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The Gospel through Maps

(For the next 6 months I'm going to be working on a couple of new books... so I figured I'd repost some 'best of' old blog entries here...)

I don’t know if our faith community would have ever got to that beautiful God-moment on Sunday apart from the decision to preach on the cultural text of maps.

The basic thesis of the message was that maps are snapshots of humanity’s progress in living out God’s cultural mandate to “fill the earth” (you can watch the message here for a fuller exposition of that idea). The hope was that by looking at these snapshots we could know the providential heart of God more.

Reading my sermon over early Sunday morning I was struck by how it had all came together; scriptural references from Genesis, Joshua, Ezekiel, Matthew and Revelation (excerpts from the whole scriptural counsel as a foundation for a sermon on the whole creational counsel as depicted through cartographic history), the use of a couple of bible texts that I’d never preached on before (Joshua commanding his leaders to make a map of the promised land, God telling Ezekiel to make a map/model prophesying the judgement of Jerusalem – again affirming my theory that every biblical text has a creational correlative!), and, once more, seeing the beauty of how the nature and content of cultural text really did bring a deeper understanding to the biblical text (and vice versa).

That amazing moment on Sunday happened just after I’d told a story about how hard it’s been for me to throw away my cheap tourist map from Paris. It had so many memories attached to it. At that point in my sermon I pulled out the map and retraced a couple of the more beautiful moments from that trip. I was trying to make the point that maps can imaginatively ‘take us places’ (looking back via our memories or ahead via our dreams). Then I made the segue to the Revelation 21/22’s description of heaven on earth – a real place with walls, foundations, streets, trees, a river and the most amazing Light. I mentioned how it would feel like both a memory and a dream. And in that moment, it was like we were all there! After painting the heavenly picture with words I said, “Imagine street-viewing that place… imagine walking down that main street with the river running down the middle, and with all those trees…. and that light…”

And I don’t know if everyone was in the same place, but I really had the sense that a lot of really were. The Holy Spirit took the imaginative gift that enables us to ‘go there’ via maps (an innately human gift that was made by, for and through Jesus) and helped us apply it to the divinely descriptive words of Revelation! After 25 minutes of talking about and looking at God’s word through maps, it was like we were all totally prepared for that experience.

Part of me really does wonder if we would have ever got there apart from choosing to engage and preach on God’s authoritative truth in maps. It was a wonderful Pentecost Sunday gift – God affirming that he speak all languages, including cartography! (here's a link to the sermon video)

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