The Sweet Smell of Success – Sept. 9, 2018

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but…do you smell?  Now, before you start checking,… I mean, can you smell? Scientists tell us that 1 in ever 126 persons – has lost ‘all or most’ of their sense of smell. Anosmia is the name given to those who cannot smell.

Some people are born that way, others lose ‘smell and taste with age’ and non-Caucasians lose their sense of smell at a much higher rate than white folks. Finally, women have a better sense of smell than most men.

Scientists tell us that our sense of smell is our first and oldest sense. Every animal and simple cell creature has a fine sense of smell. Recent studies (2014) done at ‘The Rockefeller Center’ explain that humans have about 400 odor sensors in our brains, called olfactory receptor proteins.

They say that it is likely that ‘we can smell and distinguish’ at least one trillion distinct scents.

They also tell us ‘that just like fingerprints’, every person has their own distinct odor. Some odors attract us and others repel us. Scientists have studied our pheromones, odors that attract us to one another, for many ages. They also add them to perfumes and colognes.

Because our sense of smell is so well developed, the truth is, a little perfume is better than a lot. Even good smells in abundance can overwhelm and irritate us.

Mr. Bean is a British Sitcom created by Rowan Atkins.  In one episode, Mr. Bean has applied for and just received his ‘American Express Card’.  He is so proud of it, that he runs off to the department store ‘in hopes of making his first purchase’. As Mr. Bean looks for something to buy, he passes by the perfume counter and of course, every lady is trying on a new perfume. Before he gets by the counter, he is gagging and finally crawling on the floor to avoid all the sprays.

Because I have suffered with allergies and some asthma, my sense of smell has come and gone. As a result, when I can smell, my sense of smell is much stronger and better than others.

Things like molds, burning leaves, a skunk on the road, strong perfumes, deodorants and burnt food – can nearly send me over the edge.

Scientists say our most pleasant or pleasurable scents include; vanilla, oranges, lemon, cinnamon, spearmint, lavender, chocolate and cookies. And of course, smells are directly linked to memory. Do you remember the smells of your favorite foods? Do they bring a sense of comfort, peace and love?

Because women are designed by God to have a better sense of smell, scientists say that some can smell fear and disgust through someone’s sweat. They can instinctively react to an emotion from a child, without knowing why. They can literally smell sickness and trouble. Finally, scientists say that ‘a lack of smell can indicate sickness or disease’.

The Bible talks a lot about fragrances, aromas and how things smell. In the Old Testament, the Hebrews burned offerings to God – and it says God was pleased with the sweet aroma. Fragrant oils and perfumes were used – to anoint kings, leaders, prophets and preachers. And of course, ointments and spices were also used to prepare the dead.

There is also the burning of incense in heaven, according to Revelation chapter 8. The Bible tells us that God can smell our sin and we cannot cover it up with sweet smelling perfumes.

In our passage from Second Corinthians 2:14, Paul writes, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in a triumphal procession and through us, spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

In Paul’s day, when the Romans came back from a victory, they would have a triumphant processional. As they marched into town, the crowd would wave branches, throw flowers – and lay coats before them. And the parade had a very specific order to it.

 It began with older Roman leaders, senators and other government officials. Wealthy merchants and other influential leaders, who helped fund the military followed. Behind them, at a slight distance, came the trumpeters.

Next were the wagons carrying the spoils of war. These wagons were covered with gold, silver, vases, jewelry and other rare items that could easily be displayed. Flatbed trucks followed carrying statues and idols belonging to the conquered cities. Then, in cages and in chains, came all of the animals they had confiscated.

Then, priests and servants walked, carrying and swinging canisters filled with sweet smelling incenses, spices and perfumes to arouse the crowds. The wonderful smells would be everywhere. Following them were the captives in chains, – to show who they had conquered. They were driven by soldiers using whips.

Finally, last in line was the conquering hero on a white horse with his army, following close behind. The sweet smells and spices excited the Romans – but made the captives sick. To one group, the smells meant victory, but to the other, it was bitter defeat.

