“Hope in the Desert” (Part 6) – “Holy Ground” by the Revd Sarah Jones
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3: 1-6)
I’ve always been struck by this passage. I can picture Moses seeing the bush and noticing that it was not being consumed. I can imagine him looking more closely. I can hear God calling out to him from the bush and declaring himself to be ‘the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’.
The events are extraordinary. God appears in the bush and in speech. There is an angel. Suffused with God’s presence, the ground itself is declared to be ‘holy’ and thereby the holiness of God is proclaimed. Moses removes his sandals and signifies his submission to God. This is rich stuff.
However, when we are familiar with a passage we can easily overlook a detail or two. And some overlooked details are golden.
I’d never paid too much attention to where this incident took place. We are told that it happened at Horeb, the mountain of God which has long been associated with Mount Sinai. What I had not appreciated was that this moment of God’s self-revelation to Moses and this site for holy ground was in land which was hostile to the Israelites. The Midianites eventually joined with the Moabite king Balak in asking Balaam to curse the Israelites as they migrated through the land.
As a member of the LGBTIQ+ community I sometimes feel as if we are in a land which is hostile to us.
Parts of the institutional churches and some of the most shrill Christian voices, question our worthiness before God. This passage from Exodus reminds me that even here I may see signs of God’s presence and glory.
It reminds me that the land on which we stand today is holy ground. We may be cursed by others and there will be difficult days but I shall continue to try to reverence God and God’s creation as we move towards a promised land of inclusion and love.
Holy God, Help us to see you in the dry places of our lives and so quicken our steps towards your kingdom.
Next Week – a series of reflections on “Truths to Live By”