A Fragrant Offering

April 10, 1997

Philippians 4:13-14,18b – I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. … I am fully satisfied now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

"To live is to taste and touch, to smell and see and listen to, the good things of the earth and rejoice in them." Fred Beuchner

My mother baked bread on rare occasions during her years of illness, but I think I can remember almost every occasion. Who could forget the smell of fresh baked bread filling a house, inviting, soothing, calming, centring, and energizing all at once? Pass by a bakery sometime soon. The smell is so tantalizing that it is all you can do to walk by and not go in and beg for a morsel. Many of my childhood memories focus on remembered smells from around the house, from the newspaper plant where I spent so much time, and around the school and the church — both places played a crucial part in making me me. Isn't it interesting that two of the three precious gifts given the Christ were given for their smell?

Yet, ironically, Protestant churches historically have done little with smell, unlike Catholic and Orthodox churches where incense and other smells are routinely used to enhance worship. Now I confess that I am not advocating the use of incense in our churches, though I do appreciate it in churches that use it, and the wonderful smells in sweet grass ceremonies with aboriginal friends. When was the last time you stopped to ask how your church smells? When was the last time there was enough of a smell to be noticeable? Was it when the church was hung with pine boughs before Christmas or a spruce tree, or strewn with lilies at Easter? Even the furniture polish that is used so profusely here within St. Andrew's evokes memory in me. Didn't you stop and take a big breath, and feel just a little more joyful, walking into that space with all the remembered smells?

Prayer: Comfort us God with the familiar that brings to our remembrance all that you have done for our salvation. Let our gifts and our giving be a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to you, our God. Amen.

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About the author:

Kenn Stright <kennethstright@yahoo.ca>
West Petpeswick, Nova Scotia, Canada

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