January 27, 2013
"…because he has anointed me."
Jesus is not known for his big religious sounding words. But here in this famous Luke passage he goes for one. He declares himself anointed. Picked out. Chosen. He says he is anointed to bring good news to people. When you're anointed, you can't stop. You can't help yourself. You have to bring the good news.
The woman at the Long Island Railroad ticket counter said to me, "You can't be a senior yet?" with a big smile on her face. I said, "I'll be you say that to all the girls." She said, "I do. It makes people happy. I love doing that." What a simple intervention in what must be a long and boring job. I think she makes her joke from a sense of being anointed to do something different, something that brings good news to people.
I see anointed work in other places too. You may have heard about the great work Occupy Sandy is doing in the devastated parts of New York City. They call their work mutual aid. They know they are anointed to bring a kind of good news, one that isn't FEMA born or charity born, but different. Self-help and mutual aid is more anointed by good news than either charity or justice. With Occupy Sandy, I watched a 20-something volunteer, wearing a mask, helping a woman in a wheelchair wearing a blanket, outside in the long line. How did she help her? She told her to smile and chat up the people who were standing in line with her. Sure enough, this woman who probably hadn't been asked to do anything for anybody for a long time came alive. She was anointed to give good news.
Good news brings us joy, not just pleasure. Pleasure and joy are not the same. Writer Zadie Smith says, "The end of a pleasure brings no great harm to anyone, after all, and can always be replaced with another of more or less equal worth. The loss of joy permanently damages us, while taking some of us away day by day." The same thing is true about anointed love. We can't stand to live without it. Smith concludes, Joy "hurts just as much as it is worth. The thing no one ever tells you about joy is that it has very little real pleasure in it. And yet if it hadn't happened at all, how would we live?"
I can exist without humor at the Long Island Railroad Station. I can't live without it.
I can exist without the work of charity, even the work of justice, but when an old woman's face lights up because she is needed, I soar with life. I don't want to exist but to be anointed to good news. That is what we mean by joy.
When we think about the good news of anointed love, O God, remind us that we really can't live without it. Amen
About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Check out her blog, Grace at Table, at donnaschaper.com.
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