Bread – Smelly

March 24, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, March 24 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Exod. 7:8-24; 2 Cor. 2:14-3:6; Mark 10:1-16
    Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130
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Have you ever been in an enclosed space, such as an elevator, with a smelly person?  Perhaps it is the lack of something, like deodorant.  Or perhaps it is the addition of something, like perfume or cologne (I have never understood the difference, except that men would never wear "perfume").  Sometimes the smell is overwhelming and we want to gag, or maybe are allergic and we start sneezing or breaking out in a rash.  Sometimes the smell is very pleasant, and it reminds us of gardens or other pleasures.  This last type of smell is the foundation of the cosmetics industry (at least the perfume part), and has spawned a new escape from our troubles – "aroma therapy."

In fact, we can say that the nature of perfume is that one man’s pleasant smell is another’s allergy.  It is for this reason that many workplaces warn of the excessive use of perfume or ask that it not be used at all.  Just as we must not offend with bold language or challenging concepts or with truth, we must not offend with being smelly.

Yet that is just what we are commanded to do as Christians.  We are commanded to present Jesus Christ into the world, in who we are, how we behave, and what say.  We are commanded to preach the gospel.

And when we preach the gospel, when we stand for Jesus Christ in the world, when we take upon ourselves the mantle of Christian, when we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we smell.  Hear what Paul has to say in his second letter to the Corinthians in today’s reading:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.  For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one [who is perishing] we are the smell of death; to the other [who is being saved], the fragrance of life."  2 Cor. 2:14-16

Think about this for a minute and ask yourself this question — Am I smelly for Christ?  Has anyone ever told me that I exude the fragrance of life?  Has anyone ever been angry with me, telling me that I exude the smell of death?

One might be inclined to think of this passage as somewhat allegorical, not referring to smell as such but instead referring to attitude.  Let me challenge that.  God gave us a multitude of senses, all of which we use to engage our world and evaluate it.  Through our senses we experience pleasure and pain, anticipation and want, danger and safety.  Our world presents us a package involving sight, sound, smell, and touch and we use all of our senses to evaluate that package, to determine if the package is good or bad, moral or immoral, true or false.  If that is the case, then why wouldn’t God let us use our sense of smell, as a complement to the other senses, to assess who God is and who His people are?  If that is the case, why wouldn’t Christians smell as fragrance to those who are living and as death to those who are dying.

In today’s world, we are inclined to neutrality, to wearing no perfume at all because it might make someone sick or might be offensive to someone.  Christ is offensive to those who are dying.  We are offensive to those who are dying.

When we are getting ready for the day and are ready for the final touch of hair spray, perfume, cologne, or aftershave, it might be a good time to also put on the armor of God, the Spirit Christ promised, and let our odor, our Christian odor, smell forth.

Today, be smelly for Christ.
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