“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” – Exodus 3:5 (NIV)
I was far from any burning bush when I realized the ground on which I was standing was holy. No, I didn’t remove my shoes or turn away from the light of God’s presence. No, I didn’t find myself trembling in fear or hear any booming voices from the wilderness but, I knew God’s presence none the less.
The holy ground I found myself on a few years ago was in a place many Christians would say God’s presence could not be. Heather and I had decided to stop in for dinner at a local sports bar and restaurant. There really is nothing special about the place other than the fact that they make a delicious chicken quesadillas. The music is generally lousy, often the televisions are on games no one really wants to watch and the air conditioning is always pumping, even in the winter.
Yet, as we sat waiting for our food to come out, I realized that the place I was sitting was holy ground. You see, though my wife and I don’t eat there often, I found myself there at least once a week, every week. Every week, I gathered around one of the long tables in the small space, with a few college students as we talked about life, scripture and even sometimes, sports. Some days we had hours long discussions about theology and others we barely got through the biblical chapter we’re supposed to be on due to conversations about what’s going on in our lives and who was playing in the game projected on a near-by television. Yet, week after week, I always found myself somewhere holy.
Many of us who follow Christ easily become guilty of claiming God’s ‘holy ground’ for ourselves. We exclaim that God’s presence is reserved for our buildings, our homes, or our “thin places” in the world. We pretend that we can contain God’s presence behind a ‘temple curtain,’ forgetting that God may sometimes appear in a burning bush instead.
I’ve been guilty of this too.
Yet, as I think back on the places where I’ve found God’s voice beckoning to me or where I have experienced the light of God’s presence, it is in the sanctuaries where I’ve worshiped but also in the youth rooms, college student centers, retreat facilities, edges of a lake, the front seat of my SUV and yes, even sports bars.
As Moses removed his shoes on the holy ground that day, he did so in the presence of a God that knew no boundaries, that was not afraid to appear in the most unexpected places. The more I live, the more I realize that we try and contain God in a box that fits our understanding when God is blazing in a bush bigger than any of us. In those moments when we claim ownership of the holy ground of God, that we often miss God entirely.
If we, as the followers of Christ, are ever going to make a real difference in this new, rapidly changing world, we’ve got to quit cramming God into our small, limiting expectations and realize that all of the ground on which we stand is holy. Anywhere and everywhere we go can be an encounter with a burning bush. We must let go of our “the way it’s always been” arguments and seek to grasp the reality that God’s presence is going to be found in places and ways we’ve never before expected or understood. We must realize that our holy ground is one that is ever shifting as we find God’s voice is still found in a burning bush, just perhaps one different than Moses’- or ours.
Where is your holy ground? Where do you hear the voice of God and encounter God’s presence? Whether it be in a beautiful church sanctuary or a dimly lit restaurant, know that God’s voice is there and is beckoning you to a purpose the likes of which you’ve never experienced.
“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground…”