My Psalm 15
June 22, 2014
GPS: The road leads to …
It is a common theme in current events today: tanks blocking roads; refugees crowing into neighboring countries; loyalties used in defense of heinous crimes, brother against brother. One group is given strict rules for living in an area or face death while others pretend to pray for peace while assembling bombs. Our direction seems a bit skewed.
The science of navigation has had many stages in the development and history of man. Simply put, navigation is the science of moving, of getting from point A to point B and further. Though speaking specifically about computers, the website “yourhtmlsource.com” succinctly defines the importance of navigation: “The importance of your navigation structure cannot be over-emphasized. Without some sort of navigation, a site [person] loses all sense of structure and organization.”
Somewhere around 3500 BCE, man began building and sailing boats large enough to require navigation. Until then, people stayed close to familiar territory and used known locations and terrain to know where they were. Once on the water, similar navigational practices were employed. Boats were put out to sea during the day and stayed close enough to land to identify locations. As man ventured farther away from the shore, he relied on the positions of the son during the day and the North Star at night to know his direction. Although some mariners studied the stars and used constellations for direction, there was no way to determine longitude and the stars only gave estimated latitude positions. Thus time became a critical factor in navigation, a form of something called dead-reckoning still used today.
Critical in sailing was the depth of the water. Egyptians developed the sounding reed somewhere around 1500 BCE to measure shallow water and the wind rose which measured the eight different wind types, names based upon the countries from which the winds seem to originate. By employing a combination of all these techniques, the trading vessels attempted successful journeys. Most historians agree the first trans-oceanic voyages were not planned but mistakes due to vessels being blown off course. The thirteenth century saw a great many improvements in navigation and man began to explore the world. Today we no longer use paper maps and road signs but rely on a system of satellites that comprise global positioning systems. These can be accessed by cell phones and car radios.
We no longer are dependent on the weather or familiar objects but are we really moving better, safer, more efficiently? The art of navigation was to have people travel safely and successfully. Their destination became like the home port they left, a sanctuary. Though originally a religious term, the word sanctuary quickly became to mean a safe haven, a place where people felt welcomed, respected, loved. After all, why bother to move if you were going to a dangerous place where you could be killed?
The art of welcoming travelers became a sign of a culture’s position in the world. Successful, productive cultures welcomed the traveler. The population that could not offer hospitality was shamed and cast out. Today the Presbyterian Church is defending their vote to withdraw their business with three companies in Israel and base this decision not on the companies themselves but on the politics of the Nation of Israel. At the same time, the moderator of this national conference went on national television speaking of his Jewish brothers. Also on the program was a rabbi who, in summary, said it was impossible to feel welcomed by such action. In the rabbi’s eyes, the Presbyterian Church was no longer a place of sanctuary for their “Jewish brothers”.
In 2008, Alan Richman wrote an article about politics and religion being strange bedfellows. He discussed how politicians were using their religion as a means of identification…until something was said within their religion that might lose votes. What is our internal navigation system? Do we adhere to the tenets of our belief system or are we quick to abandon them to stay “popular”. Has popularity become the new North Star? Is materialism replacing the sun as the source of life or in how we define life?
Lighthouses are found on coasts in most countries. Earlier this year many countries were awarded monetary grants to establish and/or update their lighthouses as part of a global compliance of a United Nations convention. I have written before about lighthouses and will not repeat the whole piece here. However, it is worth noting that those tending the lighthouses are offering sanctuary and usually it is to total strangers. No matter their location or faith, they are offering life and hospitality in the best sense for the best possible outcomes.
Is GPS now an acronym for Greed Profiting Self? Whatever happened to the God-Purposed Soul? The Good Peoples Savior? When we can prepare the road for all to travel and navigate with love, then we will be headed in the right direction.
My Psalm 15
Are your feet clean?
Is your garment worthy?
Lord, we get too particular in offering your hospitality.
We view with cynical eyes;
We forget to look without hearts.
Those who prepare to be a haven of hope
Live your Word.
Let us be a sanctuary.