On the first day of the week, when the disciples were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and continued his speech until midnight. (Acts 20:7 WEB)
When I was invited to teach at the Summer Bible Institute for Pastors, on the small tropical island of Pohnpei, I felt very honored. It was a privilege to open the Word of God with these men and women. During two weeks of teaching, God used me to expand his church in the islands. I have never seen these islands and probably never will. Some of the participants spent two weeks in outrigger canoes, going from island to island in the Pacific Ocean just to attend these training sessions sponsored by Moody Bible Institute. While on Pohnpei I was also honored with a request to preach in the Sunday morning service. That, however, is another story. It is what happened after the sermon I remembered today.
Like many churches food is important. I can’t count the number of pot-luck meals I’ve been to in churches around the world. My wife, Beth, knows what I think of most church dinners. Being a bit cynical I see them as an opportunity for the wife to fix some dish her family wouldn’t eat at a regular meal, and then pawn if off on the unsuspecting church family. Remember, it’s a church family. As good Christians we wouldn’t dare say the meal tasted like last weeks sweepings off the floor. “Oh yes Sue, that was delightful,” we say, while looking over her shoulder for the nearest waste bin. When you add in all the little rug rats scooping up the good stuff at the front of the line, I’m not a big fan of church pot-luck dinners. But, I still attend. I think it is a sense of duty, even in the face of death by experimental casserole.
On Pohnpei, when the service was over, there was a long spread of food in the covered area. There was no fellowship hall or kitchen. The covered area was a large cabana covering a bunch of picnic tables. There was enough food for a small army. “Oh great,” I thought, another pot-luck. But, let me make one thing clear. These folks could cook! This was great food! I just might start enjoying pot-luck meals once more.
The pastor, elders and I were ushered through the line to fill up our plates, take a seat and enjoy the local delicacies. I realized no one else was eating and there was still a lot of food still on the table.
The pastor filled me in on what was happening. He said this was a weekly event. The remaining food would be put on plates and delivered to people who were sick, or otherwise unable to attend the service. Once the church members were ministered to, then the remaining plates were given to needy families in the area until all the food was gone. An impressive show of Christian care to the neighborhood.
As we sat, ate and conversed, the people of the church sang beautiful songs of Christ and his deliverance. Their voices blended perfectly and it added a soothing background to our discussion on the history of the church and the response of the people from the island. As we completed our dining, and continued to converse, the ladies began to sway and wander about between the tables.
Not knowing precisely what was happening, I watched out of the corner of my eye, until they were behind me and I was left to guess at the coming events. I did notice each lady carefully picked up carried their purse with them. With one hand they were searching the contents for some special item. The music grew louder as the ladies approached from behind us. The elders and pastor showed no concern and kept expanding there explanation of the history of the church. I didn’t think the church was so large to have such a long detailed history. I looked their direction and nodded my head in feigned interest. I really wanted to know what these singing ladies were doing behind my back.
Suddenly I heard a Psst–Psst and felt a cool liquid sprayed under each of my arms. It was all I could do to resist the urge to jump up and shout, “Whoa! What was that?” The fragrance of perfume soon reached my nose, and I realized they were baptizing our smelly bodies with the sweet scent of lady’s perfume. Each lady passed behind me, the pastor and elders and anointed us with a double sound and squirt.
After a dozen women added their personal perfume to our shirts, we were smelling pretty good. Although the mixture of fragrances was a bit unusual, it was a welcome relief from an hour of preaching in a wool suit coat, but that is another story! Not a bad tradition on an island with an average temperature of 88 degrees Fahrenheit!
I remembered scripture talked about a number of women who ministered to Jesus. One used perfume to anoint Him for death. Judas complained about the waste. These ladies used their perfume to deal with a unique situation. They weren’t wasteful but helpful. Waste and help, these two are often confused in our rush to be zealous. Let’s just pause, enjoy the smell of the perfume and the work of God.