As a guest visiting a beautiful house of worship, I entered the sanctuary with much interest, anticipating a new worship experience in an architecturally exquisite church.
Surprisingly, it was the wonderful fragrance that immediately captured my attention.
Whispering my surprise, I leaned close to say, “It smells so good!”.
Incense is not used in the churches of my heritage, but its presence in that sanctuary felt ancient, authentically divine, and was deeply memorable.
As Lauren Winner writes in her recently published book Wearing God, "In early Christian worship, incense "conveyed divine presence" to the people. Jesus breathed out the "fragrance of His life" upon the cross, and that fragrance was elusively present, reprised in the incense lit during liturgy." p.77
Fragrance appears in several Biblical texts to describe the perfumed presence of the Holy Lord…
"All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia." Psalm 45:8
"...And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering
and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor."
Ephesians 5:1 KJV
Fragrance is also used to powerfully represent the constantly streaming prayers of God’s people. A multitude of prayers, as incense, permeating the air with sacred scent and rising up before the enthroned Risen Lord…
"...the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people."
Fragrance, the presence of scent,
gathers an entirely new and elevated meaning when pondered through the words of these scriptures.
It prompts a closer attention to the rain washed scent of baptismal waters, the aromas steaming from “our daily bread”, the fragrance of candle wax burning on the alter, the ancient perfumes of the Bethlehem story, and the bouquet of the wine “poured out for you”.
Be alert for a sweet smelling savor; Holy God leaves fragrant traces of His presence.
Read more from Wearing God…
"...you can discover things about God by looking around your ordinary, everyday life. There is a method here, and it is a Jesus method. Jesus, after all, specialized in asking people to steep themselves in the words of scriptures and then to look around their ordinary Tuesdays to see what they could see about holiness and life with God. This is not merely entertaining wordplay to give overactive minds something pious to do. It is the Bible's way of making us aware of God and of the world in which we meet God." Lauren Winner, Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God
This post is linked to the following faith communities: Coffee for Your Heart, Tell His Story, Still Saturday, Sunday Stillness, and Weekend Brew. Join us!