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SUMWALT COLUMN: Anointing is holy business

SUMWALT COLUMN: Anointing is holy business

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Do you remember the movie, “The Lion King”? Did you notice that there is an anointing at the very beginning of the movie? After the birth of the king’s son Simba, all of the animals gather at Pride Rock for the anointing. Rafiki, the baboon in the story who serves as a kind of high priest of the jungle kingdom, marks the baby lion’s forehead with oil and then lifts him up for all of the animals to see. The elephants trumpet, the music swells, and the animals all bow down to show their respect for the future king.

Rafiki then goes into a cave, draws a picture of Simba on the wall, and puts the mark of his anointing on his forehead. Before he has any consciousness of who he is, the most important part of Simba’s identity is given to him. He is the son of a king, and he has been anointed as the future king in front of the whole community. Anointing is serious business. It is holy business.

An anointing is a way of designating a person or an object for a special purpose. The anointing of kings, priests, and prophets in biblical times was part of their induction into office — something akin to our modern inauguration ceremonies. But, an anointing was viewed as a divine consecration. It was God’s mark, God’s claim on a person’s life for all time. The prophet Samuel anointed the young boy David as the future king of Israel, but David didn’t actually become king until he was 30-years-old.

Jesus was marked from the beginning as the Anointed, the chosen one of God. All of the stories we love to hear and tell at Christmas and Easter point to this special designation. Messiah is the Hebrew word for anointed. Christ is the Greek word for anointed. Jesus Christ means literally, “Jesus, the Anointed.”

Baptism is a kind of anointing. It is the mark of God on all of us who are a part of the church of Jesus Christ. Like Simba in “The Lion King,” those of us who were baptized as children may have no memory of what took place on the day of our anointing — but that consecration is the single most defining moment of our lives. That mark of God, that sign of saving grace, is more important than anything we might do with our lives.

You might turn away from God, you might renounce your baptism or forget that you’ve been baptized, you might commit unspeakable crimes unworthy of an anointed Christian, but you will always belong to God. The mark cannot be erased. God will always be after you, before you, around you, forgiving you, saving you, calling you to be the person you have been anointed to be.

John Sumwalt is a retired pastor and the author of “Shining Moments: Visions of the Holy in Ordinary Lives,”, 414-339-0676.


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