I often say that if I lived in a warmer climate, one of the best things about that would be not having to wear shoes all the time. I much prefer to feel the ground under my feet, especially if it is grassy, but even a stony path connects me to the earth in a way that is impossible if mediated by shoes or boots. One advantage that I often take while on retreat is to bring “slipper socks” and spend the days shoeless. Sometimes in those situations I’m even conscious of a connection with Moses whom God directed to remove his shoes at the sight of the burning bush. “Remove the sandals from your feet,” God said, “because you are standing on holy ground.” Shoes or not, that directive took on palpable energy in a song some years ago in a song entitled Holy Ground.
This is holy ground, the lyrics said. You’re standing on holy ground, for the Lord is present and where God is is holy. The second verse was a perfect accompaniment to the anointing that often concluded a retreat. These are holy hands. God’s given us holy hands. God works through these hands and so these hands are holy. As I was signing or being signed with oil as those words were proclaiming God’s presence, not only in the room but in each of the participants, the reality of our call to serve was always clear and our motivation strong.
The deeper recognition from this morning’s reading (EX 3:1-8,13-15) comes from the exchange between Moses and God when Moses asks God about the message to the Israelites whom God is planning to save through the agency of Moses. “When I go to the Israelites,” Moses says, “and say that the God of your ancestors has sent me, if they ask your name, what do I tell them?” God answers, “Say: ‘I AM sent me to you.'” God is saying, it seems, that God’s identity is pure being, not necessarily connected with any doing (as in ‘the God of the Harvest’ or the God of War, etc.) It follows for me, then, that if we are made in the image and likeness of God, we ought to be more concerned with how we are being than with what we are doing. We not only have holy hands; we have holy bodies, holy minds and holy spirits. So the question for today for me is: How am I manifesting the holiness of “I AM” presence in this world? It is, of course, our responsibility to do our best at whatever we do but the doing should flow from our understanding of the primacy of our being. So today, let us walk on God’s holy ground in gratitude for life and the call to live it with reverence and the simple joy of being.