As Christians, we are to ‘share the aroma’ of Christ’s victory over sin and death. We are to ‘give off a sweet smell of victory, wherever we go’. But to those who are yet in sin, – we often smell not so good or even stinky.

Paul writes, “To the one; we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” As an illustration, if we put on too much perfume, aftershave and cologne, we turn people away. They see this ‘in how we act’, and it is like a pungent aroma.

If we are bold, arrogant, proud and condescending, we will naturally turn others off. Our fragrance is overpowering. The reason is, these lost people don’t even know that they are in trouble and they are often very offended when we tell them they are sinners and in danger.

Many times, when I put on a suit, people assume I am going to church, the hospital or a funeral. In fact, for some outside the faith, my suit scares them. When I walk up in a suit, they think something bad has happened. People tend to listen more often to me, when I am subtle and dressed more like them.

A lot of folks who are not in church are really turned off with religious stuff. They bulk at Christian bumper stickers, crosses and fish decals.

It’s kind of like our perfume is too strong for them. They wrinkle their noses and complain.

I think it is worse, when ‘we have’ those stickers that say, “In case of a rapture, this car will be unmanned” or “If you think it’s hot now,.. just wait until you get to hell’.

Matthew 7:16 says, “Others will know us – by our fruit.” The best fruit – has a very pleasing aroma that draws us to it. How many of you smell your fruit before you buy it? It isn’t hard to smell bad fruit, is it? Our fruit is our love, mercy, compassion, care and integrity. When we serve others and remain humble and kind, we give off a good scent; that is when we give of the scent of Christ.

In 2014, Phillip Yancey wrote a book called, “Vanishing Grace: whatever happened to the Good News?” In it, he talked about ‘the great divide’ between Christians and others. If we fight with others, instead of sharing our Good News, all others see and feel is our frustration and hatred.

A Chemist in France named Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, severally burned one of his hands in an explosion in his lab. The hand developed a serious infection – known as gas gangrene. He was in bad shape and the doctors told him he would certainly loss his hand.

Rene did not want that. Unsure what else to do, he began applying different oils, lotions and creams. Almost by accident, he found, that when he treated his hand with lavender, the hand healed. The word ‘Aromatherapy’ first appeared in a book he wrote about his findings, in 1937.

Now, I am not here to promote ‘aromatherapy’, although it is part of a holistic lifestyle for many. Instead, I do want to raise the question, “What kind of fragrance does our lifestyle and attitudes give off?”  Is it one of healing and kindness or anger and distance?

There was a factory in Northern France where lavender was produced to be used in perfumes. It may still be there. But the story goes, each evening, as the workers made their way home down the narrow streets, the village would be filled with the soft sweet aroma of lavender. It clung to the employees clothes while they worked. Some say that it was the nicest little town to live in and one of the safest. Do you suppose it had anything to do with the lavender?

I think that is how it should be with us as Christians. If we are to be the aroma of Christ, our lives and our fruit should be appealing and sweet. With grace, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, humility, caring and love, we emit a wonderful fragrance on behalf of the kingdom of God. Then, for those seeking life, purpose and peace, our sweet smell will be like coming home to God’s victory.

There is no need to lay it on to heavily. Just a little goes a long way. So,… how do you smell to others? Maybe you should ask a true friend, one who will give you an honest answer.

The world still needs the Good News and plenty of grace, maybe now more than ever. If we are ever going to do all that Jesus is calling us to do, we must have the smell of success.           

In other words, the aroma of Christ.

Mark Twain understood the aroma and love of Christ when he wrote, “Forgiveness is ‘the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it’.

Your assignment is,…to look up Ephesians 5:2, write it out and put it on your refrigerator or mirror, where you will see it often. It is a reminder that we are called to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. His life was a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, given in our place. And now, we are called to be a fragrant offering to God and others.

May we truly live, like Christ. Amen