Just over twenty years ago my wife made some new friends. They were all pregnant at the time. Marilyn was carrying Beth, who is our fourth child and only daughter, but the others were all pregnant for the first time. Somehow the bond that was struck during those maternity classes has remained strong, and the five of them meet at least once a month in different homes for something they call ‘Pizza Night.’ Pizza night is a place of fellowship. It is usually characterised by laughter, but there have been tears along the journey too. Although pizza night is very different to a church home group, the bond between Marilyn and her four friends is one that I am sure must be pleasing to God as He watches how these five friends have supported one another throughout the years.
Now while pizza night could be an excellent picture of the early church, this is not the picture I wish to share with you today. I left last night just before the ‘girls’ arrived for a pizza night at our house. I arrived home just after they gone and was immediately hit by not by the smell of pizza, but of a different fragrance. This fragrance was coming from a scarf that one of the girls had left behind. I don’t know what perfume Sarah wears but it does smell good. That fragrance was still powerfully evident when I came downstairs this morning. It left me in no doubt that Sarah was in the house last night.
As the fragrance of Sarah’s perfume hit me I was reminded of a different fragrance: the fragrance of God. It is something that should as evident in our churches as it should be in our own lives. But is it? Do you walk into your church and know instantly that God is there? Are people you meet aware of the fragrance of God in your life?
Last summer I had a business trip to Moscow. During a morning off I managed to visit St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square. Although St Basil’s is now a museum I found myself so totally overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in that building that I had to reach out to the wall to steady myself. I left St Basil’s questioning why the presence/fragrance of the Holy Spirit is not in evident in this way in churches that aren’t museums. Perhaps it is because the fragrance of the Holy Spirit is not sufficiently evident in the lives of those who worship in the churches that aren’t museums yet? Perhaps it is because the fragrance of the knowledge of God is not being diffused through us?
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NKJV)