The first reading tells us, “Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings.” The most ancient Middle Eastern cuneiform story, the “Legend of Gilgamesh,” gives an explanation for those peoples offering burnt sacrifices to heaven. According to the legend the gods neither ate nor drank, but they loved the odor of roasted flesh; and they created humans to send the odor of roasted beef up to them. The Israelites, while believing in the One God, carried on with what they had been accustomed to see as the proper way of worshipping.
We have something like it when we swing thuribles loaded with charcoal and incense, filling our churches with smoke. The idea behind it seems to be that it prompts us to send sweet smelling prayers us to God. We don’t know if God likes it. People with asthma don’t.One time I opened the Book of Mormon, and my eyes fell on a passage that pretended to be an ancient prediction of the evils that would be brought into the world by Catholics. It had some very bad things to say about our swinging thuribles. I remembered that one day when two young Mormon missionaries asked to be shown through our church. They were particularly interested in our thuribles, or censors. I told those boys that sending up incensed fumes was a great aid to praying. I asked them if they had anything similar, and they said they had not.