My Sermon at the Chrism Mass
I am glad to be here – not just in the Cathedral on Maundy Thursday but here in the Diocese of London – am I am grateful to have journeyed with you. I know that is has meant change not just for me but also you. However, despite what the Diocesan directory may indicate no we have not subsumed the Edmonton Area into Kensington – not that much has changed!
Today our service is about ministry and about our re commitment to follow Christ Jesus – the renewal of ordination vows and the blessing of oils for the anointing of the sick and dying, for the signing of the cross at baptism, and the oil of chrism.
I thank God daily for the ministry with which we have been entrusted and I want to thank you for the ministry we share and to which you have committed yourself – thankyou.
Like some of you, I had never heard of the Chrism Mass growing up. But I have come to love the Chrism Mass. It is the one time of the year which brings together not only members of many of our parishes, but also those from the Diocesan Offices, licenced lay ministers, priests and deacons. The oils we bless today will be used throughout the diocese in the sacraments which build up, heal and strengthen the Body of Christ. The Chrism Mass is a beautiful sign of our unity and communion in Christ.
Oil has been used from ancient times for healing and for strength. The Oil of Chrism has a strong, sweet-smelling essence which is an apt sign for the giving of the Holy Spirit. Oil pervades things; it soaks in and remains.
Our readings remind us that anointing with oil is to be set apart. Jacob anoints a pillar of stone on which he rested his head and dreamed of the ladder climbing into heaven.
As the people passed through the Red Sea and came to Mount Sinai Aaron and his sons are anointed with oil, thereby setting them apart for holy service to the Lord.
Later Hannah in her prayer looks for the day in which a king will sit on the throne of Israel, and he will be God’s “anointed,” his messiah.
The anointed one is the chosen one. God chose Saul to be the first king, and he chose David to be the second king. He chooses the lineage of David to be on the throne, and even many of the kings of the northern kingdom are chosen by him. Then a messiah – an anointed one – the one who is consecrated, as is a priest, for holy service. He is one chosen, as is a king, by God to serve God’s purposes.
And Jesus opening the scriptures read;
The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
Today we are reminded in our Eucharist service that it is though Christ broken body and blood which was shed that are able to give thanks that we are worthy to stand in God’s presences to serve him.
And we are anointed for his service – oil to remind us of our baptism, oil to remind us of healing, oil to remind us of our ordination and of our consecration and oil which will be used at our death.
I know the cost of ministry and we can only renew our commitment to our call if our lives are rooted in and refreshed by the love of God in Christ Jesus. Today as you stand in God’s presence receive from him the oil of gladness, a garland instead of ashes and the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit be renewed in the Holy Spirit and be equipped for ministry.
At my installation nearly a year ago Psalm 133 was wonderfully set to music and when the psalmist speaks of the precious oil poured on the head of Aaron’s they speak of it running down, down upon his beard, down up his collar of his robes. This precious and expensive oil was not just sprinkled on the top of the head, it was a real soaking and because of the ingredients, myrrh, cinnamon, fragrant cane, cassia and olive oil (exodus 30:23-25) the recipient was left surrounded by an exquisite aroma.
Let us allow God not just to sprinkle us with his spirit but to anoint us allowing the oil to soak us and let us pray that it aroma will remain with us in the days and weeks ahead.
And to what are we set apart for at our anointing? To build up the ancient ruins, to repair the ruined cities, to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, to comfort all who mourn. To give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
All of which at this time takes on a renewed meaning in a city where division seems to be growing, where the blood of young children continue run on our streets because of violent crime, where those who have travelled to be part of our community feel unwelcome, where those sleeping on our streets continue to grow in numbers and invisibility.
Let us pray that over the coming months that we may know what it is that God is calling us to as the Diocese of London as we listen to God and listen to London.
Our ministry should reflect the act of Mary, who poured oil out over Jesus’ feet which years later John remembers as the fragrance filled the room; counter cultural, extravagant, an act of intimate love which is costly and the fragrance of which is remembered.
Let us this Maundy Thursday as we commit ourselves to God’s service pray for his anointing poured out over us and let us pray that we may anoint others in his service and to his glory.