Sunday was a day filled with lots of children’s events at church, thus bringing out lots of children. As I waited by the back door, three kids ran past me to get to the sanctuary. They were from different families, and all three were shoeless.
I have adjusted to acolytes in flip flops, a common sight in my church but not common elsewhere. I love our laid back Outer Banks style. I love comfortable footwear on 10 year olds carrying the candlelighter with the seriousness of a welder powering up his flame. I especially love happy, shoeless kids running through the sanctuary to take their seat and wait for the fun to begin. I was two seconds away from taking off my own heeled pumps when I had a last minute “maybe-that’s-not-appropriate” thought flash through my mind.
Or is it?
I think the shoeless kids feel some kind of connection to the idea of “special, set apart and sacred” and want to have full physical contact with that holy ground that is the sanctuary. The joy of running on the old, worn, red carpet in a place that feels homey and safe is a delight to behold. Maybe we should all take off our shoes! Moses did:
Exodus 3 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
God Speaks to Moses
3 One day, Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and Moses decided to lead them across the desert to Sinai,[a] the holy mountain. 2 There an angel of the Lord appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. 3 “This is strange!” he said to himself. “I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming near the bush, he called him by name, and Moses answered, “Here I am.”
5 God replied, “Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals—the ground where you are standing is holy. 6 I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face.
Why the command to take off his shoes? Perhaps it was a way to warm Moses up for the BIG ASK that God was about to deliver. God would tell Moses that he was to go from that place at Mt. Sinai to confront Pharaoh and demand he set his people free from slavery in Egypt. Taking off his shoes was a reminder to Moses that God’s presence had made this place holy ground. Middle eastern tradition required the removal of one’s shoes before entering houses and temples, and so God was asking Moses to humble himself before both God and his plan. The shoes that bore the contaminants and dirt of the non-sacred places were to be set aside so that God could deal with him in a pure and vulnerable state.
This is what the children innately understand. Their purity and vulnerability are a sign to the big folks that we should emotionally and spiritually take off our shoes and garments and stand soul-naked each time we enter God’s presence. All of the fakery, the conceit, the embellishments, and the hypocrisy need to fall away before God can be encountered. When we submit to this stripping down of our facades, God can finally reveal his presence and plan to us.
What do you need to “take off” so that God can reveal your next step to you? What accessories are you hiding behind that block you from entering into God’s presence fully and humbly? Are there conceits that have you so conceited that the humble, holy ground has no appeal to you? Are you trodding around in shoes covered with the contaminants and dirt of the non-sacred places you frequent? Lay it down. Let it go. Take off your shoes and get over yourself.
God calls us to his Holy Ground today. Let us run barefoot into his presence, and be ready to receive whatever he has planned for us.
St. Simon’s Holy Ground by Kathy Schumacher