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"Reading the Map" Easter Sunday - April 9, 2023

Updated: May 8, 2023

A few weeks ago Georgia Swift gave me a booklet with a map of all the Texas State Parks.

I tell you what…I love a good map. I do. I don’t know why….

Maybe it has something to do with all those movies I watched as a kid…there’s always a pirate or a soldier or a cowboy holding a map… One problem… I’m awful at reading them. I have no sense of direction, I have perceptual reasoning issues, I don’t do numbers… I’m not good at reading maps. But I want to be. So, I insist on trying to use them when I can.

A few years back… Ericka and I take the kids on a hike in Colorado. Now, when I say hike…I’m talking about the 1.25 mile nature trail option that we all feel comfortable with. But guess who had to lead with the map?? And it was a map of all the trails…and some of them intersected and crossed. Well, two hours later and we’re still hiking…and the kids are starting to complain, and we’re running out of water, and there’s no end of the trail in sight. And I can sense the energy from Ericka – you know what I’m saying. It’s not good. Yall ever have those moments in your marriage where you’re lookin’ at your spouse, the facial expression, the body language… and it’s just like…”Yeah, she’s probably thinking about a divorce right now…” And by the end of it, our little nature trail turned into an eight mile hike – the end of which was in the rain. We got in the minivan…I didn’t even know how to apologize or what to say, and Ericka in her graciousness just said, “Let’s go get hot chocolate.”

Well long before that, when I was in college. I got this summer job in Indiana where my parents lived at the time. The whole summer I drove around the state of Indiana…and I insisted on using a map. Which is my way of saying I spent an entire summer lost in that state of Indiana. One of these times, I was supposed to be in Evansville, Indiana. A two and a half…maybe three hour drive. Five hours later I’m still driving…and thinking “You know…this doesn’t seem right.” I’m on this windy road back in some hills, I pull over to this worn out convenience store, one gas pump. I walk in and there’s this gnarly old dude sitting behind the counter, spitting tobacco into a styrofoam cup, his face strangely resembles the exterior of the building…and I say, “Sir, I’m trying to get to Evansville…am I on the wrong road?” All of a sudden I hear, “He hehehehe…” and there’s another gnarly old dude sitting behind me in the corner – didn’t even know he was there. Yall seen that movie Deliverance? Yeah…that’s the vibe I started to feel. The guy behind the counter, spits in his cup, and says, “Wrong road?? Son…you’re in the wrong state.” I had been driving for over an hour in the state of Kentucky and didn’t even know it. But they ended up being kind, helpful gentlemen. The man behind the counter, pulled a pen from his shirt pocket – took my map and traced the path I needed. I was back on the road, windows down, listening to Bill Monroe, and the Stanley Brothers, and Yonder Mountain String Band. Those high lonesome songs are always a good sound for that landscape.

I love maps. But I’m not good at reading them….

…and there’s all kinds of maps that come to us in different shapes and forms.

Now, I know maps may seem outdated an unnecessary in a world where we have cell phones, GPS, to tell us which road to drive, which exit to take, and which turn to make…All of us can make our way through the world rather mindlessly because of it. Just do what we’re told by the little voice coming through the speakers.

One of my concerns as a priest and a preacher…is that’s all that’s happening. That there’s these little voices coming through the speakers on a Sunday morning – all of us mindlessly taking the roads, exits, and turns in our heads because that’s what we’ve grown accustomed to. Especially on a morning like this, Easter Sunday! We’re all here – yall look fantastic, the choir’s voices and the music are beautiful, and we have this Gospel reading - and there’s this impulse inside me that says, “Just preach that. Just talk about that. The angel, the quake, the fear, the empty tomb.” And none of that would be insufficient. But I feel led to preach on something else…not exegete and explicate the given readings…but to invite us to consider a big word, maybe an intimidating word…resurrection.

I don’t know about you…but I struggle with this word. Do you? I struggle with it…okay, first…sure, there’s just the physics of it, right…that alone boggles my mind. But, you know what…there’s a lot about physics that boggles my mind…and the universe is vast and wild and the more we seem to learn as a species about the universe, the more we realize how little we know. GK Chesterton once wrote, “…your religion is not the church you belong to, but the cosmos you live inside of.” So, I can accept that I live inside a cosmos and I’m never going to cram the whole cosmos in my head – and it seems like a reasonable thing to set aside my intellectual pride and leave room for possibility…and sometimes possibility is just another word for God.

But…where I really struggle is…why?? Why resurrection? I mean what difference does it make?

Because for most of my life…especially my young adult life when I started paying attention to this the dominant message coming from the Church in our culture was often this…and still is:

You were bad. God sent Jesus. He died on a cross. WHY?? So, you could go to heaven. The end.