Holy Ground

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World religions are renowned for their sacred spaces and holy places.

Buddhists reverence special mountains, pagodas, and commemorative stone monuments.  Hindus cherish the River Ganges, which is honored as a goddess.  Pilgrims journey to the Ganges to bathe in its sacred waters.

The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and thus the aspiration of every faithful Muslim.  Mormons regard their temples as the only places on earth where human beings can experience the fullness of God’s presence and power.

Jews and Christians have never been able to positively identify Mt. Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments.  There are currently 20 candidates in the Egyptian wilderness.  St. Catherine’s Monastery, at the foot of one of those mountains, proudly identifies a flourishing desert plant as the original burning bush where Moses received his marching orders from God. 

Nor have followers of Jesus ever been able to identify, with certainty, the so-called sacred places connected with his life – the exact location where he was born, the precise spot where he was crucified, and the very tomb where he rose from the dead.  If we could, we would be tempted to turn them all into theme parks. 

The startling news is that God isn’t limited to sacred spaces and holy places.  He is perfectly willing to transform us wherever we happen to be. 

Even at a copy machine. 

Patricia Miller recollects an experience from her years as a hospital staff worker: 

“While at work in the emergency ward, I learned to stop crying at the pain around me.  Each day it seemed I was becoming more insensitive to people and their real needs.  Five years of emergency room exposure had taken its toll. 

“Then God intervened. 

“I was taking information for registering a young woman who had overdosed on drugs and had attempted suicide.  Her mother sat before me as I typed the information into the computer.  The mother was unkempt and bleary eyed.  She had been awakened in the middle of the night by the police to come to the hospital.  She could only speak to me in a whisper.

“Hurry up, I said to myself, as she slowly gave me the information.  My impatience was raw as I finished the report and jumped to the machine to copy the medical cards. 

“That’s when God stopped me – at the copy machine.  He spoke to my heart so clearly:  You didn’t even look at her.  He repeated it gently.  You didn’t even look at her.

“I felt his grief for her and for her daughter, and I bowed my head.  I’m sorry, Lord.  I am so sorry.

“I sat down in front of the distraught woman and covered her hands with mine.  I looked into her eyes with all the love that God could flood through me and said, ‘I care.  Don’t give up.’  She wept and wept.  She poured her heart out to me about her years of dealing with a rebellious daughter as a single mom.  Finally, she looked up and thanked me.  Me…the coldhearted one with no feelings. 

“My attitude changed that night.  My Jesus came right into the workplace in spite of rules that tried to keep him out.  He came in to set me free to care again.”

It can be inspiring to visit sacred spaces and special places.

But the wonderful news is that we don’t have to travel anywhere for God to open our hearts and open our eyes.

The place where you’re sitting right now is holy ground.