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Blessing of the Oils  

April 18, 2019

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Preached by the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester using Is 6:1-9; James 5:13-16a; Lk 4:16-21 at Chrism Mass on Thursday 18th April 2019, Maundy Thursday.

How is this year’s Passiontide going? It’s the school holidays so the pressure is on, with lots of extra events and the children. I hope that today is therefore a support and an inspiration for your ministry.

  1. I am enormously grateful to you all for all you do to support the faith of others. For many of us here our discipleship is shaped by the vocation of supporting other people’s discipleship. That’s what the Lord has called us to do and that’s how he is remaking us. That applies to bishops as much as anybody. As Augustine said, “For you I am your bishop, among you I am a Christian”. We must not confuse our ministry and the wider mission: we support the mission of the whole people of God in the world.
  2. “The Rainmaker” is a powerful image in the film The Power of One. The film is about how one person makes a difference in apartheid South Africa. In a moving portrayal, a white young man is chosen by the black community as the rainmaker – the one who signals and brings change for the whole community. Reluctantly this person accepts the role and learns what it means through loss, pain and success.
  3. Here are few thoughts on comparing our ministry with the calling to a be rainmaker:

First, rainmakers don’t dance in the dry season – they dance in the rainy season; they can read the weather signs. Rainmakers don’t just make the impossible happen, they are about working with the grain of what is happening to make it even better and to celebrate what is good for the community. They lead the dance in the certain joy that the rain is coming, after months of hot dry weather.

Second, rainmakers do also dance when it should be raining – when the rainy season hasn’t arrived. They can help the community be honest about the pain and struggle of the drought without letting go of the hope for rain. The mystical powers attributed to them is also intuition combined with good long-term weather forecasting, but the point is they help the community to wait and to prepare for rain.

Third, rainmakers do sometimes dance in the dry season, especially if the rainy season failed. If the rains fail, then the rainmaker is the focus of the community. This is the great test for the leadership and skills of the rainmaker. This is when miracles are expected. This is when the community is at its most fragile. This is when discernment is needed: when does the rainmaker dance so that the rains may come?

4.When Jesus returned to his home synagogue in Nazareth he surprised everybody. He not only read the Scriptures, he interpreted and then applied them. He read, explained and applied. What was so shocking was that he announced the end of the 400-year-long dry season. And he declared it was over because of him. For 400 years the Spirit had not been given. Now it was upon him and so the Kingdom has come!

  1. Jesus began his ministry by dancing in the dry season. After hundreds of years of drought he announced that the drought is over; the rains have come. The Spirit has returned. The year of the Lord’s favour is now. He didn’t just predict the weather: he changed the climate. Our Lord Jesus lived, died and rose again that we might receive the very life, the fellowship of God, the Holy Spirit: in us and among us.
  2. All our ministry is grounded in his ministry. Yet we may not always feel like dancing, or we may have danced and nobody joined us, and we may have danced at the wrong time and the rains didn’t come. Ministry is about being honest with ourselves, being realistic about others and growing in discernment. The risk is not just failure but cynicism. Sometimes we are prophets of what others will see happen but we just hope for. Many have gone before. However, in Jesus the rains have arrived – his Spirit is with us.
  3. How are your disappointments and dissonances? Bring them here today. Ask for discernment about how to be in the flow of the Spirit, that streams of living water may flow. Some of you may feel called to dance in the dry season. Ask the Lord for a confirmation of that direction and for his blessing today. Some of you just don’t know how to go on. Come to the rainmaker and receive the Spirit again, today.
  4. “Bishop, make it rain!” Well, I have seen it rain – literally, in terms of a rainmaking experience in Kenya when our house was about to be burnt down, and ministerially, here in Winchester, as the Lord works. The oils you take away today are symbols of Jesus’ ministry – his miraculous, hidden, quiet and steady work amongst us in the Spirit. They are oils of new life, of freedom from evil, and of healing and hope. This is what Jesus promised when he returned home to Nazareth. He is here today, again. Amen.