A few weeks ago, when it was still cold in Ontario, we visited a place in the USA where we could tell that the seasons had changed. In case we hadn’t noticed the green grass and spring flowers, it was the smells—like the aroma of freshly-cut grass—that announced that spring had come.
The Apostle Paul knew about smells—especially pleasant ones. Smells not deriving from fragrant grass clippings or flowers, but from the trail of one’s life and witness. To the church in Corinth he writes, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ…through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God…” (2 Cor. 2:14-15).
In our worship on Sunday, May 3, our guests, Nathan and Taryn Dirks, will speak to us about smells. From their experience as Mennonite Church Canada workers in Botswana, they will help us think about how we can our opportunities to offer ourselves lovingly and creatively to God, so that we can become that pleasing aroma that Paul talks about.
The aroma of Christian presence can be powerful. In the 2008 earthquake in China that killed nearly 70,000 people, a church group was among the first to bring aid to a small remote mountain village that had been devastated. That act of compassion made a strong impression on those villagers, most of whom had little or no acquaintance with the church, so much so that the tiny church in that village grew greatly in the weeks and months following.
Christians who do not live as if Jesus were Lord and Savior also give off an odor, one that is not pleasant and which people can notice and turn up their nose to.
How much more pleasant is the aroma that comes from a life that embodies that same care and love—both tender and tough—that Jesus showed to those whose lives he touched. It’s an aroma that prompts people to ask, “What’s that smell? I like it.”