A few weeks ago I was able to take part in a worship service that was intended to be a funeral for Christ. The room was almost completely dark, except a few candles, there was a cross in the center of the room, and places to sit around the cross. Upon entering the room you noticed a few things: it was dark, cold, and smelled of some kind of incense. The smell wasn't like the familiar smells of scented candles that smell like flowers, fruits, or freshly washed linens...this smell almost stung your throat every time you inhaled. The worship was somber, quiet, and simple: a few readings from Psalms, and a few dramatic readings by various characters of the last hours of Christ's life: Peter, Judas, Pilate, and others. After the readings were finished, the cross was carried out like a casket while a recording of Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes...it really sent chills up my spine and down my arms. All sat in the darkness for a few moments of silence after the cross had been removed from the room.
After the worship was over, I noticed that my clothes smelled like the incense...we weren't in the room for very long, but it was long enough for the fumes to work into my clothing...I carried the scent with me.
Have you ever been to a restaurant and someone near you orders fajitas and the server brings it out sizzling, smoking, and smelling. You know when that happens that you're going to smell like fajita meat until you change your clothes...the smell stays with you. And anyone that smells you will have a pretty good idea of where you've been and what you've been doing.
There are numerous stories in the Old Testament of people making burnt offerings to God to help cleanse them from their sins. The smell of burning flesh is a smell like no other....it really does choke you. I can imagine that anyone that made a burnt offering in the temple smelled for the rest of the day...maybe even the next few days. And everyone they came near knew where they had been- in the presence of God.
So, how do you smell? Not literally...but can people tell when you've been to church on a Sunday afternoon/evening? Do you get angry with the server that's taking too long or gets your order wrong? Do you yell or honk at someone that cuts you off in the car? What about how you conduct yourself on Monday, Tuesday...and so on? Can people tell that you're a Christian by how you act? Sometimes, people cannot easily tell that we're Christians when we don't carry the Spirit with us when we leave. We are a people called to be different, called to love. Incense isn't used often in many of today's churches, so how can we make it clear where we've been and what we've been doing?
"Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other." 1 Thessalonians 4:9