Many years ago, Moses the sheep farmer saw an unusual sight in the desert – a fire burning in a bush that didn’t destroy the bush. When he went to take a closer look, the Lord God confronted him and said to Moses, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Ex3:5).This command is surprising. The holiness of God describes his incomparable otherness; it is his absolute majesty, superiority, purity and awful divine power. So how was it that God called a desolate wasteland, which was no good for anything, ‘holy ground’?The answer is that God was there. This holy, majestic, divine ‘Other’ was willing to meet Moses in an ‘unholy’ place, and rather than the Holy One being tainted by the ordinary and ‘earthly’, the earthly was transformed to reflect the presence of God. This is a powerful holiness.This holy God didn’t demand quiet submission from Moses, but rather sought genuine encounter. The Lord didn’t inhibit Moses’ response. Rather, he drew him into genuine conversation. In the presence of this Holy God, Moses – slow of speech – felt the freedom to ask questions and express his uncertainty about the Lord’s plan for him. This is an engaging holiness.
Moving forward many centuries, an Angel of the Lord appeared to an unmarried Jewish teenager with the news she would have a baby, and “… the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35). The holy, majestic, awful, divine Lord would walk the earth, transforming the ordinary and earthly into places of divine encounter.
And he would leave a gift for his followers: not the ‘Loving Spirit’ or the ‘Gracious Spirit’, but the Holy Spirit—the pure, majestic ‘other’ living in us.
You are not a desolate wasteland. You have become ‘holy ground’. In you and through you, divine encounters have become possible.