Tonight I discovered a little pastoral crisis I've never had before: congealed healing oil. The glass holders we keep oil in, for our monthly healing prayers at Wednesday Vespers, was one of the gooiest, most disgusting allegedly-holy things I've seen in a long time.
And, of course, I didn't realize this until just before worship.
After I was able to clear out the thickest top layer, revealing hope of something that might be suitable for anointing, it made me think of a Wendell Berry essay I treasure, about a bucket that sat on a nail on a post on a farm for years; in the layers that had collected on it were memories from years and generations past. From lives and lunches, adventures and work. Layers of residue that were the collected history heaped onto the pail.
So, I attempted to imagine such a vision of this oil--the prayers it has shared and the lives whose hopes it has borne.
But now I just want to know what the proper way to clean out holy oil is.
We didn't cover this in my worship class in school.
I just hope I can honor this sticky, viscous residue. Perhaps it's a good thing to clean out prayer oil periodically. Otherwise it gets burdened with thick reminders of the past. All I know is that I've never seen a layer of solid sticky stuff on top of oil before...and I pray for grace from all those who received it today.