Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 290: Ezekiel 39-40; Psalm 88; Revelation 11

Measuring Up
The one who draws the map makes the rules.

In many of the old palaces of Europe, including the Vatican, there are murals (sometimes whole rooms) dedicated to maps that depict the known world at the time of their creation. These maps serve as more than just a reference point, they sign and witness to the influence and power of the person who possesses them. We tend to think of maps as rather absolute. They chart, draw, image the world around us so that we can find our way from one place to another. In those days, maps served another purpose as well. Think about it...if you draw a map that places your realm, your sphere of influence at its center, then the rest of the world is perforce oriented on YOU. The center could be Rome, Parish, Moscow, Stockholm, Amsterdam or London. Once that center is established, the rest of the universe falls into place. A prelate, ruler or meister, entering his or her map room is taking a moment to survey the world from the perspective that the rest of known space and time are revolving around them.

That measuring and charting of the temple precinct (and the world) in Ezekiel and Revelation makes a little more sense. Both are frightening, in that many people are paying for apostasy with their lives and peace itself seems forfeit. It's chilling to think on what the visionaries are facing as they see host upon host perish in the face of this apocalyptic balancing of the scales of God's justice. Almost in spite of that terror-speak, I hear a moment's clarion in today's readings: When it comes to measuring, God is the one who draws the maps and sets the limits and bounds of its features.

I think you can sense the conflict that inherently arises?

God draws the maps and commissions the measuring, the surveys.

Human beings presume to that role.

Judgment ensues.

When we are in relationship with God, really in relationship with God, then something is required of us. What is required of us? To let go of the need to control, to own, to possess. Those ideals are illusory. They cannot be sustained apart from eventual surrender to God, to an allowance that while we might draw a map we can never truly "own" the thing it depicts.

Look to those great map rooms of history. Many are still there, artifacts and remnants of another age. They depict perspectives on space and influence that no longer exist. Those who commissioned them have long since gone to sleep in Christ. They stand in mute witness that the one who measures is bigger than a room set apart to assuage a ruler of their influence in a given moment. The one who measures is the one who creates, redeems and sustains what is. Our call is to be responsive to that gift of life, rather than to attempt to own or control it to the exclusion of God's will, love and dreams for us.

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