Ever visit old churches or cathedrals? Some you go in are like old mausoleums – good places to store dead bodies, and cold, so cold. Some might have their fair share of graves and plaques, but nevertheless have a sense of the presence of God. To me that makes it a church, not a museum. Somehow you can feel that people here have worshipped and wondered and enjoyed God. They are not holy places because of their beautiful design, or history of usage. They are holy if God is there.
When Moses approached the burning bush (Exodus 3:5-10), God gave him the instructions to remove his sandals, because “the place where you are standing is holy ground”. Was this some ancient site, where deities had been worshipped, that made it somewhere special? No, this was somewhere special because God was there. It was his presence that made it holy ground. And as a sign of respect, Moses was required to remove his sandals. That was awesome. But then God introduced himself – the God of his birth family, the very family he’d run out on all those years ago. That turned ‘awesome’ into ‘awful’. A thousand memories must have run through Moses’ head just then, of the conditions his people were living under – he’d obviously felt very moved, perhaps even ‘called’ to do something about it – and how he’d messed up the opportunity of his unique and privileged position to do anything to help.
He was afraid to look at God. And no wonder. Coming face to face with any failure is daunting; but when God is there, looking at you, and awareness of that failure is jabbing at you, how can you feel anything but desolate?
Did God point the finger? Did he reprimand Moses for letting his people down? Did he bring up that thorny problem of a body buried in the sand of Egypt? No, he simply reminded Moses of the problem and commissioned him to deal with it. “Here’s the problem…so I’m sending you.” He just wanted the job done, and Moses was his chosen man.
Thank you God for second chances. Thank you that you don’t accuse, you recommission. Please help me deal with the things I’ve failed to do for you, and help me get them right this time around.
Holy ground is anywhere where God is. If he is in me, this is a holy place. This is where God can do business with me.