Path of Purpose

Path of Purpose
Lent 45

There is nothing quite as alluring as a rolled up treasure map. It whets the imagination, stirs our fancy, and increases the heartbeats that suddenly begin to echo in our ears. Even those who do not consider themselves brave can’t resist dreaming about finding hidden riches. Treasure maps not only tell a story about the treasure and supposedly where it can be found, they tell a story of the people of the one(s) who buried the treasure, and often of the culture and period. Maps are, quite simply, illustrations of our living.

A treasure would certainly qualify as being sacred, wouldn’t it? Or can there be a treasure that is not sacred? A treasure is by definition priceless and holds great meaning. We defined sacred as something of value. Are they the same? Certainly the world is full of stories of lost treasure. Do we have lost sacred? Stories of lost treasures are certainly a bit seductive but reason must enter into the story of such treasure. After all, the odds of such treasures remaining lost are very small as the world grows and people are taking more and more land.

In 1216, King John of England traveled to Norfolk. Nearby was a marshy area, known for flooding. King John, a monarch known for pilfering gold and jewels for himself and his supporters became ill. He returned home via the long way around the marshes but his soldiers and staff took the shorter route, presumably to reach the seat of the monarchy in time to prepare it for King John’s return. Unfortunately, the area flooded and the men all drowned. The carts of valuables were never recovered.

Incan folklore tells of a city of gold. Thought for centuries to refer to the city of El Dorado, historians now believe the stories began circulating because of a certain Muisca chieftain who covered his body with gold dust as a part of religious ceremonies. The real city of gold is the city of Paititi, a city in the Vilcabamba Valley of Peru. The Spanish spent forty years fighting the Incans and finally achieved victory in 1572. However, when the Spaniards reached Paititi, they found a deserted city with no treasure or gold. The gold supposedly from the Incans in Paititi is apparently still hidden in the rain forests of Brazil.

A copper scroll found in 1952 as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls told of sixty-four locations where additional treasure was buried. Believed to have been written between 100-30 BCE, the hidden pots of gold and silver have never been found and are thought to have fallen into Roman hands. War accounts for many stories of lost treasures. Whether it is the missing Kruger millions from the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa or the countless pieces of art stolen from Jewish homes and families during World War II, much is taken, hidden, and exchanged during wartime, never to be seen again.

What treasures do we miss in our daily living? The pure innocence of a small child getting licked on the hand by a puppy for the first time; the love in a young mother’s eyes when she see her baby for the first time; the sudden breath of a groom standing at the altar when he sees his bride appear and walk down the aisle towards him – these are all treasures that happen every day.

With what vision do we view our world? Do we awake and prepare to seek out the new treasures of the day or do we moan and groan, letting misery and morose expectations serve as our compass? “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.” Robert Louis Stevenson wrote what is perhaps the book on treasure, penning “Treasure Island” but with these quotes he tells of the real treasure to be found in life. ““So long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.”

In “treasure Island’ the last words are the words of the pirate. It would be a shame if we let our last actions be those of the pirates of the world. Peer pressures, social trends, angry and fearful people – all of these are pirates that steal the sacred from our lives. Stevenson advocated that “The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.
Today is the start of Passover, a commemoration the Jewish people observe to remember a time when being true to themselves often meant death. By their faith and actions, they were saved, their culture and race living on. Today is also Good Friday for many Christian communions, the day that commemorates the crucifixion of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. Both occasions denote paths of purpose, actions undertaken that proved sacred and became treasures for those who followed.

Perhaps Robert Louis Stevenson found the map to the treasure of finding the sacred in our everyday living. “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming is the only end of life.” Whether today you will celebrate or simply mark the end of a day, life offered you treasures today. I hope you recognized them. I hope you will be touched by them and grow because of them. I hope today you see the sacred in you. After all, you are the only one who can create the treasure map that is your life.

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