Can you smell that smell?

Posted in Come and See Updated

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

It is an amazing thing that nose of ours.  There are so many functions it holds.  It is the primary pathway for us to breathe.  It is the primary means for us to taste.  It protects us by conditioning the air we breathe and alarming us when we come up against a dangerous space.  It also helps us to identify the people we know well (or so Isaac thought in Genesis 27:27 ).  And it has recently reminded me of how the good news of the gospel of Jesus is everywhere.

My wife and I have recently embarked on the culinary adventure ofbaking sourdough bread.  The term comes 'sourdough' comes from the smell associated with the fermenting process which occurs when grains and water come into contact with each other over a period of time.  For the past week we have been feeding the starter (or 'breadmonster' as we have affectionately called the bubbling, rising creature) and watching the fermentation in action.  One thing which is undeniable at feeding and stirring time is the smell.  It is the smell of rotting and decay and makes the kids snap their heads back and hold their noses.  It did for me as well, but then I thought about it.

This smell was not just the smell of dying, it was the smell of transformation.  Flour by itself is not something we can live off of, but bread is the most common food found in the world.  This smell is the byproduct of the breakdown of the gluten and other raw products in the grain so that it could be consumed.  And then to think about how it passes through a refining fire/oven to come out firmed up on the other side with live giving sustenance...I could not help thinking about the gospel.  This smell was a metaphorical fragrant offering.

Paul asks us to in Ephesians to 'smell' a little different as Christ followers.  I began to think of that smell which arises at camp or during/after youth overnights.  My mind thought of the smell of homeless shelters, clean-ups, and clothing after days of hard work in service.  Maybe a more pleasant smell comes to mind for you in preparing meals for others or incense at a worship service.  Walking through the halls here at St Andrew there is a lingering smell of snacks and the coffee brewed by those creating a hospitible space.  All of this olfactory aroma from people following Christ by giving of themselves so that others may have new life.

There are some smells which lead to death (hence Van Zant's cautionary song) and some which we can envision new life.  The gospel is everywhere in them.  From the smell of the seeds coming up from their death in the ground in the spring to the freshly harvested field in the fall to smoke of a refiners fire to the bubbling gasses of vats of wine, we are reminded of God's love for us.  For us, I am excited for the expectation of this sour dough to become the heart warming aroma of a freshly baked loaf.

~Joseph Seger