(This sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 17, 2013. The sermon is based on the gospel text or the day, John 12:1-8)
My first pastoral call was with a small family-size parish named Mt. Zion - St. Luke Lutheran Church. The small southwest Georgia towns of Oglethorpe and Montezuma - separated only by the dirty brown water of the lazy Flint River - and the surrounding farm lands made up this mostly agriculture parish. In such an earthy place, so near the land, you couldn’t help but have your senses awakened by the smells and sounds, images and textures that surrounded you. Known mostly for its vast cotton fields and “pee-can” orchards, this land is also home to chicken farms and paper mills. Which, for any of you who have experienced the like, you know, chicken farms and paper mills produce THE...most...offensive...odor. Especially when those odors mix together on a hot, humid day. Depending on which way the wind was blowing, the smells of chickens and chicken manure and wood being milled into paper would repel your senses. The odor was sickening. It was like...it was like the stench of death.
It seems in life, the stench of death is always near. Through physical, mental, and emotional illness; through family conflicts and national wars; through the uncertainties of economy and simple every day life; through aging and the approach of literal dying; the stench of death is carried on the wind, assaulting our senses.