Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent 4, Candle of Love

Sunday, December 18th
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12
 
 Candle of Love
By Stephanie Coyne
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.     Romans 15:13
I recently pulled out the last box of Dove soap from my bathroom cabinet. It’s smell was fresh and clean—not too powerful—but enough to change the tenor of my morning’s mood. I hesitated as I held it in my hands, questioning whether I really needed soap with my shower that morning. My fingers lingered on the edge of the paper box.
Smells are important sensory cues for all of us. In fact, smell triggers emotions and memories more successfully than any other sense. My grandmother’s memory is tied to the smells of Dove soap, fried okra, and when I’m feeling particularly sentimental, the smell that comes from a bucket of crickets, ready to be baited on the hook of a cane pole.
She was masterful with a batch of okra (because she was patient), quick on the pull of a downed bobber (because she was patient), and gracious with her soap (because she loved). She always put a new bar of soap out for her guests, even for her family members. Although she liked things to be “just so”—she appreciated neatness—she also had something in her that wanted to make her guests feel welcomed and honored, perhaps even privileged.
This gesture of hers was not as obvious as offering the fatted calf, and for a child like me, I never even noticed the non-marred bars. And when I finally did notice, my first thought was not, “how lovely,” but was instead, “how wasteful.” Teenagers.
When we were cleaning out her house after her move to an assisted living facility, I found a bunch of used bars of soap underneath her bathroom sink and I took in a breath of embarrassment for my teenage haughtiness. I wondered if she ever opened a new box for herself or just always used the leftover bars.
A couple of years ago, as we cleaned out her assisted living apartment after her death, I again found myself in her bathroom. In her cabinet were numerous boxes of bar soap. I called my Dad in and said, “someone could use these.” He replied, “Yep. Take ‘em.” And so I did. And I’ve used ‘em.
For two years, I’ve used them. And every time I’ve opened the cabinet to get a new one out, the smell would hit me and I would remember my grandmother. She was kind; she welcomed; she loved.
I wonder if the Spirit’s language is smell. Riding on the back of a fragrance, the Spirit  whisks us away to the past, allowing us time to pause and to consider those emotions and lessons of memories. But the Spirit does not leave us alone in the past, nor does it leave us to dwell in the past. It floats with us through the joy and grief of yesterday and then it carries us back to this day.
I won’t ever be able to catch fish or fry okra like she did, but I can take with me her lesson of welcoming and share that lesson as my witness to love.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you,
for the glory of God.     Romans 15:7
Artist: Nikki Roland

 In him there is no darkness at all;
The night and the day are both alike.
The Lamb is the light
of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

Author: Kathleen Thomerson
Hymn Tune: HOUSTON