Barclay Viewforth Church congregation on Blackford Hill

“Sorrow and love flow mingled down”

PASTORAL LETTER

The 5 senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste… Which is your strongest? I know that there is proof that if you have a deficiency in any one, then the others will work harder for you to compensate. I’ve had poor hearing for many years but my strongest sense is that of smell. I can tell if someone has been in a coffee shop prior to meeting me because I can pick up the aroma from their clothing. However at the other extreme it does make cleaning up after a sick child extremely difficult as the smell is just so overpowering!

I hadn’t thought about the sense of smell featuring in the Easter story until recently – I was at an event where Crystal, one of the 24/7 Prayer team in Scotland, spoke of Mary, the one who broke and poured an alabaster jar of perfume over Jesus’ head.

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman (referred to as Mary in John’s gospel) came with an alabaster jar of very expensive  perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”

Crystal highlighted something which hadn’t crossed my mind before – it was the fact that this event took place just a few days before the crucifixion. This means that the scent of the nard, or perfume, will still have been on Jesus as He hung on the cross. For me, it brought a new perspective to the words in the hymn, When I survey the wondrous cross…. “Sorrow and love flow mingled down.” Mary loved Jesus enough to spend a vast sum of money on the nard in order to bless Jesus. When the disciples rebuked her for “this waste…” Jesus told them to leave her and said, “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.”

The idea that the lingering scent of perfume, and the memories it evoked, may have brought comfort to Jesus in those dying moments, is a very powerful thought.

Recently I’ve been blessed by a friend, a retired physio, who has been coming to do some massage on my neck and shoulders. Apart from the fact that she said that I was “thick” (she was actually referring to the muscles in my neck…honest!!)… Ann would use lavender scented oil to massage deep into my neck. At the end of a session I would then have to lie down on the sofa for the final manipulation. Before lying down I would lay my dressing gown on the sofa to prevent it from being stained by the oils. As well as being good for my neck and shoulders, it is wonderfully relaxing.

A few weeks ago, Ann gave me a neck & shoulder massage a few days before I was due to sit an important exam. It was a welcome relief after the tension of hours huddled over textbooks. However, the night before the exam I have to admit to feeling quite stressed about it, a large part to do with the fact that I hadn’t sat an exam for 30 years. The nerves were getting the better of me as the butterflies created a relentless beat in my stomach. Having studied all evening, I was preparing to have an early night, in order to be well rested for the next day. As I put on my dressing gown, prior to sitting and doing just a little bit more studying, I was aware of the scent of the lavender oil still lingering on it. Immediately I remembered the story of Jesus and the perfume on the cross and I felt an amazing reassurance. It was akin to receiving a ‘Godly hug’ and being told, “Everything will be alright.”

There may be times in the coming weeks and months when you may be living with fear or worry about something or someone in your life – I hope and pray that one of your senses will make you more aware of God’s presence so that you too can receive a ‘Godly hug’. I also hope that some of the extra senses, the senses of awe and wonder, will be alert to the amazing thing Jesus did for us, in suffering and dying, that we might be free.

May the sense and scent of Easter be with you all.

with love in Christ,

Elaine