What is oil good at? Making a mess. It is spectacular. It has this way of penetrating into every nook and cranny – which is why it is so effective as a lubricant. It separates surfaces by making, at the same time, both a barrier and a complete connection. Whatever shape, whatever peculiarities, it can and does cover them.
You may have never experienced the ordeal of the ‘oil drop experiment’ in your schooling. It was a staple set piece of the Nuffield Physics Course, which we had at our school. It had a wonderful Heath Robinson kit for it. A waxed tray to fill with water and provided a large convex meniscus, and waxed booms to clean the surface, only to sprinkle it liberally with lycopodium powder. This provided a polluted sea.
Onto this sea we dropped a single, measured drop of oil, to create a slick. This was duly measured, volume of slick and drop equated, and from this you calculated how ridiculously thin the layer of the oil was. It gave us an estimate of the size of an oil molecule. Don’t attempt this unless your maths can handle negative powers of 10.
If you didn’t follow the last two paragraphs, first of all thanks for carrying on reading! I hope you got a picture of the extraordinary properties of oil from the rather contrived way we had of stretching it so far and measuring it. This is the point…
Oil is a biblical picture of the Holy Spirit. I’m slipping it in before we concentrate on Fire on Pentecost Sunday next. It points to the way the Holy Spirit penetrates, soaks and conditions, with deliberate permanence and stain, and enables us to be one, unified incorporating (in the actual sense of that word) each individual.