On holy ground (Part 2)
Sermon by Rev Stuart Simpson on 10 September 2017
Readings were Exodus 4:1-17 and Acts 7:30-34
I shared last week that over the next couple of Sundays we will be exploring the story of Exodus and what it means to walk ‘on holy ground’. Last week we heard the story about Moses and His encounter with God through a burning bush. We reflected on how Moses chose to investigate something out of the ordinary and through that investigation was met by His God. In doing so he was called by God to change the direction of his life and the life of a nation. I then asked you to think about the moments in your ordinary lives that God might what you to investigate and in doing so hear His call or affirmation.
Today I want to talk about shoes. By the way, this may sound simple, and maybe it is, that is, to understanding – but I believe to live it out, to apply it to our lives is what is hard.
We know that Moses wore sandals because God commanded him to remove them. So we can assume he wore them prior to the burning bush incident. Of all the things for God to begin dialogue with Moses, it was to ask him not to come any closer and to take his shoes off.
In the ancient world, it was common for people to remove their (shoes) sandals when entering a temple. Some scholars suggest that this might have to do with not bringing grime from the outside world into a sacred place.
In Madagascar, Lala and I often travelled by a diesel bush taxi from the capital to the little village we worked in. We would catch the taxi in a place that was often extremely muddy – the ground would be a slop of mud, leaking diesel, water and waste. One day, someone was trying to push his overloaded rickshaw through the mud and I decided, instead of watching, to help. The muddy slop quickly filled any unprotected areas of my boots – the tread of the boots became filled with everything that was in the mud (I didn’t want to think too hard on what that might be). If I had worn the boots inside, not only would I have trampled mud (and other things) through the house, I would have shown total disregard for others in the home.
Removing shoes then, is a sign of respect similar to removing a hat when entering a building, or perhaps removing a nose ring when entering a strict parent’s house. Maybe we would understand the story better if God asked Moses to remove his nose ring?
Other commentators see the removing of (shoes) sandals as a sign of submission, since slaves generally went barefoot. Though we can’t be sure of the original meaning of (shoe) sandals removal, for Moses it was surely a sign of reverence before God, as well as an act of obedience to God’s command.
Take your shoes off Moses because they are covered in dust, dirt and manure – and this is a Holy Place, because it is where I AM.
This is the point I want us to focus on today. Respect.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a change in how we respect God, others and even ourselves. When it comes to respecting God – I believe there is a balance. Of course God desires relationship with us. Today we will celebrate Holy Communion, where all are invited, to take part in the meal, to remember and celebrate God’s gift of love shown in the action of Jesus.
Like Moses we can argue and negotiate with God. We can be ourselves with God, warts and all. But do we, like Moses, remove our shoes? Do we recognise the dirt in our lives, the stuff we cling to, the rubbish we hold on to, and are we willing, obeying God’s command to forgive and be forgiven in Jesus, to put aside those things? Are we willing to recognise again, God, who is Holy, all-wise, all powerful creator of the universe, a God worthy of our reverence and submission?
As we respect God, I believe it changes the way we see others and ourselves. As we respect the Holy one who created us, we are reminded that we are all made in His image.
Therefore, we are to show respect to others. This doesn’t just mean, opening the door to someone, although that’s a great thing to do. But it is about respecting the life of each person, a life moulded and formed with precision, passion and love, a life uniquely gifted. When we disrespect someone we are spitting in the face of the Holy one who created them.
A shopper was left devastated when children stopped to point and laugh at her severely disabled daughter in Tesco – only for their mother to join in. Bethan Germon, 30, was shopping in the supermarket in Fforest-fach, Swansea, when two young boys started to point and laugh at her one-year-old toddler Lydia. But to the horror of mother-of-two Ms Germon – who has also had to regularly deal with online abuse from trolls – the boys’ parent then started to join in. She said:
I was dreading going to Tesco as supermarkets are the worst place for horrible comments and behaviour.
What is happening in our world, where even a mother, who is struggling with her daughter’s illness, is unable to go shopping because of fear her daughter will be made fun of?
Often disrespecting someone is more subtle, however. Pornography is seen as something that is done in the privacy of the home, therefore doesn’t really hurt anyone. And yet not only is it destructive to relationship, it disrespects God’s intent for human intimacy. It wipes out personhood, and it disrespects women and men .
What are some of the things we do in our lives that disrespect others?
I want to show you a video from a series called ‘I am Second’, which is a series of stories of people struggling with real life issues. The video we will watch now is of Ashley Rawls, who shares how she struggled with self -hate. Ashley shared how she struggled to respect herself – she always felt she need to be better, until she remembered God’s love for her and that she was made in God’s image
I wonder, do we like Ashley, disrespect ourselves – are we always trying to fix something about ourselves to the point it causes us to hate ourselves.
As we remove our sandals (our shoes) out of respect/reference of our Holy God, let us also remember our call to respect others and ourselves because we are made in the image of our Holy God.
As we get ready for Communion, I want you to take some time reflecting on what it might mean for you to ‘remove your shoes’?
With God’s help are you ready to let go of the things in your life that disrespect God, others and yourself?