Thursday, January 21, 2010

Take off your shoes

(Random thoughts for this Sunday's Contemplative Service)

Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn't burn up. Moses said, "What's going on here? I can't believe this! Amazing! Why doesn't the bush burn up?" God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, "Moses! Moses!" He said, "Yes? I'm right here!" God said, "Don't come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You're standing on holy ground."

Exodus 3: 1-5

I love being barefoot, I spend most of my time either with nothing on my feet, or with sandals. I wear shoes about once a week, on Sunday mornings when I come to worship. When I was travelling in Thailand I visited a number of temples that required you to remove your footwear before you could enter - imagine what Church would be like if we had that requirement, lines of shoes out in the hallway by the Registration table.

Imagine you were a visitor to a church and discovered shoe removal was a requirement for worship, would you still attend? I'd be worried about whether my socks had holes in and were they in fact clean this morning or did I just recycle them from last Sunday. Lori said her first thought would be 'How is my toenail polish?'

We wear shoes for protection, but they become a barrier between us and the world in which we live. We encounter the beach very differently when barefoot, we notice subtle changes in the terrain that we would miss if our feet were covered.

Moses is instructed to remove his sandals and is informed that he is standing on Holy Ground. He is told 'Don't come any closer'.The rabbis had two schools of thought about this passage. Some taught that Moses had to keep a distance from the burning bush out of fear, reverenceand sacred dread of the presence of God. But another Rabbinic tradition taught that Moses was instructed to not come closer because he did not need to come closer. He already had the full experience of God's presence, he just needed to remove his shoes and become alive to it.

The act of removing the sandals, laying aside the protective covering opens us up to the insight that God is already here, I am already in the presence of the Holy. I do not own many pairs of shoes, but I am aware of many protective coverings that I clothe myself in for my own safety.

Coverings like:

'If I am vulnerable I could get hurt, better to not risk it.'
'They don't want to hear my struggles.'
'Reject them before they reject me'
'My faith is not like _________ so I must be wrong somehow'
'If it is different to my way of thinking/doing, it must be wrong.'

Some of us have become so attached to our coverings, our 'shoes', that what was originally just for protection has become a defining characteristic.

As long as we wear our 'shoes' there is something dead between the live soles of our feet and the holy ground on which we stand. To take off this deadness means taking off that which familiarity breeds contempt and boredom: it means coming alive to the place where we are. ~ David Steindhal Rast

What shoes do you need to remove?

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