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Chrism Eucharist: Bishop Paul's sermon at Durham Cathedral, Maundy Thursday

CHRISM EUCHARIST – Maundy Thursday 2022

Durham Cathedral

Isaiah 61.1-9; James 5.13-16a; Luke 4.16-21


 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me’

Our Lord Jesus was the Anointed One of God; the Messiah; the Christ. No one before him or since has ever had the calling to be the Anointed One. His coming into the world, his death, resurrection and being taken up to be seated at the right hand of God is, as the writer to the Hebrews emphasises, once and for all. Our calling is to worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit. We are to proclaim him and follow him with every part of our being. This is expressed primarily through loving our neighbours as ourselves, and acting as good stewards of the created order of which we are a part.

Thank you for being fellow pilgrims on this journey of following the Anointed One. You are wonderful fellow travellers. For those of you who are officially ‘retired’ thank you for all the different ways in which you continue to serve the Lord, in parishes, in chaplaincies, in supporting younger clergy, Readers and lay leaders. We know that without you all and your continuing ministry we would all be much poorer. To those who have had to reach the really tough conclusion that ‘active ministry’ has to cease due to frailty a particular thanks for all you have given in your years of service and thank you for your example of recognising that for all of us this side of glory there comes a time when public ministry ceases; even if the ongoing ministry of prayer and quiet encouragement does not.

Thank you to all the serving clergy – those at the outset of your years in ordained ministry for your new enthusiasm and vibrancy; those nearer the end of this phase for your wisdom, faithfulness and commitment to the future; those somewhere in the middle thank you for your perseverance and willingness to change as our society changes and the nature of ministry changes with it.

Thank you to all those who express their ministry in non-ordained forms – such a plethora of ways that I am not going to start naming them. You are those who witness for Jesus in homes, schools, places of work, shops, community activities and life. You sustain the witness to the good news; you are our presence in every community. Thank you for walking with Jesus day by day. Together we are all the laos, the people of God, called to be pilgrims.


Jesus understood himself to be God’s anointed one, fulfilling the prophetic Scriptures. The Scriptures shaped Jesus’ own understanding of both his identity and his calling. If they shaped Jesus then they must also shape us. We are called to be ‘Jesus’ shaped’ and it is in the Scriptures that we find what this looks like.

I want simply to remind us all this morning that as Jesus was anointed by the Spirit so too, in turn, he anoints us with the same Holy Spirit. As John puts it in his first letter, ‘you have been anointed by the Holy One’ (1 John 2.20). Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth, ‘And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee’. (2 Cor 1.21f) Being God’s anointed people affirms us in our identity as ‘in Christ’. It confirms us as God’s sons and daughters; we are God’s children now. This is the place from which all ministry flows. This is where our foundational and fundamental identity is found – we are in Christ; we are anointed by the Spirit. In this anointing we are absolutely bound together in Christ. We may disagree about all manner of thinks but we are bound together in and by the anointed one of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one body, one people, with all who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.

This is our common anointing.

It will surely always flow out into being a people who will express the same purposes for that anointing as were declared and seen in our Lord Jesus. Together we are anointed to be proclaimers of good news to the poor, of liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; we are in the business of binding up the broken-hearted. We are always called to be those engaged in seeing God set at liberty those who are oppressed and proclaim the year of God’s favour.’ Now we will debate, and not always agree, about just what this will look like. But it does lie at the root of our four Diocesan priorities. In Challenging Poverty we long that there is good news for the poor and liberty for the oppressed. In engaging with children, young people and the 18-25s we want them to live in the experience of God’s favour. In caring for God’s creation we want those caught up in oppression through misuse of the planet to be set free; we want creation itself to experience the liberty of God. In energising growth we want people to see and experience the reign of God in all its fullness.

