Stinking to High Heaven

Ed, my neighbor next door, popped over to our house at the wrong time last week. When he arrived, there was the smell of burnt rubber in the living room. I had been vacuuming the carpet and had run over a loose strand from the carpet which kept unraveling and getting tangled in the vacuum brush. As I was slow in figuring out what was going on, the vacuum was smoking from an over-heated belt by the time I got it shut off. The situation was a tad tense, as my wife was sure I was going to have the vacuum burning before I got it shut off. Ed didn’t ease the tension one bit.

“Boy the rubber is burning in here today,” he said. “That sure does stink, but at least you won’t smell my feet when I take off my boots,” he said, making himself at home. It turned out he was returning our two syrup bottles he had borrowed and was hoping for a coffee. Ed never has one coffee, so my wife put a pot of coffee on to brew while I sprayed the living room with Glade. We went from the smell of burnt rubber to lavender and, of course, Ed said he liked the smell of burnt rubber better than lavender. I told him to smell the coffee percolating.

Ed informed us he isn’t one to smell much, but he can tell the difference among cigarette, pipe and cigar smoke. He likes the smells of gasoline and cedar. Only three smells really bother him, the first two being the spray of a skunk and the stinky flowery smell of lilacs. Most of all, Ed hates the smell of newly cut lawn which makes him think of rotten eggs. To me, the two smells are completely different and could not be confused. Ed said that as a lad on his family farm, he had to cut the lawn and then carry water, to water a row of small trees planted around the farm house. Their farm water was sulfurous and smelled like rotten eggs, so when he smells cut grass, he smells rotten eggs.

I told Ed it could be a lot worse. There is a famous poem by Barbara Hyett, a survivor of Auschwitz, who said in her poem; “You can block out all the senses except smell.”

Ed asked, “So what does she prove?”

“As prisoners in the death camps, they had no choice but to smell the stench of fellow prisoners being burnt in the gas chambers,” I said. Ed just said that I should quit reading such depressing stuff.

In the Old Testament, God ordained worship to include sweet fragrances and pleasing smells. They included oil for lamps, spices for anointing-oil and fragrant incense. The burning of incense and the smoke from animal sacrifices were sweet fragrances lifting up to God.

In the New Testament, scripture calls us to make our lives a fragrant aroma and a living sacrifice to God. The exact words are, “God 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.” As Christians, do we smell like fresh baked bread or rotten eggs?


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