Paper or Silk? Aug. 10
"Paper or Silk?" Romans 10:5-15 August 10, 2008
We all know that if you’re lost, whether or not you stop to ask for directions may depend on the gender of the driver.
And if you didn’t check MapQuest before you left home, and if you don’t have OnStar or some other GPS system in your car, then you just might have to rely on that quaint relic, a paper road map.
So you pull over, unfold it, and try to locate your position.
GPS. OnStar. MapQuest. But now there’s apparently another kind of map on the market: Silk. After all, paper crinkles, wrinkles, rustles, crumples, and — when wet — paper maps tend to fall apart and become utterly useless.
So if you’re looking to travel light, look smart, and carry less, and you’re headed to Amsterdam, London, or New York, a silk map might be right for you.
They are packable, collapsible, durable and practical, even in a Paris downpour. You can wear a silk map as a scarf to warm your neck or to cover your head, tucked into your blazer breast pocket, or as a handy handkerchief if your allergies act up.
Silk maps are in again, and smart looking. Originally, silk maps were a brilliant invention during World War II. They were made with permanent pectin–based ink and were issued to every British airman by the MI9 as a standard part of every aviator’s evasion and escape survival kit.
Concealable silk maps were stuffed in hollow boot heels, tucked into cigarette packs, or sewn as inner linings inside flight jackets. During an initial search, the silk maps were frequently missed. Silk maps of France, of Belgium, of Germany and elsewhere helped scores of downed airmen flee to freedom to fight another day.
The British silk maps of World War II were so detailed, so resilient, so sensible and waterproof that they were quickly adopted and adapted for use by the United States. Silk maps kept the sun off the heads of downed airmen in the South Pacific; they kept necks warmed against cold German winters; they could be used as bandages, slings or tourniquets. Everyone needed a silk map to evade, survive and succeed.
Now, as valuable as a good map is, most maps aren’t perfect. Savvy travelers know that roadways change, bridges are built, buildings are removed, and that therefore an old out-dated map may be a useless map.
Which brings us to our text. The apostle Paul argues here that we need to relinquish our grip on the old map, the Moses Map: “Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them’” (10:5).
The Moses Map. The Mosiac law functioned as a map to guide the people of God through the ethical and moral landscape. “Do this, and you shall live.” And as a “map” it was followed zealously.
Paul uses a different metaphor for the Law of Moses — the schoolmaster (KJV) or paidagogos — in his letter to the Galatians (see 3:24-25). The NRSV translation of this word captures the meaning, “disciplinarian,”
because the pedagogy involved in the training of young children by the paidagogos did not involve the impartation of knowledge, but instead was all about supervision, rules and behavior.
The map metaphor works just as well. Ignore the map and you’re lost. Follow the map in its every detail, and you’re saved. In a sense, following a map means that you are a servant to its decrees, what it says on the map.
Now, you could choose not to be a slave to the map and set out on your own. Do that, and it’s only a matter of time that with the baby screaming, Junior fussing and your spouse mad at you, that you pull over and submit yourself to the map.
But if it is an old map, an out-of-date map, you’ve got yourself a useless map, as useless as a book with no words or a car with no gas.
The Jesus Map. The Moses map is paper. The Jesus map is silk.
The Jesus Map is written in permanent ink. It is good for all time, it will never be out-dated. The Jesus Map will help to guide you to the right destination from whatever point you’re at.
Nevertheless, a map, paper or silk, is not the landscape itself, but merely a tool which, when one is a stranger in a strange land, one must take on faith. You may have a good map, the best map, and understand the rules for reading it, but it comes down to faith when following it. One trusts that the cartographer knew her or his business. One believes that by following the map one will eventually arrive at the desired destination.
Before you do the work of getting from point A to Z, there must first be faith in the Cartographer. That faith is expressed in a sort of creed that Paul articulates in v. 9-10: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’”
So if you have pulled over and pulled out a map, you are essentially saying, “Hey, I don’t know who made this map, but I am putting my trust in the Cartographer to get me to where I want to go. I also trust that by using this map I am not going to be embarrassed by ending up at the wrong location.”
Mike Slaughter, pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio, says that everyone has some faith. “You use it all the time. You couldn’t live without it. Last week I got on an airplane. I never saw the pilot but I trusted that there was one there. I trusted that the pilot was competent. I never met the pilot but trusted that he or she had not been drinking.
You can’t live without faith. You are wired for faith. It doesn’t have anything to do with intellectual understanding because I know nothing about aeronautical engineering. I don’t understand those principles of lift and thrust, but I got on that plane because of faith. Everybody has some faith.”
If you have faith in the Cartographer, the one who is going to lead you from life to death, from despair to hope, from confusion to clarity, then this is what you proclaim: “Jesus is Lord, and God has raised him from the dead.”
That’s a confession that clarifies who’s in charge and who’s got the power. Without that conviction, or confession, it’s the same old, same old — you trying to do it all yourself.
This brings us to “Integrity,” . . . which is not just a catchword in our day. Not only do many people have an identity crisis, but many are plagued by an integrity epidemic.
Stephen Carter wrote, “We ... have a serious problem: Too many of us nowadays neither mean what we say nor say what we mean. Moreover, we hardly expect anybody else to mean what they say either.”
How tragic when those words are applied to our profession of faith in Jesus Christ. It is even a greater tragedy when our actions speak so loud that people cannot hear what we are saying.
The apostles Paul and James wrote letters encouraging believers to live out the Christian profession in daily life. They both said that our works authenticate saving faith. (Wil Pounds, “Saving faith works,” Abide in Christ Web Site, abideinchrist.com. Retrieved February 17, 2005.)
Know what you mean. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Our words authenticate our belief; our belief is authenticated by our words and actions.
Anyone can use the Jesus Map. It’s not password-restricted. Not limited to a certain people, tribe or nation. Not culturally unique. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (10:12-13).
No fees. No restrictions. No money down. It’s an open-ended offer extended to all.
Those who have the map must share the map. It’s not what you know but what you share that’s important. Paul is clear: “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (10:14-15).
This impulse to “share the map” has been at the heart of Christianity since Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Paul describes four steps in this sharing the map, or what he calls “bring[ing]good news.” Call, believe, hear, preach. How can people call on the Lord unless they believe, how can they believe unless they hear, and how can they hear unless someone preaches?
The order then is reversed. We who have experienced the truth of the map, know the Cartographer, understand that it is the “Way, the Truth and the Life,” must share (or preach), so others can hear, so that they might believe, so that they, too, might “call on the name of the Lord.”
The Moses map is paper. The Jesus map is silk; it replaces, supersedes and outlasts the Moses map. It’s the only map you’ll ever need on your spiritual journey.
But until we see our need for a map, it’s just a scarf. Clearly, the Jesus Map is a map we need. Until we understand our need of the Jesus Map, we’re just spinning our wheels, getting nowhere.
In that case, it may be time to pull over and make a call, not to OnStar, but to Jesus, the Bright Morning Star!
Rev. Rosemary Stelz
Buttery, Lewis. “Where do I go from here?” The Neatline, A Newsletter of the Texas Map Society, Vol. IV, No 1, Summer 2001, libraries.uta.edu/txmapsociety.
Dash, Judi. “Ladies’ choice: style and innovation.” St. Petersburg Times, May 23, 2004, sptimes.com and microsilk.com).
Slaughter, Mike. “A crazy conviction.” April 29 & 30, 2000, Ginghamsburg UMC Web Site, ginghamsburg.org.
U.S. Cloth Maps of World War II, History of Fabric Map Production, silkmaps.com.