Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Geocache'd Tomb

When I first learned of geocaching, the outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) to navigate to their way, I thought it an odd way to spend time and energy. I wondered what fun could there be in driving a distance to hike through a field and locate a Tupperware container? All of this effort for a trinket? Friends told me it was actually a fun game for all ages. And I eventually warmed up to the idea. After all, the search is the best part of a good hunt.

Yesterday at church, a car pulled up and two ladies hopped out and walked quite purposely, into Olivet’s cemetery. As is my clergy custom, I approached them and introduced myself. I noticed they had a paper in hand, which I assumed showed information about their ancestors. I said, “Do you have family here at Olivet?” She told me, “No” she was geocaching.

Evidently, Olivet is part of this geocaching treasure-hunting phenomenon. Afterwards, I logged on to the website ( to find out more. I found our church cemetery. It is a part of two hunts. Both of them refer to the ghosts you can find. This was unsettling to me. And then I read the comment, posted yesterday, by the woman I met. She wrote that she was muggled by the pastor. Muggled means that a non-geocacher “finds” the spot.

In reading her comment, I became troubled. From her perspective I had interfered with her hunt. Although, she was a visitor on our churches property – I was an interruption. Yet, from my perspective, to enter a cemetery with out intention to pay respect to the dead is an interruption. The cemetery is not a play yard. And it is not a setting for staging ghost hunts.
I walked through the cemetery this afternoon, during my time of prayer and reflection, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how upset I am that people are walking across the gravesites peering into their handheld GPS –in search of a trinket. It seems they don’t enter as I do, in humility that my time will come when I, too, will return to the earth. And they don’t enter it in reverence – that someone has been laid there to rest. As I walked, I became more and more upset because I felt like our cemetery is being treated like a sightseeing marker – not a place of holy ground.

I thought about the gospel story for Easter morning, when Mary arrives at the tomb and finds Jesus’ body missing. (John 20:1-10) She thought robbers had taken him. Her sorrow must have been mixed with a similar feeling of violation on behalf of the deceased. Can’t they just leave Jesus alone? Why must they treat him like public property that can be handled or dragged off in any manner they chose?

The days leading up to Easter are always, for me, a time when death, the tomb, the grave all become more real. They feel closer. Certainly, others around may be getting ready for Easter without attending mid-week services. For some, Easter has nothing to do with Jesus' resurrection. Nothing to do with the cross.

Living the Holy Week experience in a world where Easter is about Bunnies, can be like standing next to someone who seeks direction from a GPS. Both are in the same spot. But each see it quite differently.

Mary at the tomb, perhaps can model for us the best response to a world that "misses the point" so to speak.

She cries.

She cries and through her tears - says that she is willing to do whatever it takes
(Tell me where you laid him, and I will go get him).
Jesus meets her - and us - in that place of sorrow.


Anonymous said...

Looking at the geocaching website, it appears this sort of thing has been going on for years. How do we stop it? I don't know. Maybe someone else does from the church does. I understand the Pastor's concern.It may be fun and games to some and an exciting adventure - as it can be. But when it is on personal property, that is another question. Come on congregation, what say you?

Mike C said...

It seems that this story is oddly appropriate for the season. At a time when we are supposed to remember that Crist died for us and also to remember why, I feel it is also a time to remember others who have passed for what they may have done for us or for others. Maybe remember something special or particular about that person. Maybe they served in the military, or devoted their spare time to the needy or sacrificed themselves in some way. Isn't it a shame that when someone else does something that is wrong or inappropiate they try to make us feel like we are the ones out of place. We may feel anger or have other emotions that are unchristian. I struggle every day to be as Jesus would have me be. It is not easy being a christian. I don't think Jesus ever said it was. But the one thing I can think about, especially at this time of year, is one of the last things Jesus said before he died. Forgive them for they know not what they do. God help me, I try. Mike C.