“Moses was keeping flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the YHWH appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the YHWH saw that YHYH had turned aside to see, YHWH called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am”. Then YHWH said, “come no closer. Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”- Exodus 3:1-5
Have you ever stood upon “holy ground” before? What even makes the ground on which you stand holy?
Holy is often a word we use to describe something that has been touched by the Divine or is in relation with the Divine or is literally the Divine.
In this scene with Moses and the burning bush, YHWH speaks to Moses out of the burning bush and reveals to Moses that the land on which they are standing is holy ground. I believed that the ground they stood on was holy simply because of the fact that a bush was burning without being consumed. But burning bush has nothing to do with the ground being holy. The ground is holy because God is present within the bush and the ground surrounding the bush. It’s holy ground because God is there.
So in order to answer the original question, “Have you stood upon ‘holy ground’? you must ask “where have I felt God before?”
I do believe that there are many places in the world where God’s presence is more notable. For example, church camp is a common place where God’s presence is deeply known. Some people might claim church to be a place they experience God. And many others might experience God outside of church. And that’s okay!
However, I wonder is there any place that God’s presence cannot reside? Thus, is there any place that is not holy?
Honestly, I don’t believe so. God’s presence cannot be taken away from anyplace, which means, everywhere we go or walk into has the potential to become holy ground.
So why then did the ground suddenly become holy for Moses? I think it’s a common interpretation to believe that the ground suddenly became holy. But maybe. Maybe Moses now became aware of God’s presence in the land and thus, that awareness is what made the ground holy. Moses recognized God in the moment and was about to step into holy ground.
But before he could step upon the ground, he was asked to remove the sandals from his feet. Literally, this command did not make much sense to me. What was so wrong with Moses wearing his sandals when speaking to God?
However, let’s look at the sandals figuratively for a moment and ask what is really keeping Moses from being present with the Divine on this holy ground?
The scene that follows is YHWH calling Moses to travel to Egypt and free the Hebrews from captivity and lead them to more holy grounds. But Moses refuses several times, stating he is not worthy to do this, he doesn’t have the ability or the skill. When I see Moses struggle to take on this task presented to him by God, I then see the real “sandals” for which God asks Moses to remove from himself so that he may truly be on holy ground.
So now let me ask you, what is keeping you from stepping into holy ground, to be present with the divine that calls us every day to love and serve each other?
I am fully aware of one of many sandals that keep me from being present with God on holy ground: my anxiety.
There are many moments of my life when my anxiety took a hold of my being and kept me from interacting with others in my life. And while I can say that I have gotten better at controlling my anxiety, there are still moments that I must be aware of the anxiety that lives within me.
I currently work in a hospital as a Chaplain resident. My calling is to step into room after room and be present with those who are suffering from illness, grief, and suffering. The task is anxiety producing on many levels. And I recognize the presence of that anxiety. I recognize those sandals on my feet for I know that every room I enter is holy ground.
But I’m sure you might be wondering, if the patient’s rooms are holy ground, then where is God? How can the ground be holy if God is not there?
You see, God is there. In the patient laying in their bed. In the family and friends gathered to visit their loved one. In the nurses and medical staff tending to the person’s healing.
God’s presence is everywhere that was touched by creation, that is touched by the Spirit that is living and breathing in all things. Thus, every time I meet a new person, no matter who they are, I am also in the presence of God. And that…that is what makes the ground holy.
It’s not always easy to be walking on holy ground. Walking barefoot, removing the ‘sandals’ that keep us safe, keep us comfortable, can lead us to pain and discomfort. Removing our ‘sandals’ leaves us vulnerable to the growth and change that God invites us to. To see the imago dei in another person, to see them as a child of God, and to witness another person’s pain and troubles- That’s so hard!
But I believe we can do it. I believe we are capable of looking down at ourselves; reflecting what ‘sandals’ are keeping us from walking on the holy ground before us, the holy ground that God is calling us to everyday.
I believe God is calling us all to be present with God and thus be present with others through love and with love.
As you walk in your journey, may you recognize the presence of God in your life and recognize God calling you to take a step into holy ground. And when you begin to see the holy grounds all around you, may you be brave and remove your ‘sandals’ from your feet, to be present with the Divine Creator and all that has been created along with you.
Walk with Peace,