“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)
The Old Testament small group and sermon series takes us to Exodus this week (despite the fact that the small group have been canceled tonight because of weather). I didn’t get very far in my reading before I was hit by some pondering and thinking ~ holy ground. Moses saw this “strange thing” on the mountain ~ a bush burning but not being consumed by the fire. Of course he had to take a closer look (me…I might have been a little more leery). As Moses approaches the bush God belts out that this is holy ground so take off your sandals. Why take off his sandals ~ more on that later.
As I read that section I got to thinking about “holy ground” today. What is considered holy ground? Many people would define holy ground in various ways. Some might say their home is holy ground. A guy might say his man’s den is holy ground. A golfer might say that St. Andrew’s golf course in Scotland is holy ground. But what is holy ground?
The word “holy” means special, set apart, different. The Bible is holy and therefore special, set apart and different ~ it is a book like no other book; for it is a living word. God is holy and therefore special, set apart and different. Communion, baptism is holy…and you get the picture. But do we treat these things as holy? Do we give such things in our lives the same respect that Moses did for some dirt around a bush? I am not saying we should take off our shoes during Holy Communion or a baptism (that might not be a good idea for some), but how do we treat and view such events? How do we treat the truly holy things of God?
We can get so caught up in protecting “holy things” that we miss the fact that the very things we are protecting are not truly holy. They may be special, set apart and different in our lives, but in relation to our souls they do nothing. I have seen people treat sports as a holy event; protecting it at the expense of time in worship. I have seen people protect their status at the expense of the promises they made in Holy baptism. I have seen people protect their pocket book at the expense of their relationship with their holy God. Our “holy things” do nothing for us in the long run. They provide some happiness and security now, but do nothing for our souls.
But consider this ~ we are ALL living on holy ground. We are living holy lives. We were created by a holy God to do holy things. We were redeemed by a holy savior through a death and resurrection that is indeed special, set apart and different. All that we consider “holy” is only available to us to call “holy” because our holy God created such things and such opportunities. We may have special things, people, places and times in our lives but they are nothing outside of God.
So if I can dare to be allegorical here let me suggest that we take off our shoes ~ which is anything that gets in the way of truly encountering God ~ and worship God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. Let us treat the things of God for what they are ~ special, set apart and different. Only God is life-giving and life-sustaining.
We are indeed standing on holy ground ~ remove your shoes.