The Smell of Life
“The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.” Luke 23:55-24:1
Each year as a parish pastor, I would be the first to walk into the sanctuary on Easter morning. For a few moments in the darkness, I would sit and pray and smell. The last preparations for Easter were always on Saturday night when the altar guild would put out the Easter lilies. Walking into the church after it had been closed up all through the night was one of the most striking and pleasant smells. It smelled like life. The Resurrection accounts from the Gospels note the stone and the linens, but none of them note what those who came to the tomb smelled. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had prepared Jesus’ body for burial according to John’s Gospel, though Luke’s account mentions that the women prepared spices and ointments and returned after the Sabbath to complete the task. But no body was found, no spices were needed and no smells were noted at this garden tomb.
Most churches adorn their sanctuaries for Easter with lilies that both beautify the space and engage the sense of smell with an aroma that means life. Holy Baptism is our connection with Christ’s death and resurrection. For the one who is baptized is killed and made alive. The old, sinful nature is drowned so that the new creation can rise again. When a child is baptized, it is as if one moment the child is transported from the landfill to the botanical gardens, from the foul stench of sin and death to the sweet smelling aroma of life. Dr. Luther writes, “He who believes that in Baptism God has appointed for him a washing of new birth by which he is cleansed from sin and becomes a child of God, etc., receives and finds it as he believes. In his case, the heart is open and Baptism enters with all its power, giving light and warmth, and out of an old, dead man makes a new living saint.” (Martin Luther on Holy Baptism, p. 50)
The waters of Holy Baptism teem with life like as the Spirit hovered over the waters of creation because of the same power of the Word that creates and brings life. The Easter season is a time to celebrate the resurrection life of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting that are given to us through Holy Baptism. Just as flowers begin to bloom and trees bud, we rejoice and give thanks to God for the new life that is ours in Holy Baptism and Christ’s resurrection.
Prayer – Merciful Father, through Holy Baptism, You called us to be Your own possession. Grant that our lives may evidence the working of Your Holy Spirit in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, according to the image of Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan