Easter Day 10:30 AM Service
The Resurrection of Our Lord – 4/9/2023
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
What are some of the most beautiful fragrances you can imagine? How about a freshly baked pan of chocolate chip cookies? What about a dozen fresh red roses? How about the smell of a baby freshly bathed, dried, and cuddled? How about a glass of red cabernet aged ten years? What about the smell of a beautiful perfume or cologne? Then what about the scent of beautiful Easter lilies on Easter morning? All these wonderful fragrances we smell are often never forgotten, leaving an indelible mark on our memory.
But not all sweet memories are necessarily good. Perhaps you have smelled a dead animal or noticed symptoms of human sickness. You may have lived through horrendous nightmares or memories. You may have sensed that some people smelled more like death in how they spoke and lived, while others smelled like life, and you loved to be with them.
For some of us, even the fragrance of Easter lilies can almost send us into anaphylactic shock!
Through the centuries, some Christians have used fragrant oils to aid in worshiping Christ. Like Easter lilies, however, this practice has not been favorable to all. Those who did use anointing oil did so with the intent that the fragrance of the oil would put people in mind the richness of Christ's resurrection and the joy of Baptism. The fragrant oil was placed on a person to remind them of one of God's promised treasures for all of us in Christ: Easter joy and gladness.
When we began this season of Lent forty days ago, many of us had dirty ashes placed on our foreheads. Ashes remind us of our sins, and they are a symbol of our need for repentance. In a sense, our stinky, smelly, deathlike self was crucified and buried with Christ in the tomb of Lent, only to arise completely new on Easter. You rise with Christ in Baptism this morning, just as He rose from the tomb. That is what fragrant and aromatic oil is all about—reminding you, just as Easter lilies around the altar do, that Jesus lives now and forever.
If you read through the Scriptures, you will see that the Holy Spirit's work in the lives of God's people is often outwardly marked with oil. Jacob blessed the rock of Bethel after God appeared to him twice (Genesis 28:18; 35:14). Moses anointed Aaron and all the priests (Leviticus 8:12). Prophets, priests, and kings were often anointed with oil. It marked them for specific services. Therefore, David never wished to kill Saul, even though Saul kept pursuing him. Saul was the Lord's anointed, so David never killed him. Samuel anointed David to be king (1 Samuel 16:13) and lovingly expresses the abundance of oil in Psalm 23:5: "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
In the New Testament, Jesus was anointed directly by the Holy Spirit when He came as a dove at His Baptism. As many of us were taught in confirmation class, Jesus, the Messiah, is the Anointed One, the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King.
Since you are baptized into Christ, just as little James was baptized among us this morning, God's mark or seal of ownership is also placed on you, reassuring you that you are God's royal son or daughter, and in Him, you are a priest and king. As St. Peter says, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession" (1 Peter 2:9).
In the Early Church, baptizing new adult catechumens often occurred on Saturday night at the Easter Vigil. After they were washed in the waters of Baptism, they rose out of the water and were anointed with scented oil. This anointing with aromatic oil reminded all the baptized that the resurrected Christ had marked and sealed them. That might be why St. Paul said this about his and Titus's work in preaching the gospel: "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Corinthians 2:15).
As a Christian, your life has a whole different fragrance than the lives of others. You smell different because you are different. You are being reminded that in your Baptism, you were anointed with the fragrant oil of forgiveness and eternal salvation in the Anointed One, the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ. That means that you are now a sweet and pleasing aroma in the nostrils of God. You are washed, and before God, you have been declared truly clean, righteous, and holy by Jesus' shed blood.
As St. Peter says, you are a living stone and anointed into a holy priesthood as the people of God. Just as Aaron and his sons and priests were anointed to offer sacrifices to God, now you provide your life and body as an acceptable living sacrifice (1 Peter 2:5; Romans 8:1). Wherever you go, you will smell. You are the smell of life to some because Jesus rose from that aromatically spiced tomb into life from the dead, and you are baptized into Him. But you smell like death to others who hate and despise Jesus Christ. You will be hated because death no longer has power over you, and you are in Christ. You are connected to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Unlike smelling death, as many feared when Lazarus's tomb was opened (see John 11:39), there is no fear of death for you today.
Dear friend in Christ, I pray that this wonderful fragrance of Easter joy and happiness lingers with you, sustaining you in this life's often smelly and unpleasant experiences. And I also pray that just as freshly baked chocolate chip cookies register joy to all who smell them, you know how sweet you smell to God and everyone around you. You are baptized into Christ, and through His resurrection from the dead, you live wherever you go as a lovely, pleasant aroma and living sacrifice to God.
So rejoice this Easter morning. The long night of darkness has replaced the pleasant Easter fragrance of morning gladness.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.