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What’s that Smell?

What’s that Smell?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 – Week of 5 Lent, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:145-176 (morning) // 128, 129, 130 (evening)

Exodus 7:8-24

2 Corinthians 2:14-3:6

Mark 10:1-16

I’ve never been a smoker, but I do remember bringing home the distinct smell of cigarette smoke from back when most bars and restaurants allowed smoking on the premises. The smell of second-hand smoke clung especially closely to the fibers of my clothing, and my hair seemed to soak the odor right up and refuse to release it until I showered.

Fortunately, it’s not only unpleasant smells that cling to and penetrate our every pore and fiber in such a tenacious way. In today’s second reading, Paul describes the knowledge of God as a powerful fragrance that clings to us and that we exude throughout our day. He writes that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”

According to Paul, those who know God and who are the aroma of Christ spread their presence indiscriminately, among those who seek the transcendent and eternal life of God’s kingdom, and among those whose choices and circumstances are leading them toward destruction. As Paul puts it, we are “a fragrance from life to life” or “a fragrance from death to death.” We might find ourselves beckoning others to a more abundant life, or accompanying them in the severe suffering and enslavements that can captivate human beings.

Today, can we imagine ourselves as bearers of an enticing perfume, of a soothing aroma, that comes from dwelling in God’s presence and that subtly influences people around us? As Paul says, “through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him”—that is, from knowing God in Christ.

If your church uses incense, then the imaginative leap might be easy to make. When I was a seminarian, I served as a thurifer (incense-bearer) at the congregation where I did my internship. Just like cigarette smoke, the smoke of the incense often found its way into my clothes and hair and wouldn’t let go. When I got home, my husband would observe, “Ah, you smell like church today.”

I wonder if people noticed that smell on my hour-long train ride home, amidst the smells of alcohol and urine that usually filled the train cars after Saturday night. I hope that someone wondered what on earth that smell of incense was, and that the presence of Christ was with them. May people notice the fragrance of your fellowship with God as palpably today as well.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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