Barefoot on Holy Ground
Emily C. Heath
“Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord… ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.‘“ – Acts 7:30-34
Beside our front door we have a basket full of shoes. We live in Vermont where, depending upon the season, our shoes carry us through snow, mud, salt, sand, and water. They often get so dirty that kicking them off as soon as we come through the front door has become second nature to us.
When Moses comes close to the burning bush God tells him to take off his sandals, because he is on holy ground. Part of me pictures a basket of shoes by God’s own front door, because God doesn’t want the mud and snow and salt tracked in the divine living room either.
But, really, I don’t think that’s why God wants Moses to take off his sandals. I mean, it is holy ground, but that doesn’t mean that when we come close to God we are required to check our mess or our imperfections at the door. Instead, God invites Moses to come closer. After walking with those shoes on all the rough roads of his journey, Moses winds up before a God who says, “Take off your shoes, because there’s nothing that’s going to hurt you here.”
It must have felt good to Moses to stand there with no barriers. But this isn’t the end of the story.
God tells Moses that God knows what is happening to Moses’ people, and that Moses has a job to do. And in the end, I’d guess that Moses put those sandals back on, and walked back down the road. That’s the thing about seeing God’s glory. It changes everything, and you don’t get to stay too comfortable for too long.
But every now and then, you get to stand there on holy ground. And nothing comes between you and God.
Holy God, give us places on the journey where we can take off our shoes and meet you on holy ground. And when we have our marching orders, give us the strength to put them back on, and continue the journey. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is the pastor of West Dover Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in West Dover, Vermont. She also serves as the chaplain of a local fire department, and as a speaker and writer on Christian faith and social justice.