Thursday, July 14, 2011

What does the Spirit smell like?

Yesterday in class we began by smelling the Bible. I realise this is not a standard approach to Christianity, the Bible or to tertiary study. So before we began, as a group we needed to take quite some time to make sure we were connecting with our noses.

So I began with a quick quiz. People were asked to rank favourite smells – sunday roast, coffee, bbq, gingerbread, popcorn, cut grass. The buzz of conversation confirmed that people were starting to think through their noses.

Second, we read an excerpt from Sense Making Faith, reminding us of how important smell is – our unique smell, smell in creation, the changing smells of life.

Third, we took some quiet time to reflect on the familiar scent of a person we love, followed by the smell of our church. How would we recognise people and place by smell alone?

Fourthly, we prayed

Lord God,
You walk in all our memories
You know where we have been
What we have said, known and felt
Come to us in the scent we remember
The time when we walked with you
And know that we walk with you still
Amen. Prayer from Sense Making Faith.

Fifthly, we considered not just good smells, but also bad spells. We asked ourselves where are the bad smells in our community? And we prayed, together again. We started and ended the prayer together, with space in the middle for us to name individually the smells we have been reflecting upon.

Lord God,
In the stink of rubbish tips where people make a living
In the stench of grave where people search for their dead
In the foul odour of disease where people are suffering
You are there. (space for individuals to name the smells). You are the fresh air.
Help us to make lives for the scavengers of rubbish
Help us to bring justice for the unknown dead
Help us to nurse and heal the diseased.
Help us to bring your fresh new life to the world. Amen (Prayer from Sense Making Faith).

We were now ready to smell the Bible. We were aware of the importance of smell and the fact that smell can work both positively and negatively. And so we smelt our Biblical text for the week (Luke 1:39-45). I read it slowly, pausing often.

And we were moved, by the fresh insights that emerged, by the growing awareness of the humanity of the text. And we were stumped by verse 41 “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What does the Spirit smell like? Are we “smelling” too much into the text? Or is that the Spirit does have an aroma, and we’ve simply never yet been aware of it, never paid attention?

A note: Much of this material comes from Sense Making Faith which is a wonderful resource. For more on how it can be used, not just in a class, but in church and in mission, go here.

Posted by steve at 04:06 PM

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