Sunday Note: April 22, 2018

Text for Today

Psalm 23 & John 10:11-18

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
God makes me lie down in green pastures,
God leads me beside quiet waters,
God refreshes my soul.
The Lord guides me along the right paths
    for God's name's sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

--

“The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”


 


Valleys, Wolves, & Poetry

Jesus speaks of being the "good shepherd" to his disciples in our Gospel reading today. Jesus uses this metaphor to help his disciples understand his relationship to them and their relationship to others-- specifically the religious leaders and false messiahs of their time. Jesus uses this metaphor of being a good shepherd--whose voice the sheep recognize, who guards the sheep from those who would do them harm, who challenges the wolf, rather than running away, who would even risk his life for the sheep-- past it's breaking point.

What shepherd-flock pairing does these things:

"I have come that they may have life and have it to the full..."
"I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen..."
"I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own accord."

We are clearly not talking about sheep and shepherds and pens and gates anymore. 

And yet, we all know what it is-- from experience or close proximity-- to be found in the darkest valley, as the Psalmist writes. Or to be confronted by a wolf or a thief or abandoned by a hired hand. We know what it is to be lost and betrayed and disillusioned and afraid.

And it is in those moments that we most need poetry, metaphor, a God who is bigger than our language and understanding can contain.

The most turbulent times give birth to the most creative, poignant, and beautiful art. The most painful experiences lead people of faith back to ancient poetry and liturgy. 

During this Easter season, we are spending several weeks at our House Gatherings talking about Joy. John 10:10 is about this joy: That we may have life, and have it to the full. That is what Christ came to bring and guard and ultimately lay down his own life for. This joy that fully humanizes us-- causes us to be fully who we are as human beings created in God's image.

Even as Christ promises this fullness of life, he speaks of thieves and wolves. In the Psalm, even as the psalmist experiences the joy of abundance, of beauty, of refreshment, of direction, so too there is the darkest valley, there is evil, there are enemies.

Joy anchors us to our beloved identity as children of God. Joy anchors us to full life. And poetry, art, metaphor, story anchor us to joy.

This week may we dwell, not only on the content of Scripture, but also the form. May we follow the way of Jesus and the Psalmist by creating and seeking art that can hold our full experience-- joy, pain, hope, abundance, fear, betrayal-- and point us to the joy of a God who is found more readily in a poem than a doctrine. 

The Fourth Reading of Christmas

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here and check out the first three readings]

John 1:1-1-5, 10-14

The Word Made Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 

 

The Fourth Meditation

Some Christian theologians speak of “two incarnations.” The first was God’s word in Genesis becoming our creation. God’s word took on the flesh of God’s creation and humanity, who bear the particular image of God. The second incarnation was the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah, who was fully human and fully God—The Word of God, the Divine logic, the Divine Way of God, the second person of the Trinity, whom we call the “Son,” became flesh and lived among us. The birth of Jesus confirmed the cosmic reality of what God had been doing all along. Spirit and matter have always been one. God has always been with humanity. But we separated. We separated ourselves from God. We separated matter from spirit. God re-membered all of creation to all of Godself in and through Christ.

As the brightest moment of this Christmas Day approaches, may we see this light of the cosmic Christ—the Word made flesh that holds all things together and is reconciling all things to God. What is true in us, is true in the creation, is true in community, is true in all humanity. God has come and is with us. May we recognize the light that cannot be overcome by darkness. And continue in hope for when that light will vanquish all darkness.

 

When have you moved from hope to knowing? When have you experienced God’s presence in all things?

Dwell in the way you are connected to all of God’s creation. Dwell in the way you are connected to God—the God who in Christ by the power of the Spirit in within you and outside of you, holding you and all things together, reconciling you and all things to Godself.

The Third Reading of Christmas

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here and check out the first two readings]

Luke 2:15-20

Shepherds Travel to Bethlehem

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

The Third Meditation

We continue with the shepherds as dawn breaks on Christmas Day (or on the third day after the winter solstice, as we can begin to perceive the day’s light lengthening). The promise the shepherds received in the depths of night, now they go and see at dawn. Hope moves to knowing, as darkness breaks way to light. The shepherds endured their night travel and grace came at the dawn—the promise fulfilled. And they, too, play their part in the grander story. They tell of the promise they received in the night, to the woman who had born her own labor pain in the darkness. The Christ is born out of the darkness, and this grace is not only hoped for, but received, experienced, and known. 

 

Have you experienced a promise of grace in shame or despair fulfilled?

Allow yourself to open to the dawning of light. Move from darkness and glimmers of hope to the joy of knowing. Be in the presence of the Christ, the promised Savior, God-with-us, here with you right now.

