The Paschal Candle has been offered as a cheerfully given gift this year. A gift to commemorate the first anniversary of a much hoped for, but little anticipated, life-saving, life-changing event. The previous year, fresh from the Maundy Thursday service at the cathedral, newly blessed oil for the healing of the sick had been received in anointing, with a quizzical grace. Simple prayer was offered by parish priest and pentecostal elder, with tea and cake enjoyed and conversation shared in a suburban living room. Understated and appropriately ordinary.
The consultant's deliberate and careful perusal of the scan contributed to the heightened tension of waiting. The eventual diagnosis was unequivocal. The deadly, inoperable aneurism was gone. It was as though it had never been. "Go and live your life to the full" were the consultant's words of dismissal - and deliberate blessing.
The prosaic agnosticism of priest and parishioner confounded. The ordinary suddenly extraordinary. Normative? No. The in-breaking Kingdom of God? Indeed. The sick raised up? Absolutely.
Equivocal prayer answered with affirming grace. Alleluia!
13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up.
James Mercer is the Vicar of All Saints’, Harrow Weald in the Willesden Area of the Diocese of London. He has been chair of trustees and co-founder of a ‘drop in’ cafe serving disadvantaged young people in a city centre and the founder of a Forest School working with marginalised young people in West London.