Props: Three containers containing strong smelling substances, incense sticks, matches and holder, perfume, slides in Power Point presentation as shown .
Boys and girls, I have a question to ask you! What do you each have in the middle of your face? Yes, a nose. And what is it used for? Yes, for smelling things. It is also good for blowing, but not for wiping on your sleeve!!
Now I want three volunteers, one at a time. I'm going to get you to come up, close your eyes, and sniff a container, then tell me what it is. Right, Hannah is volunteering. [Hannah sniffs a wrapped bottle of body lotion.] What do you think, Hannah? Powder? Well, that's close. In fact it's skin lotion. I rub it on my face once a year, but it doesn't seem to work! Now Julian, my second volunteer. [Julian gets the wrapped jar of Vegemite.] What do you think, Julian? Yes, Vegemite. And now Jade. [Jade gets a container of very smelly cat food.] What do you say Jade? Yuk?! That was cat food. And would you believe, our cat thinks that is a really good smell!
Now I want to tell you a true story, but it needs some introduction. What can you see up on the screen? Yes, a whale. Now you find some funny things inside whales. For example you might find ... who’s this? Jonah! He's running away because he's is the wrong children's talk! What we want is ... this. This is a piece of ambergris, a waxy substance used in making perfumes, and very valuable.
When I was a boy, I grew up in Gisborne in New Zealand, and my family enjoyed outings to a little beach called Sponge Bay. It was a secluded little beach in those days, but we liked to go after a storm, because lots of interesting things were washed up: sponges of course, and seaweed and driftwood and shells.
One day, my Dad found a large piece of ambergris. “This is very valuable,” he told us. “We are going to be very rich.” So we took it home. We left it outside by the back door, and Dad shaved a thin slice off to have it sent away and tested, just to make sure. The days passed, the sun shone hot on the piece of ambergris, and it started to smell. It didn't smell bad; it smelt absolutely dreadful! You never smelt such a pong. It stank out the whole neighbourhood! Our neighbours on either side came in, enquiring about ‘that dreadful smell’. People walking past along the road took to wearing pegs on their noses. After a few days, we moved the ambergris to the bottom of the yard, but it didn’t help. The neighbours over the back fence started to complain, and that was pretty hard, as we didn’t have any back neighbours. They had to come from the next suburb! After about ten days, an official letter arrived. On the back of the envelope it said DSIR – Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Dad opened it, and read: Dear Mr Scott (that was him of course, not me). We are writing concerning the substance you sent us for testing. We have analyzed it and found it to be a piece of ... sponge root! So it wasn't ambergris at all, just a very smelly and worthless piece of old sponge root. It promptly got buried in the garden.
So there are bad smells. But look at this: Psalm 141:2 : Let my prayer be counted as incense before you. [I had this on a slide too.] Now I have some incense sticks here which I will light. I have to be careful not to set the church on fire here ... I think 'Church on fire' is not a song for today! Now notice the smoke curling upwards. When David wrote the Psalm, he looked at this, and thought of his prayers rising to God in the same way. And the incense has a pleasant smell too. In just the same way, our prayers rise to God and please him.
Now as you go back to your seats, if you want, I'll give you a dab of perfume on your wrist. For the rest of today, every time you say something nice, or do something good, this will remind you that God is watching and is very pleased with you.