Blessing by proxy – Rethinking the Sacrament of Administration

I know.  Weird title.  But, bear with me.  I’m trying to talk about something like intercessory prayer…but in the spirit of community. 

I went to three reunions this summer.  (Community of Christers call family camp or church camp “reunion”.)  At them, I had several wonderful spiritual experiences. 

…such communicating with God still amazes me. 

During prayer service one morning, I sensed the Holy Spirit in a special way.  As I write this, I can still feel the mix of humility, inspiration, and love involved in what happened.  It is difficult to describe. 

At this prayer service, the presider led us into time of prayer requests.  A steady flow of prayer requests began to pour out of the people.  Each was unique and heart-felt.  Some, heart-breaking.   There were family members mortally ill, loved ones in prison, children with cancer.  Each prayer request was obviously carried close to the petitioner’s heart. 

Listening to the list of supplications, I added a couple myself.  I wanted to join the outpouring of trust in Jesus’ love that was evident in the flow of concern.   What was amazing, however, was the way the prayer concerns began to transform our worship space.  As people’s hearts began opening up, our worship became very real.  As some shared, their hearts slowly broke, almost in a spirit of sacrifice.  The vulnerability to God created a green cathedral beneath the canopy of oak and maple leaves. 

I can’t explain exactly how.  But, in the midst all this, I suddenly felt the Holy Spirit.  It came in a moment of vision seen only in my mind’s eye.  I felt lead into the heart of worship.   I cannot easily describe what I felt, but I recognized what it was. 

Administration by Jack Garnier

Administration by Jack Garnier

I saw a picture.  In it, I saw myself and other ministers administering to those offering their prayer requests.  (“Administration” is the name of a sacrament in which the sick or those seeking a special blessing are anointed with oil and prayed over.)  What was special about the administrations was what God was doing with them.  One the one hand, we were praying for the person making the prayer request.  But, in a way I can only see in my mind, I coudl also see that the individual that needed prayer was also being blessed.  Through these administrations, God could people in need that were not actually there.  It was as if I was seeing the sacrament of administration in the Holy Spirit of community.  Blessing by viritue of relationship.  Blessed to be a blessing.  Giving blessing by proxy.

What was most spiritual about the picture was the message that clarified it.  Through administering to the person making the prayer request, the one they carried upon their heart would also be blessed by the administration.

This is what is a little difficult to describe.  It was clear.  It was not about someone receiving administration in the stead of someone else.  The mother, father, sister, friend, who’s heart was heavy for a loved one was the recipient of the administration.  But, so was the actual person they were carrying upon their heart.  Like the friends who carried their paralytic friend up to the roof of the house Jesus was at and, after tearing away the thatch, lowered him in – the friends and the paralytic could be blessed.

It is a radical idea that an anointing and prayer of administration for the petitioner could also be an anointing and blessing of someone in need of healing or God’s presence.   In this way, we literally can reach out to others who are not physically there.  As people, we are not discrete individuals, but are connected.  Through the blessing of one, others can receive prayer and blessing by proxy: receiving blessing one through another.

It is a difficult differentiation to make.  But, the leading I felt that day was beautiful.

I continue to think about administrations and sacraments differently since that morning.  I think what I felt that day was a confirmation of our call to rethink the church in the name of community.   It is not only appropriate, but important that we administer to someone and do so mindful of their connection to another.  Sometimes, we carry many people within us upon our hearts.  Maybe, it is how Jesus uses us to carry one another (think Footprints in the Sand).  We are not just discrete individuals that are held up for God’s blessing in administration; it is everyone intimately connected to them – one to another.

Imagine:  Not getting administered to in place of someone you love and is suffering, but asking for God’s special blessing for their sake.  Such a hope puts us in the web of God’s goodness and interconnections.  It widens the spiritual circle of God’s blessing to others, in the name of community.  Relationships, themselves, are acknowledged as the carriers of blessing.   We are connected to each other…and those connections are sacramental, especially in times of spiritual need or healing.

I know.  I was there.

I will continue to think about administration in this way: sacraments of blessing, not just for the one seeking administration, but also for the sake of others.  Blessing is a communal affair.  We are ultimately connected.

It’s not such a strange idea, then, if you think aobut it.  Blessing by proxy.