The Second Christmas Reading

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here and first reading here]

Luke 2:8-14

Visitation of Angels to the Shepherds

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

 

Second Meditation

In the first century, shepherds were not considered respectable people. In our day, they would likely be labelled “thugs.” They had been removed from polite society to live nomadically and attend to sheep, away from the community. And they smelled like their animals. The smell of the sheep was a mark of shame.

This is where and to whom God’s messengers announce the birth of the Savior, the Messiah, and the Lord. This is where and to whom God gives the greatest revelation in human history. It is in the depths of a winter night, outside of respectable society, to shamed outcasts that God’s messages announce the Good News for the first time. It is to shepherds that this news is entrusted. They are the first to be invited to encounter God-in-flesh, Jesus Christ.

It is in the depths of darkness, outside of respectability, in the midst of shame that the Word of God’s grace is given and received. The promise of hope is heard in the night.

 

What word of grace or hope have you received in your darkness? In your shame? Dwell in the unfulfilled promise, the hope of grace in the midst of winter’s night within you.

The First Christmas Reading

[Confused what this is? See our introductory post here]

Matthew 1:1-16

The Genealogy of Jesus

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

First Meditation

Our first reading leads us into the darkness of unknowing. A darkness that, while it is difficult to walk in, leads into a new dawn. Enter the stories of the four women listed in Matthew’s genealogy.

Tamar

Rahab

The wife of Uriah, Bathsheba

Mary

All part of a scandal. All felt the darkness of unknowing. Tamar, widowed two times by Judah’s wicked sons, was left on her own by Judah because of his fear his third son, too, would die if he married her. Tamar had little choice without husband or children in her culture, and was left in a terrible, shameful situation by her father-in-law. So she tricked him. She disguised herself as a temple prostitute, slept with her father-in-law, took his seal and staff as collateral, and became pregnant by him. Judah learned Tamar was pregnant three months later, but did not know it was her who he had slept with. He was enraged that the unmarried widow of his two sons would be pregnant. He called for her to be burnt to death. Tamar, before being executed, show Judah his seal and staff. Judah was ashamed. And Tamar gave birth to twins, one of which, Perez, continued her lineage to Jesus. (Genesis 38)

Scandal. Darkness. The lineage of Jesus Christ.

Rahab, a prostitute in Jericho, a traitor to her people, but savior to the Israelites. (Joshua 2) “The wife of Uriah,” Bathsheba, with whom King David had an affair while her husband was on the battlefield. David, using his power and wealth, slept with Bathsheba and attempted to have her husband killed to cover his tracks by sending him to the front lines. She gave birth to Solomon, heir of the throne. (2 Samuel 11)

Scandal. Darkness. The lineage of Jesus Christ.

And Mary, a young woman engaged to Joseph. A woman, who God called favored. A woman from a nowhere kind of place, poor, yet prepared for God’s Word and receptive to God’s work. She became pregnant through the Spirit’s overshadowing. Pregnant, young, poor, unmarried.

Scandal and darkness. This is the lineage of Jesus Christ.

It is in the darkness and scandal; the strangeness and inexplicable; it is here that Christ longs to be born.

 

When have you been in darkness? When have you experienced unknowing? Can you dwell in that place as the night comes?

Four Readings for Christmas

According to Alexander Shaia--author, spiritual director, psychotherapist, and liturgist--the early Church read four gospel Scriptures that took them from sundown on Christmas Eve to noon on Christmas day. These readings walked early Christians through the journey from unknowing to hope to a deep, experiential knowing. Whether reality or legend, this practice is one that enriches our celebration of the Christmas season. Sanctuary invites you to join us in these readings and meditations.

There are two ways you may choose read these:

First reading- Sundown on Christmas Eve
Second reading- Late night on Christmas Eve
Third reading- Dawn on Christmas
Fourth reading- Noon on Christmas

Or

First reading- day following the winter solstice, December 22nd
Second reading- December 23nd
Third reading- Christmas Eve
Fourth reading- Christmas Day

We will post one reading and meditation each day the 22nd-25th.

A Liturgy for the International Day of Peace

On Thursday, September 21st, Sanctuary recognized the International Day of Peace by working at Garfield Farm. We did this as a way to embody peace-- the slow, laborious, beautiful work of cultivation is peace with the land. It is reconciliation with the earth that has been harmed by human sinfulness, neglect, and abuse. As a community, we week to join with God in the reconciliation of all things-- the peacemaking that is always a part of the Kingdom of God's in-breaking. Peace is not only the absence of conflict. It is wholeness; it is completeness; it is flourishing. To get there, we must name discord and evil; we must create another way through nonviolence and cultivate goodness and beauty; and we must cooperate with and trust in God's peaceful Kingdom. In short, we're called to follow the way of Jesus in the world.

