An Old Crumpled Map
I remember the ‘good old days’ of crumpled maps and highlighters guiding us along the highway toward our desired destination.
One Sunday morning, my very first Sunday serving a new appointment in a rural church, I found myself lost on my way to my first sermon at the first of three churches and three sermons that day. My confusion arose from the fact that I could not find my current location on the crumpled map in my hands. Though I had been to the church I was following a different route I was assured was faster and better. However, with each passing moment my anxiety grew as the appointed time approached! Joyfully, a member of the church, recalling that their directions were inaccurate and concerned that my following them would never bring me there arrived and led me from there to the church just in time!
Reading Scripture this morning and thinking of the spiritual condition of our modern ailing church I wonder why a similar sense of alarm at being lost does not resound resulting in heartfelt pleas for direction and guidance.
Thinking back to that time of being lost, my anxiety was driven by the fact that I knew what the area around the church should look like and what I was seeing was nothing like it at all!
Rather than take an honest gaze at where we are as a church or as individuals we would rather have a ‘virtual’ picture of our own creation. In this fantasized view of who we are and where we are we are able to add and subtract our own impressions of our spiritual ‘location’ so that we no longer feel ‘lost’? The result of this is that no matter what our actual spiritual ‘location’ is we can feel that we are not lost at all! This is indeed the worst of all positions. Had I not known I was lost, I would have been unwilling to follow someone who understood where we were and where we needed to be. In humility I focused on the back of her car and determined not to turn or stop until she did. The result was that my anxious thoughts were replaced with true joy and peace as I saw the church and knew we had arrived.
Today we have abandoned the ‘roadmap’ of Scripture. Today we have replaced the images of what our spiritual ‘location’ should resemble; the lives of Jesus, the Apostles, intrepid pilgrims before us in favor of more ‘modern’ models. Our current mental portraits of what our spiritual location should look like are shaped by money, things, budgets, popularity, in short… our culture.
Because we are gazing at the wrong picture and we are following the wrong map we no longer feel lost. On that Sunday morning so long ago, no amount of fantasizing or wishing could have changed my lostness. Only with an understanding of the reality of my lostness and humbly following someone who knew more than I would bring me to my desired destination.
Lord help us to become honest. Grant us humility to admit that we are wrong. Grant us a willingness to lay down our crumpled cultural maps and pick up Your Divinely inspired Map. As we read of our lostness grant to us a willing mind and heart to abandon our own misguided sense of direction and follow Your Spirit whom You have sent to safely guide us home from whatever corner of this fallen world we have hung our hope. Amen.