“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing….” – 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
The people of the world would know us anywhere by our smell, says Paul. Church incense smells like, well, church incense. They say the odor of sanctity that rises from the dead bodies of saints smells like flowers. Church basements smell like mold. Church bathrooms smell like noxiously sweet air freshener. Church kitchens smell like pancakes, casseroles, or over-full grease traps, depending. But that’s not what we smell like, he says.
WE, we smell like a triumphal procession. Like a parade with Jesus Christ as great high Drum Major, heading up the festivities. We smell like popcorn and roasted nuts, cotton candy and hot dogs, hot asphalt and horses. We smell like sno-cone syrup and sparkler smoke and latex balloons. Or at least we ought to.
We smell like Christ, says God, which apparently means a parade. Which means that they’ll know we are Christians not only by our love, but by the way we smell like delight.
When a visitor first comes into your church, what do you think she thinks it smells like? Or, since you may not have much control over that, what do you think she thinks it feels like? If you’re not pretty sure it feels like a crowd lining up for a parade, time to pay a little closer attention to your great high Drum Major. Or at least to buy a popcorn machine for the narthex.
Oh God, let the world breath deep with delight whenever we come near. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.