This liturgy is a way to shape us in the way of Jesus to do the work of peacemaking.

 

Call to Prayer

Hear the words of Jesus, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

We gather this evening to celebrate the International Day of Peace. We gather this evening to participate in the peaceful reconciliation of all things to God the Father through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, we recognize that there is discord—within ourselves, between neighbors, in our institutions, between nations, and with the earth.

We will not proclaim peace, where there is no peace. But we will cry out to the Lord, trusting in the promise of the peaceable kingdom that draws near to us, even in this place at this time. Let us cry out this evening for the fullness of God’s peace—shalom—complete, thriving, nonviolent, love to reign in our world. As Psalm 34 urges us, may we “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God

 

Peace with Ourselves

We name the discord present within ourselves:

Depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, illness, chronic pain, doubt, stress, rage, burnout, low self-esteem, and fear...

Time for Silent Reflection/Prayers

We seek to do good and pursue your peace.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God

 

Peace with Families and Friends

We name the discord present in our relationships with our family and friends:

Divorce and separation; the pain of grief and loss of loved ones; the trauma of abuse and addiction; disconnection in relationship; evolving and conflicting worldviews; economic hardship and unemployment...

Time for Silent Reflection/Prayers

We seek to do good and pursue your peace.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God

 

Peace in Neighborhood and Cities

We name the discord present in our neighborhoods and cities:

Isolation of residents; lack of access to healthcare, clean water, healthy food, and heat; home loss and eviction; the opioid crisis; violence; the threat of gentrification and lack of compassionate development; poverty and homelessness; the loss of industries; weak community-police relations; and the segregation of our neighborhoods...

Time for Silent Reflection/Prayers

We seek to do good and pursue your peace.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God

 

Peace in our Nation

We name the discord present in our nation:

The plight of refugees and others seeking to make a home here; the fear of those facing deportation; lack of access to affordable healthcare; the continued reality of white supremacy in our systems, institutions, conscious and unconscious biases; the militarization of our police; the lack of accountability for police brutality; the divisiveness of our political parties; violence against trans persons; the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community; sexism; poverty; loss of life, damage to property, and fear caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, wildfires in the West, and hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 

Time for Silent Reflection/Prayers

We seek to do good and pursue your peace.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God

 

Peace in the World

We name the discord present in the world:

The global refugee crisis; the threat of nuclear war; nuclear proliferation; the war in Syria; the continued conflict between Israel and Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people; the atrocities against Muslims taking place in Myanmar; our continued conflict in Afghanistan; the threat and violence of ISIS; inaction or threats to action on climate change; human trafficking; inhumane working conditions; poverty; famine; the loss of life, damage to property, and fear caused by the earthquake in Mexico, flooding in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, and the hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Time for Silent Reflection/Prayers

We seek to do good and pursue your peace.

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God

 

Closing

This ground we stand on, this ground we cultivated this evening, is holy ground. It connects us to the whole of God’s creation—an interconnected web of relationship.

Triune God, guide our feet into the way of peace. May we beat swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. May we care for your earth and your people. May we be peacemakers, who “sow in peace and reap a harvest of justice.” May your peace come on earth as it is in heaven.

God of peace, teach us the things that make for peace. 

We turn from the ways of evil, and we seek to do good and pursue your peace. 

Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God. Amen.

The Place You Are Standing is Holy Ground

Sermon written by Jane Larson

 Exodus 3:1-15

The place you are standing is holy ground. 

This lectionary passage is one that is dear to my heart. Anytime I have been asked to share my testimony or story of how I came to find God or the stories of how I continue to know God more and more, I turn to this scripture. For this morning I was going to try to preach from Romans, try something new, but unsurprisingly I was called back to this passage. And as I was reading this passage over the past week, something new was happening in this old familiar call story of Moses. This phrase kept repeating over and over again in my head… the place you are standing is holy ground

I want you to take a moment and think of a place you felt was holy. Perhaps a place where you retreated to meet God or a place you were surprised to meet God. What is it about this place that felt holy? What was happening in your life when you discovered this holy place? 

This week I thought about places I felt were holy. Some of the places I thought of were predictable: the chapel in the pines at camp, a little sanctuary in the woods, and the church were I grew up. 

