A while ago I temporarily lost my sense of smell. I didn’t particularly miss the smells I would usually encounter – life became – well… just a little bit bland. I didn’t look forward to delicious food as I couldn’t sense it being cooked; I didn’t particularly notice the season changing; and spending an hour scrubbing the bathroom didn’t seem to make it “fresh”.
For me, scent is a subtle ingredient in experiences. Of course, some smells do send me racing back to a past memory – another time and place. And when you can’t smell any more, it’s a real challenge to try and “remember” smells – I mean – how do you describe them?
Then one day, as I walked by a tree, a realisation hit me so hard it stopped me in my tracks – I could smell pine! Fresh, green, sharp, Christmassy pine! The extra dimension had returned! This also meant I could smell that small boy had trodden in something (I don’t know how long ago….urgh) and that the drains needed a squirt of bleach.
Do you remember the Bible account of Mary who poured a whole bottle of pure perfumed oil onto Jesus feet? Imagine the scent! It would be a rather overpowering sensation to be right there – the fragrance filling the whole room – the house – wafting into the street. And imagine after the event – when the oil had soaked into the floor – the scent would continue to linger for days afterwards. Her actions impacted not only Jesus, but many, many others she may not have considered: the other disciples and guests, Mary herself, her sister Martha and brother Lazarus, and their wider community as neighbours walked past outside. Then during the following week – the week leading up the Jesus’ crucifixion, death and resurrection, the effects of her actions were still playing out – the love she demonstrated for Jesus had a long lasting effect on others too.
Christians are called to be the “pleasing aroma” of Christ in the world, so others will sense his love – so that they may come to know him too.
Scent can be rather subtle – a gentle whiff as you walk past the bakers or the salty tang that tells you the sea is just over that hill. But it can still make your tummy rumble, or your feet ache to splash in the cool waves.
As Christians, we are called to be the fragrance of Jesus. This may sometimes be a very obvious outpouring that no-one can ignore, as Mary did, standing up and speaking out. More often – and certainly day by day – the “fragrance of Jesus” through us is more subtle: being loving and caring; a word of encouragement; an act of compassion. It is these almost insignificant, sometimes undetected actions that bring the fragrance of Jesus into our world – than others may know him, and may be saved from a bland, meaningless existence and from death itself.
“But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. “
(2Cor 2 v 14-15 [NLT])