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 (www.geocaching.com) 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 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.