The very first place I thought of could be described as the epitome of holy. It was St. Francis’ Lower and Upper Basilica in Assisi. The Lower Basilica is a darkly lit room with lights on the floor that point upward and reflect on pieces of glass on the top of the ceiling to look like stars. On the right side are huge paintings depicting the life of St. Francis and on the left hand side are paintings depicting the life of Jesus. And as I walked through the chapel I saw the parallel of how St. Francis followed in the footsteps of Jesus. Faithfully and humbly he followed the voice of God in his life. The chapel leads to a narrow stairwell that goes lower and lower until you reach the place of St. Francis’ grave. Then stairs lead back up and enter the Upper Basilica with grand ceilings, gold lined everything, and frescos covering the walls. Death leading to life. I did not have words to how beautiful this place was… or how holy the ground felt, I was simply brought to tears.

Then there are other places I thought of as holy places that might not seem so holy to others. Every summer my family travels to Trumansburg, a little town near Ithaca, NY, for a music festival called Grassroots. It is my favorite place. Sure there are lots of things people could argue are unholy happening at this festival, a place filled with old hippies and extra curricular activities and somehow always lots of mud. But without fail every year I have met God in the chaotic crowds and the music and the dancing.

Or there are the times when I met God on the floor of a bathroom at my grandfather’s viewing. When my aunts and I needed a break from all of the hugs and the “I am sorry for your losses” and we escaped to the bathroom where we sat on the floor and somehow ended up singing “Get This Party Started” by Pink… It is a long story, but in that moment we were overcoming by laughter at the randomness of that moment and it was such a refreshing break from all the tears. The possibility of joy in the midst of grief. 

Yes, these places were holy to me. And as these memories flooded my brain, the phrase kept repeating: the place you are standing is holy ground. 

I wanted to know more about this place where Moses was standing. Was there a connection to my holy fields in Trumansburg where I took off my shoes and danced in the mud? What was happening in Moses’ life when he encountered God? What do we know about God who meets him in this place? As I read more about this passage I learned it was full of symbolism.

First, I learned how significant place was in this story. To be human is to be in a place. And as Ellen Davis writes, the “Israelites learned about God in and from the land they knew so well.” And she would argue, “Intimacy with the land may be the single most important religious difference between the biblical writers and ourselves.” Moses is in the wilderness when he encounters the burning bush. The wilderness. He is tending is father-in-law’s flock and the sheep must have wandered a little more than normal because he ended up outside the bounds of his residence, family life, and religious activities. He was off own his own. It is not like Moses was just turning a corner and his neighbors bush was on fire. He was in the wilderness.

And God appears in a remote, inhospitable and threatening landscape of the wilderness. A place uncultivated, desolate, a place of chaos, lawlessness, and terror…

And as I dove deeper into this phrase holy ground, it became even more unusual that this phrase was used here. The wilderness is not a place the Israelites associated with holy. Yet, there is religious language here... words usually associated with a place of worship, a place of sanctuary.

A place on the margins of society, a place of chaos, a place that would have never been called holy in the Israelite society, it is here God meets Moses and says the place you are standing is holy ground. 

You better believe I read sanctuary and liked the name of our church plant even more. A group gathering outside the walls of the church, on the margins of society, in the chaos, that is where we hope to meet God. 

I had always liked this story because of the phrase Here I Am. The way that God meets Moses and his proclaimed Here I Am. I like this phrase so much that I got the Hebrew word for Here I Am tattooed on my ribs my senior year of college. Because I was a hip and cool religion major and tattooed Hebrew words were an essential way to maintain that status. Too bad I got it where no one could see it and barely anyone knew I had it. I was clearly the definition of rebellious…

But in all seriousness I really did like this phrase because I was reminded of my own call story and my love for Moses’s story and that God was with me no matter what. In the chaos of college life, a time where I was struggling to understand who I was and who I was becoming, I wanted to always be reminded that there was not a place I could wander that God would not be with me. 

But what I could not put into words at that time was what happens when we encounter God in these holy places. God was doing a new thing in this moment. God was dwelling even in the wilderness. And as a result the land and Moses were being transformed. 

The place you are standing is holy ground. 

This lifeless, desolate, dry, dessert land became holy. It was transformed by God’s presence. And if God could transform the adamah, this dirt, into something holy, God can turn adam, this person Moses, into someone incredible. Someone who cares about the dirt definitely cares about their people. 

And God appears in a burning bush. In the midst of the desert, desolate land there is vegetation that serves as a sign of life and refuge in the wilderness. And it is cool to think God appeared in a bush and not a giant tree. A bush, a lowly shrub, becomes the spot where God reveals Godself. It becomes a symbol of transformation not only for the wilderness, but also for the life of Moses. A God that could transform a shrub could most definitely transform Moses. 

