(Newspaper Article in Park Rapids Enterprise Faith Section - February 25, 2017)
Thanks be to God! For in union with Christ we are always led by God as prisoners in Christ's victory procession. God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost. For those who are being lost, it is a deadly stench that kills; but for those who are being saved, it is a fragrance that brings life. – II Corinthians 2:14-16
For Paul, to think of the church as the spoils of war was not too difficult. Being those captured by a love that is not reminiscent of some Friday night passion forgotten in the morning, but a lifelong devotion to the beloved, we are those won in battle, paraded before the Father as a gift of what was won.
This may rub you the wrong way, thinking of yourself as a prisoner-of-war marched before the victorious Christ as He makes His way through the paths of heaven. As those whose bodies and souls fight against the pain and suffering of sin and death each day, victory is our only focus. This victory being that which we cannot ever imagine to win. For even if we are able to keep ourselves from “this” or “that” sin, there is always another waiting to ensnare us. If we fight against lust, greed steps in. If we defeat both of those, here comes pride. Each one lines up as a platoon of snipers waiting to take us out when we least expect it.
If we even are to take on sin, and somehow (impossibly) to win that battle, death waits to finish us off. Each day we know that at some point our time will conclude. Our life in this moment will cease as we repose, awaiting the coming of the Lord in glory.
However, in our in-between times, we have this battle and yet Paul says to you today – in Christ you are always led in the victory procession. Always led in victory as Christ’s gift to the Father. Always led as this offering to God, a sweet-smelling aroma of the life of Christ living in you to strengthen your faith in your Jesus, and to be a beacon for those who live in such a way that this victory is not theirs.
Paul even says that this aroma we bring, even this procession that we march in through life, becomes an offering that spreads to both the lost and the found. To the lost it becomes the stink of death. A stink that reminds you, as the lost one, that death is your reality. The stink of the church becoming the call to gather you into the fold. To put you to death in Jesus, to kill you, and raise you to life in Christ.
As found ones, you become the fumes of salvation to the world. An offering of Christ to God as He passes by the throne of grace saying – Look, Father, I have lost none for whom you gave me. Here you go Daddy, these are yours; all of them.
The “you” I speak of is you. Now and always. The Jesus-ed people. The ones defeated in your sin and death, to bring life and salvation. To become those that God uses in all your weakness, mortality, and sin, to call forth the world to repentance and faith in this God who loves and lives for you.
O God of mercies, make us to smell the smoke of your gospel, to hear the sounds of the victory procession, and bring us to death and life in your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.