Moses was keeping the 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 Lord 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 Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
~ Exodus 3:1-6 (NRSV)
So, did anyone think they actually felt the heat from the burning bush when we heard the scripture reading this morning? I mean, it is pretty hot in here today! The truth is, sometimes when it’s hot we have a hard time connecting with God and with those around us. That’s why I always find it interesting that God used a burning bush to get Moses’ attention.
Friends, when the temperature rises, we get easily aggravated, impatient, frustrated, and “hot around the collar,” as they sometimes say. Sometimes we say and do things that we shouldn’t, or we are too quick with the people around us, and we even treat the people we love less than nicely.
Sometimes we respond that way because it’s hot and sticky like it is today. Sometimes we respond that way when we are nervous or put or the spot. The truth is we get overwhelmed, and we long to feel comfortable, to feel as though we are safe. Sometimes, we might even say that we long for holy ground, where we know that we are held in the hands of God and gently guided by the Holy Spirit.
As many of you know, my oldest daughter was married last November. If you have ever worked on pulling a wedding together, you know it can be more than a little stressful. Let’s just say that there were a lot of deep breaths taken during the planning!
One of the questions that I always ask couples when we are planning a wedding service is, “Besides marrying the person you love the most, and being surrounded by your family and friends, what is the most important thing about your wedding day? What absolutely needs to happen to make the day special for you?” The answers range from “the perfect setting” to “just the right dress,” from “a certain kind of flowers” to “just the right music.” Some couples have traditions they want to follow or special people they want to include in their service.
But I have to say, I was very surprised when I talked to my daughter and her fiancé at the time and asked them that question. After all, they had just gotten engaged and barely had time to think about their plans. Even so, my daughter answered quickly. “I don’t really care about any of the details,” she said. “All that I know is I want my dog to be part of the wedding,” (which she was, the “pug of honor,” for those of you that don’t know) “And I want to get married barefoot.” The dog part didn’t’ surprise me at all. But, barefoot? Why?
Well, she went on to tell me that she wanted to feel “grounded,” like she was fully present in the moment, and she knew that being barefoot, with her feet firmly planted on the ground, she would feel that way. She said, “Mom, you know, it’s like the Moses, ‘holy ground’ thing. That’s why you take your shoes off when you preach sometimes, right Mom?”
At that moment, I found myself on holy ground. Because, though my daughter has never been a big church kid, I knew that her foundation was strong and that she knew how to feel grounded in God in her very own way.
My friends, it’s something so simple. Our feet on the ground, not confined in tight shoes but connected to creation. Think about it. You are more aware of your surroundings when you’re barefoot, aren’t you? You feel the heat of the sand or the coolness of the grass. You feel each tiny pebble and you watch more closely for sharp objects. Perhaps your shoes are off right now, and you’re noticing the smooth wood planks under your feet, or the cracks between the boards in your pew floor, which you’ve may not have ever noticed before.
In our scripture reading today, when God spoke to Moses by the burning bush, God was trying to say, “Moses! Pay attention! Fully experience the moment you’re in! Open your eyes and your heart. Know that even though you think you’re just here taking care of your father-in-law’s sheep, you are actually standing on holy ground, for I am here with you!”
Friends, I find that one of the most humbling things in my life is when I slow down and remember that God is always with me and that whatever ground I am standing on is holy. But unfortunately, I sometimes get too busy and I forget that what makes the ground holy under my feet is my faith. It’s remembering to put the busyness of the world aside and taking time to focus on the simple things, the basics.
Folks, think about it. When we get frustrated and impatient and hot around the collar, it’s because we have lost sight of the simple things, and we have begun to worry about all of the other stuff. We let our desire for perfection and our need to be right and in control take over. It’s in moments like that when we need to take a deep breath, and take off our shoes so that we might perceive the world around us a little differently, and so that we might be truly grounded in God.
So, brothers and Sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, no matter what you are wearing on your feet, remember that God is with you and that you are always on holy ground. Take a deep breath and focus on the simple things. And if you do that, I guarantee you’ll keep your heart open, and you’ll experience the holy all around you.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!