And furthermore, this bush is burning and not consumed. I read that this symbol of fire would have drawn the readers into recognizing that God is self-sufficient and self-perpetuating, awe-inspiring and yet, powerful and uncontrollable.

Burning, but unable to be consumed. It is not normal for a shrub on fire to not burn up, but God operates in this paradox. This is not a normal pattern of creation and later in Exodus there will be mana falling from the sky. God is not only unaffected by the environment but rather has the power to affect the environment. God sustains this bush and God will sustain God’s people. 

Finally, it is out of the burning, but not consumed bush in the wilderness that God speaks. God speaks to Moses before he even recognizes the holy ground. Moses does not prepare or consecrate himself, something that would have been required before entering a holy space or else it would be defiled. Rather, God declares the ground where Moses is already standing holy. He invites Moses to remove his sandals as he comes closer to the bush where God speaks. God is still to be seen as deserving of respect, but the boundaries between the sacred and profane are being broken down.

God inviting Moses to remove his sandals demonstrates God’s holiness and reverence. God is transcendent and yet God’s otherness is still maintained. God is holy, but there is a groundedness in God’s purposes. 

And when God speaks, God’s identity is revealed to Moses. I am the God of your ancestors. I AM is a God who knows and has seen and who has heard the experiences of your people. Revealing God’s name, I AM, reveals the nature of God. No other name of God consists of a verb only. This God who was the God of Moses’ ancestors was and is and will continue to be with the people. This God is living and active and is found in a burning, but not consuming bush in the wilderness to forge a new relationship. One that is risky and vulnerable. Where God desires intimacy, but yet there is still mystery. God who speaks forth a new creation and who is faithful, inspiring, and redemptive. 

Revealing God’s name invites Moses into relationship. Moses excuses to do not hold, because God insists Moses will not be alone and shares a name who Moses can call on for help. It is in this wilderness space Moses encounters God and both the land and Moses are drawn into relationship with God and it is in this space they are transformed. It is in this holy place that Moses’ new life is laid out before him. 

And this holy place does not become a continuously separate place that has an established sanctity; it is holy because of its proximity to The Holy One. The holiness derives solely from intimacy with God’s presence. It is a place of transition and transformation.  

A transformation not only for Moses but also for all God’s people. Because God asks Moses to deliver God’s people and bring them to a transformed land flowing with milk and honey. God plants this idea and creates space for God’s people to imagine the world to be different; a new future can be imagined. Instead of slaves they will be free, instead of scarcity there will be abundance, and instead of oppression there will be loving intimacy.

The wilderness is chaotic, but also a place where there are no limits or expectations. It is a place of possibility. A place where something new can happen. 

The place you are standing is holy ground.

I recognize that the chaos of our lives, our neighborhoods, our city, our nation, and our world is real. It is true chaos. I will not downplay the reality of its overwhelming and troubling nature. Like the slavery of the Israelites, the oppression is real. It is real and it takes real work to overcome. When we keep reading Moses’ story, we see that everything does not happen easily, but Moses is sent to continue to plead with Pharaoh on behalf of the people. 

The message this morning is a reminder of the God we worship. The God who is I AM. The living, active God who was and is and will always be. The one who cannot be contained or controlled, the one who is able to sustain the fertile and fruitful environment and can also work outside the normal patterns of nature, the one who is ongoing not static, the one capable of possibility… the one who has met me in grand cathedrals, and in the woods and at music festivals and bathroom floors… the one who desires us to be free, our brothers and sisters of color to be liberated from the hand of oppression and white supremacy, the victims of natural disasters to be rescued and comforted, refugees to be welcomed and offered places they can call home, and the one who continues to speak into creation a new kingdom, a new beloved community. 

Are we willing to enter the spaces of chaos and trust that God is able to meet us and transform our lives and the world around us? Do we recognize the place we are standing is holy ground? Are we willing to witness to the sacred breaking through and transforming the chaos?  Are we willing to be sent like Moses to plead on behalf of God’s people? 

This morning I want to offer a word of encouragement. Through the story of Moses we see that God is able. Let us trust God can meet us in the chaos of our lives and is capable of bring life out of death. I encourage you to continue to seek God’s presence and to have eyes ready to recognize the holy and sacred breaking into the chaos, because there is no place where God’s presence cannot reach. Let us be ready to listen and willing to continue to be transformed and ready to respond, perhaps to a voice calling to us in the wilderness spaces of our lives to say the place you are standing is holy ground.

Amen.