A familiar chorus that is often sung in worship gatherings asserts that we are standing on holy ground. It declares the certainty that "there are angels all around." It calls us to "praise Jesus now." The claim is that the place we are in is holy because "we are standing in His presence."
I like the song. I enjoy singing it. It helps me center my thoughts and enter into a spirit of worship. I believe that "the Lord is present and where He is holy." When I hear that melody and sing those words my spirit is lifted.
At high moments of praise and worship in the church that I grew up in, with great enthusiasm Brother (we called everybody brother and sister) Elmer Hild would often remind us that we "should take of our shoes for we were standing on holy ground." And we were.
There are two instances in scripture where persons were instructed to remove their shoes because of the sacredness of that spot. Both Moses and Joshua were facing challenging situations when they heard those words. In both instances the circumstances were less than comfortable.
Moses is engaged in his daily responsibilities when he has an unusual and shocking encounter (Exodus 3). His routine is abruptly changed and he is presented with a seemingly impossible task. He was called to move out of his comfort zone and into something for which he felt totally unprepared and ill equipped. It was in that moment that he was told he was "standing on holy ground."
From that "holy ground" Moses was sent to the ruler of the Egyptians to demand the freedom of the Israelite slaves.
The second instance was in Jericho. Moses had led the nation for 40 years as they made their way to the Promised Land. Now this much beloved long time leader died and Joshua was tapped to step up and take charge. What an awesome task!
The new commander-in-chief led the people across the Jordan and they camped at Gilgal just east of the heavily fortified city of Jericho. They built a monument there to remind them and their descendants of God's faithfulness and power.
Joshua followed instructions he was given and after a little while it was time for the next step. As Joshua was pondering their next move, he encountered a man who identified himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. He had a message for Joshua: ""Take off your sandals. The place you are standing is holy."
This "holy ground' was where he received the instructions from God for the unorthodox plan to conquer Jericho. It was the platform from which Joshua would launch the attack.
Both Moses and Joshua were engaged in the affairs of daily life when the awareness came that the place where they stood was "holy ground." I have experienced the presence of God in some of the great cathedrals of the world and in some very humble settings. I have discovered holy ground in ornate and simple surroundings. In times set apart for worship and in the routine of daily living. I am aware that God is with us in our worship and in our work.
It is the presence of God that makes any place "holy." The psalmist said there is no place where God is not present. God is always with us. The difference is whether or not we are aware of it. When we are conscious of God's presence and acknowledge the sacred of that space and time we will receive the courage to accept any opportunity (challenge) that God presents.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," the weekly newsletter of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]