The Smell of Heaven


By Andy Adams

I smelled heaven this afternoon. No, I didn’t walk by a Chicago style pizza place in Portland (if anyone knows of some good deep dish in Trailblazer country, please let me know). I smelled heaven during our opening worship service and it brought me to tears.

Please don’t take offense to this. I don’t mean it in any negative way. Simply observation with all my senses. People have odor. I’m guessing you’ve noticed this from time to time. I’ve been privileged to travel the world a little bit over the last 10 years, and in that time, I’ve observed (with my nose) that people in different regions of the world have unique smells. Maybe it’s food preferences, or the water or the cultural habits of personal hygiene. It really doesn’t matter to me. I’m not making any judgments about the smells although this afternoon, they made my eyes water.

You may not know this, but the United Methodist is a worldwide church. 42% of the 864 delegates to General Conference are from outside the United States. There are many parts of the world underrepresented because the UMC does not formally exist in those places (India, China and South America come to mind) but still, 30% of our delegates are from Africa, 4.6% from Europe, and 5.8% from the Philippines, making us a global denomination. Our opening worship reflected that reality beautifully.

I was moved deeply in my spirit when we sang the song “Holy, Holy, Holy” and recited the great commission from Matthew 28:18-20 in multiple languages, but I was unprepared for our time of Holy Communion. Yes, the liturgical words, “Make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world” were powerful, but it was the smell that overwhelmed me. The communion servers were immediately in front of my table, and as dozens and dozens and dozens of delegates from all over the world walked in front of me, I could smell each and every uniqueness, and the beauty of it broke me in so many wonderful ways. Tears came to my eyes as I thought upon the picture of heaven from Revelation 7:9, After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… Today I smelled heaven.

In other news I also won a John Wesley doll. I wonder if this is part of what he had in mind when he said, “I look upon all the world as my parish.”