Sisters and brothers it is holding on to the vision of Jesus and the reign of God that pulls us forward into discerning how God wants us to be shaped in our structures for the future. Being the bearers of God’s good news must determine how we best deploy all our people – ordained ministers, licensed lay ministers, administrators, the whole people of God. Our financial and other resources must be geared towards delivering this in our parishes, in our chaplaincies, in our wider ministries. If there is a true priority for the poorest, for children, young people and 18s-25s, for caring for the earth and for real growth in depth, reach and numbers then we must shape ourselves around them, not simply around maintaining ourselves.

We, as God’s church, are called to live out our anointing as God’s people sent into the world.


Then we also find ourselves anointed by God for differing callings within this one body. There are anointings to the different fivefold ministry outlined in Ephesians 4. There is anointing as apostle, evangelist, prophet, teacher and pastor.

The many and wonderful gifts of the Spirit are specific ‘charisms’ given by God through the Spirit for the building up of the whole body of Christ so that we are able to serve in the world.

There is a responsibility for us to discern these calls, gifts and anointings for ourselves. Yet we do so as part of the whole body. We are never to be maverick individuals who stand on ‘my gifts’ and ‘my calling’. We help each other discern. We support each other in developing how our gifts are used and where. We even discover that in different settings God might anoint us afresh, in a new way, so that we are able to serve well in this different setting. Everyone of us needs to be continually open to how God is growing us. We should not be the same now as we were a year, two tears or more ago. We should have grown, matured, developed.

We need one another. As we look at the ways we need to transform as a Diocese the mutuality of lay and ordained; the partnership of recognising one another’s anointings, gifts and experience has to be at the heart of our thinking. We have no other option than to be collaborative because we are part of this one body.


So we are the anointed of God in Jesus Christ. This leads us into engaging in the ministry of anointing. Here today we will bless oils for baptism, chrism and healing. They will be taken away to the parishes for use in the coming year. The power of anointing is the symbolic nature of what the anointing represents. Whether it is at a baptism, a confirmation, an ordination, in prayer for God’s healing or in preparation for death, the anointing symbolises our prayer, and our confidence that God answers this prayer for the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the one being anointed.

The very physicality of it can often help the individual being anointed to open their hearts and minds to the activity of the Spirit for which we pray. We are physical, bodily beings. This is not separate from our hearts and minds; we are intricately connected individuals made in the divine image and loved by God. The physical anointing, in the ways of God, enables our whole being to connect with, and respond to, the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Anointing needs to be offered in humility and received willingly. It needs both to be explained and left held within the mysterious ways of God’s working.

Anointing should always be about affirming the person being anointed. Affirming God’s love; affirming God’s call; affirming our identity as God’s child in Christ.

Anointing should always be an offering from which the grace of God flows and emerges. None of us should ever imagine that we know the outcome of any specific act of anointing.

Anointing always requires a response. This can only be made by the anointed one. A calling to a ministry has to be responded to and then exercised by the person themselves; no one else can do it for them. The calling at baptism, confirmation and ordination all requires the person to respond. The whole people of God will encourage, applaud, enthuse, offer guidance and much more besides. But there is an individual responsibility to respond to God in loving obedience.

This all leads me simply to encourage you as God’s anointed ones to go out and get on with anointing others in the name of Christ. Don’t force, or enforce, but please do not hold back, withhold or use sparingly. Anoint in the name of Christ.


It remains the most enormous honour to stand before you and serve you as bishop. I know that Bishop Sarah feels the same. So too do your Archdeacons and the wider Bishop’s Leadership Team. The Cathedral Chapter see it as an honour to serve you in and from this place. I take this opportunity to thank Andrew for his leadership as Dean over the past 6 years. May the Lord bless you richly in your new calling to St Paul’s. May you know a fresh anointing from god for this new ministry.

Together sisters and brothers we have been called to follow the Anointed One of God, our amazing glorious Lord Jesus. In his extraordinary grace he anoints us as his beloved children, with the very same Spirit as with whom he was anointed.

May we live out our common calling through also living out our individual callings. God anoints us for both.

Then as God’s anointed let us offer the ministry of anointing that may others may through this discover, be affirmed and encouraged in, their own calling to walk with Jesus with us.

May our Lord pour out the oil of His Spirit on us all.



First published on: 14th April 2022
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