Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)
TITLE: No Sting, No Stink
By Emily Gibson
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We had been preparing for the community Easter Sunrise service our farm has hosted for most of the last 30 years. Ordinarily, this gathering of eighty plus people takes place on our open field hilltop, fresh with early morning spring breezes, overlooking a mountain range to the north, a valley reaching out to the bay to the west and snowy peaks to the east. However, every few years, the weather is foul enough to drive us into our big hay barn to worship, so we need to always plan for that contingency and have our barn ready if we wake up to rain Sunday morning.
Even in the spring, there can be much of last summer’s hay stored in our barn, so it takes some organizing of the bales to create a seating arrangement for that many folk. Once we began moving hay bales around, it became quite apparent we had a visitor who had decided to make the barn home and ended up never leaving. Something had recently died in there. The smell of death hung thick and pervasive, clinging to us, our clothing, not to be ignored.
We eventually uncovered the source: a recently deceased opossum. This one was not pretending to be dead, a common defense against predators in this species to simply go limp when touched. She was not ‘playing possum.’ To offer a paraphrase from a favorite movie: as the discoverer, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead. Tucking herself between hay bales, she must have gone to sleep and forgotten to wake up. Having lost her hiding place and her life, we needed quickly to find her a final resting place so the air could clear by Easter morning, in case our worship was to take place in the barn. The stench of death just did not seem fitting in the celebration of life on Easter morning.
Yet overcoming the stark and stinky finality of death is what Resurrection Day is all about.
That opossum soon went to rest in the ground and our noses were no longer assaulted by her untimely death. Instead, we annually prepare for an all-out spiritual assault on our souls during Holy Week. Reminded of rotting flesh can prove helpful right before Easter. Death is such an overwhelming reality for each of us; how can we imagine its defeat when confronted with its overwhelming stench? Death so clearly irrevocable cannot be faked like some startled opossum gone temporarily floppy to save herself.
Yet everything changed the day that Christ rose from death and walked out of the tomb, whole and holy.
So where is death’s victory, where is its sting, and where is its stink? No longer in the tomb, and no longer in us. Even in the depth and darkness of the tomb we are saved, preserved, and restored to the fresh fragrance of new life.
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