calling in this Psalm and fulfilled his vocation. Moses failed but he persevered in his leadership. Aaron failed but he still served the Lord to the end of his life and passed on his priesthood to his sons to succeed him. Even when the going is tough in our lives and we feel that we have failed we can still rely upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit and his overflowing through us. God can use us despite our failures. We can still praise him in the midst of suffering, when we doubt our value and purpose.
As this Gospel song expresses it:

I've never made a fortune, and I'll never make one now.
But it really doesn't matter 'cause I'm happy anyhow.
As I go along my journey, I'm reaping better than I've sowed.
I'm drinking from the saucer cause my cup has overflowed.

We don't have lots of riches and sometimes the going's tough.
But while we've got our kids and friends to love us, I think we're rich enough.
I'll just thank God for the blessings that His mercy has bestowed.
I'm drinking from the saucer cause my cup has overflowed.

If He gives me strength and courage when the way grows steep and rough,
I'll not ask for other blessings, I'm already blessed enough.
May we never be too busy to help bear another's load.
Then we will all be drinking from the saucer, all our cups will overflow.

When Jesus sent forth his disciples, they were ordinary people with an extraordinary mission. He sent them to preach the Gospel and to heal the sick as a sign that the Kingdom of God had arrived. "They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them." (Mark 6:13)
Arthur Vogel clarifies what Christianity means by healing: "Those who believe in faith healing or spiritual healing today generally make a distinction between healing and curing. To be cured means that physical well-being is restored: a disease or an incapacity is banished. 'Healing,' on the other hand, is a more inclusive concept. Healing may include a cure, but it may not. To be healed is to be restored to a wholeness of being that involves spiritual orientation, acceptance, and integration - and that may occur even if a disease is not cured."

In the Book of Common Prayer there is a very beautiful prayer for anointing the sick:

"I anoint you with oil in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. As you are outwardly anointed with this holy oil, so may our heavenly Father grant you the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Of his great mercy, may he forgive you your sins, release you from suffering, and restore you to wholeness and strength. May he deliver you from all evil, preserve you in all goodness, and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

We need to be assured that, whatever happens to us in life, we have the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. Our cup overflows with the grace and love of God who gives us value and purpose.

The Rev. Ted Schroder is pastor of Amelia Chapel on Amelia Island Plantation in Florida

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