It was the organic chemistry lab to which a generation of college students all look forward. We were making esters! No, not the character in the Bible, but a chemical compound. Esters are organic compounds that are the chemical basis for many familiar sweet scents such as food additives. On that day we were synthesizing a chemistry department favorite, the scent of bananas!
As dozens of students concocted their chemical reactions in the beakers heated by their Bunsen burners, the pungent aroma of the tropical fruit began to fill the lab. Many of us nodded to each other in approval. It was a welcome change from the usual scents of formalin and other acrid scents that we were accustomed to smelling each day. The scents lingered on our clothes as we left the laboratory and for weeks, the scent of bananas filled the hallways of the organic chemistry department. None of us could walk through it and not fondly remember the day we synthesized it. It’s presence lingered far after the experiment was completed. To this day, it remains my favorite experience in organic chemistry.
There are many people whom I have had the pleasure to meet whose affirming and beautiful presence lingers long after they have left. There are sweet aromas, giving me cause to smile and rejoice when I think of them or are reminded of activities that bring their presence to mind. The Apostle Paul may have felt this way about his missionary companion, Epaphroditus.
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.
Philippians 2:25-26 (ESV)
So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Philippians 2:29-30 (ESV)
What a heartwarming tribute that Paul gave to Epaphroditus! This godly saint risked his life to serve Paul and the Philippian church. In so doing he fell ill but his recovery was complicated when he heard that the Philippian church was so concerned over his welfare. He was distressed while he was ill when he heard that others were distressed over him! Both Epaphroditus and the Philippian church longed to be in each other’s presence, to rekindle their sweet aroma of fellowship in Jesus Christ.
Like Epaphroditus, we need to be a sweet aroma, bringing the joy and hope of Jesus Christ, to all whom we encounter. Like the esters we synthesized, this sweet aroma of Jesus needs to linger long after our physical presence is gone because we are a fragrant offering to God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.