Aroma... and memory
We travelled last Friday, from Twisp to Seattle. It's a long way.
The lunch stop happened to be Wenatchee, and rather than opt for the standard fast food fare, we found a Chinese Buffet and helped ourself to a wide variety of foods (I never knew tater tots were Chinese). When I put my lips to the hot and sour soup and inhaled, my nostrils were met with some spice which I'd not encountered for about 37 years. I don't know it - this spice from the past - but somehow the link between scent, nostril, and memory, is so powerful that I immediately felt like I was in the cafeteria at Fort Miller Junior High in Fresno, California.
And so suddenly, in this restaurant, I'm feeling all the emotions of Jr. High that have been buried since since before the Vietnam war ended: Is Linda W___ going to Bible camp this summer? Shoud I ask her to the 9th grade dance? Will I be the starting centerfielder for the Babe Ruth all star team? So much angst and excitment is wrapped up in the resurrection of that era, all to the backdrop of the Beatles, "A Hard Days Night"
The link between memory and smell is powerful. Maybe that's why Paul says what he does in II Corinthians 2: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place." If aroma triggers memory, it seems that Paul is suggesting that our calling is to fan into flame the primal memory of the life and world God had in mind.
The Bible also says that God has "placed eternity in the hearts of men". This isn't hard to fathom. Everywhere we look there are longings for justice, for mercy, for peace, for intimacy, for truth telling and authenticity, for forgiveness. These longings are eternity in the heart of man and woman. It's these longings, if followed, that will lead us to both union with Christ and the capacity to step into God's purposes for us and make this a better world. What brings those eternal longings, often buried deeply under layers of pain and greed, lust and fenzied activity, to the surface? A whiff of Christ!
I need to smell Jesus on the breath of others, and be that aroma for others as well. I got a whiff of Jesus on the breath of MLK when I listened again, last night, to his final speech. The primal memory of a just world was fanned into flame simply by hearing him say once again, "I have seen the promise land..." The vision of all people, joined together, is resurrected in my heart, and I am emboldened to speak louder for those who aren't able to speak for themselves, all because of one small whiff of the kingdom. The power of smell!
I pray that the aroma of justice, mercy, compassion, hope, joy, and peace, might be on my breath today - and yours. Who knows what primal memories will be resurrected in those who we encounter?