Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life 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
Do you smell it? It is the smell of bacon frying. It is the smell of coffee percolating. It is Sunday morning. Worship starts in 3 hours. I amble through the kitchen toward these smells to start my day of worship. Somehow, it just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t smell these things.
It is the smell of crunching leaves that have changed color and fallen. Of pumpkin pie spices and burning leaves. These are the smells of autumn (at least for me).
The smell of peanuts and stale beer. These are the smells of baseball, of a big-league ballpark.
The smell of pine and apple-cinnamon and mint. These are the smells of Christmas.
The smell of wine and freshly cut flowers. These are the smells of worship. This is what I smell as I stand at the altar preparing it for Holy Communion.
Smells are very powerful. They invoke feelings of seasons and events. The invoke memories (a whole episode of M*A*S*H was dedicated to this).
Smells are also part of our relationship with God. Starting in Exodus 25, God instructs his people to build a place of worship. There are specific items that are dedicated to smells. The Altar of Incense and various forms of incense would be used. Partly, I think, to have a distinctive smell associated with the worship of God. Partly to cover up the smell of all the sacrifices that would be made. But there is one more reason.
Our sin must raise a stink in God’s nose. The filth of our evil deeds. Our thoughts, our actions, must raise an awful stench to him.
How do we clean ourselves of this smell? I’m afraid it just isn’t possible for us to do this. No soap is strong enough to clean us of our sin. Oh, we certainly try. We apologize to those we wrong. Sometimes, if we’re guilty enough we will give money to the church or some charity to try to ease our conscience. But the smell lingers like smoke on your clothes after sitting around a campfire.
How can we get rid of the smell of sin in our lives? Sin has to be removed. It would be the love of Jesus Christ who “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
As we head into the autumn and holiday season with all its distinctive smells, remember that we smell pretty good to God because of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection for us. The next time you walk into a kitchen to smell the good smells there, thank God that Jesus takes away your stinking sin and makes you smell good with his righteousness.