Monday, August 24, 2009

A Fragrant Faith

Grasse, France
The Perfume Capital of the World, this city sits just above the Cote d'Azure, otherwise known as the French Riviera. Grasse (pronounced like we say "Grass") is warm enough to incubate all of the flowers necessary to make fine perfumes - which the city sells in excess of 600 million Euros per year - and wet enough to make it lush almost year round.

The cathedral dedicated to Notre Dame du Puy serves as the central attraction to the town and is home to several original large-scale paintings by Rubens. This expression of church was constructed in the 11th century. We happened to be standing just outside of the doors at noon when the carillon bells began to ring. I posted a video above of the bells. It's my iPhone attempt at capturing a video moment.

So, how do these two features of Grasse intersect? Perfume and cathedral. Fragrance and faith. For Vincent & Nicole Derieux, our CA workers here in Grasse, they combine to form a church called Parfums De Vie - The Fragrance of Life. A multi-lingual gathering, this church seeks to bring the nations together under the Lordship of Christ. In addition to their outreach to French neighbors, Vincent & Nicole live and serve very near to the large Tunisian immigrant population, offering kids club programs, social services, and language classes. Vincent, a local Frenchman from nearby Avignon, and Nicole, a Scot who is fluent in French, are both learning Arabic in order to better serve the local community. I'm very impressed by what I've seen so far as we've walked their streets today.

It makes me wonder, what do our churches smell like? Not physically, but in terms of the effect of our presence in this world. Do we emit an acrid odor of judgment and condemnation? Maybe we reek with the sweat of self-justification. It takes a lot of effort to earn the love of God! Heaven forbid we would smell with the decay of spiritual death.

Paul encourages us to be like perfume, offering the aroma of Christ to our communities. He writes in 2 Corinthians 2, "But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

May you draw people today toward Jesus, just by the sweetness of your presence.

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