ON Scripture: Burning Bush to Boston Common: You Are Standing on Holy Ground (Exodus 3:1-15) by Rev. Jim Keat


Burning Bush to Boston Common: You Are Standing on Holy Ground (Exodus 3:1-15)

Rev. Jim Keat


Take off your shoes.

No, I really mean it. Right now. Stop what you're doing. Put down your phone, turn away from your computer screen. Loosen your laces, step out of your sandals, and free your feet from wherever they are currently confined.

Shoes off? Ok, now keep reading.

Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.

My friend John was in Boston a couple weekends ago. A small far-right wing group was gathering in the center of the Boston Commons for a rally, celebrating their right to a form of free speech that many would call "hate speech." John and tens of thousands of others filled the streets and surrounded the park so that love would drown out hate, so that diversity would transcend white supremacy. As they marched to the park they heard diverse cries for justice: trans justice, immigrant justice, Black Lives Matter, Puerto Rican and Mexican and Honduran justice, LGBTQI justice, women's justice and reproductive rights. John was marching and singing and chanting and hugging and crying and laughing with people of every age and color.

This diverse and intersectional group arrived at the Boston Commons, a literal image of love surrounding and peacefully overcoming hate. I wonder if anyone stood barefoot on that Saturday in the park, feeling the grass rise up between their toes.

Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.

These are the words that Moses hears in this week'stext as he stands before the burning bush. This is not the let-my-people-go Moses that we tend to think of (thanks to Charlton Heston and his classic 1956 film). This is the shepherd-in-hiding Moses.   At the end of his forty years, he spends his day chasing sheep around the mountain Horeb.

We tend to think that Moses walked right up to the burning bush for this divine dialogue. But take a closer look at this scene: Moses is out in the desert, a place filled with dry plants and the hot sun. In an environment like this, an occasional bush fire is bound to happen. Only this time it's different: the bush is on fire but is not consumed.

How many times did Moses walk past this bush, thinking it was just another victim of the rising temperature? How long did it take him to realize that the same bush was still burning and burning and burning? How long did it take Moses to discover something divine in the midst of his daily routine?

Moses steps up to perpetual the fire hazard, likely confused and a bit perplexed, and he hears a voice:

"Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground."

In 2010 Arthur Jones, a filmmaker from England, embarked on a year-long mission to live his life barefoot. Known as "Sole Man," Jones spent the year traveling the world, walking through freezing snow in Norway and standing on hot pavement in Shanghai. He embodied these words from Exodus 3 in a way that most of us would not imagine possible.

When you take off your shoes you become more aware of the world around you, you feel it in a different way. You become aware of what you're standing on, you can feel every rock, every surface.

"It opens your eyes," he said. "You're suddenly in touch with everything around. And it feels like you're a little child discovering the world for the first time."

Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says that the burning bush was not a miracle, but a test. Kushner writes, "God wanted to find out whether or not Moses could pay attention to something far more than a few minutes. When Moses did, God spoke. The trick is to pay attention to what is going on around you long enough to behold the miracle without falling asleep. There is another world, right here within this one, whenever we pay attention."

Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.

Friar Ivo Markovic from the Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Bosnia says, "Go the road of peace, of compassion, of goodness and you will experience grace."

Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.

Rob Bell, summarizing the book of Leviticus in thirty seconds or less, for ONScripture's 30 Second Bible, says, "Your life matters: how you prepare your food, how you deal with your neighbor, how you handle conflict. You are on holy ground. This is not a random, accidental phenomenon we know to be you, but your entire life takes place under a wide horizon of holiness and sanctity. Respect the mundane and the everyday because it is there that the divine is found."

Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.

As my friend John stood with the crowd in the Boston Commons, they confronted the racism before them, standing on the side of love, standing on ground that was already holy.

As Arthur "Sole Man" Jones traveled the world barefoot he learned to open his eyes and experience the world around him in new and unexpected ways. 

As Moses took of his shoes he discovered that the ground did not suddenly become holy. Moses took off his shoes and discovered that the ground had been holy the entire time. Or perhaps more accurately, Moses took off his shoes so he could feel and experience the holiness that is always present, just beneath the sole of his foot.

Wherever we find ourselves, may we do the same: Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground.




R** eflection Questions**

1.    When you look at the recent events surrounding the removal of racist monuments and gatherings of far-right wing groups, where do you see holy ground?

2.    When was the last time you remember being barefoot? What do you remember about this experience?

3.    How can we cultivate an awareness to see the divine in the daily and discover ourselves walking on holy ground everywhere?





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