Of Altars and Incense

If you can find a stand of locust trees on a day when the breeze is light, or sometimes a single tree in the evening just between dusk and darkness, there is a certain scent, a soft perfume, sweet and delicate as the memory of something you can’t quite describe but know it’s there. A single blossom carries such a light notion of the smell that you can’t really tell for sure whether it is actual aroma or just the suggestion, a slight trace that made you think of something good and pleasant, something from long ago that you couldn’t forget but can barely remember.

Maybe other things come to us like that as well, something so good and pleasant we had to tell it to someone cherished, some best friend, someone that we could depend on to appreciate the value of it, even though we knew we couldn’t quite express it in the way it happened. Something like the moving of the Spirit in an old-fashioned Quaker service of silence. Not a radical outpouring like Pentecost but a sweet, still voice speaking to the hearts of believers. A gentle convicting of sin, of the need to change how time is spent or of some possession that should be given up for the good of others in need. Maybe it came as a gathering of prayer around a stranger who felt some mysterious pull to stop that morning on his way to somewhere else. They all gathered around him, close hands touching him and others touching the shoulder of the ones in front of them, a gathering of gentle faith and hope and love.
And though no single person in the church could quite explain it to someone who wasn’t there, they all knew it; even the un-dedicated could not argue but that something warm and wonderful had brought its witness into their midst. It was not the service they had planned, not the service they had expected but it was exactly the service they had needed.
And so they left slowly, lingering in groups along the pews, at the back of the sanctuary, in the hallway. And as they walked out into the strange coolness of a Lord’s Day morning in the middle of May, they could see the hills covered with locusts blooming.
A prophecy of summer’s coming and none of them the same as when they had walked in an hour earlier.
H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Blair, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-five years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-one grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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