As you may know, the first two weeks of June I was blessed with continuing education experiences at Montreat. The first week I was there we were treated to a keynote and sermon from Otis Moss III – an African-American UCC pastor from Chicago. This man can proclaim the Word of God! I still get chills thinking about his sermon (and brought back a CD of it for anyone who’d like to take a listen).
Otis also led a workshop which I took part in and in this workshop I was treated with a wonderful reminder about the Bible. Otis walked us through the story of Jesus and the Gerasene demon in Mark 5. As Jesus steps out of the boat, a man (who cannot be bound by chains) comes running up to him from his home in the nearby tombs. Otis asked us “what do you notice?” A couple “churchy” responses rang out – “how he’s seeking out Jesus,” and “he’s in need of healing.” Otis shook his head and said, “what’s the first thing you notice?” Finally, someone shouted out “he smells!”
We all laughed but it was true – this man who lived in the tombs and was possessed by demons probably hadn’t had a bath lately. As we walked through the rest of the text, we paid attention to the sights, the sounds, and the smells. The story came alive – became real – for us in a way it hadn’t before.
It’s so easy to forget that these stories aren’t just texts for us to glean spiritual truths from – they’re real, visceral, and apparently (on occasion) smelly. As you come to the Bible in your personal devotions, I encourage you to try on Otis’ exercise. Imagine what your senses might pick up if you were there and don’t get too bogged down in “churchy” answers!