Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (NRSV)
Exodus 3:2-5,6b – There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (NRSV)
The day after Ash Wednesday, as part of my Lenten discipline for this year, I participated in "a quiet day". It was a wonderful way to start Lent! There were eighteen of us, together with a trained leader, and we met at a church of a different denomination so that no one of us felt that we had to play host or hostess.
The day had a wonderful rhythm. First, we would meet for brief comments and discussion around a scripture passage. Next, we went off to find a comfortable place within the church where we could meditate for about an hour and a quarter. Finally, we would return and talk about anything that we wanted to share as a result of our time apart. This happened three times in all. We ended with a communion service which had so much meaning because of all that had led up to it.
Some wonderful things came out during the sharing session, as we participated mutually and related some of our discoveries or the deepest feelings that had been evoked for us during our meditation time. Scripture became opened to me as I've rarely experienced it before. It felt as if I appeared to look with fresh, new eyes at what was most familiar. It was wonderfully fulfilling for each of us (judging by the comments and the feedback) and carried us to a different place on our journey "home".
The place that I chose to be close with God during my meditating time was the church's magnificent sanctuary. Surrounded as I was by the beauty of a stained glass window behind the altar and wonderful Bible story paintings spanning the ceiling, I felt I was on holy ground, as indeed I did much of the day. But there was more. As I turned in the pew in which I sat and leaned back, I was facing a series of windows. It was a cloudy day but as I watched in awe, the clouds would leave for brief moments and bright, throbbing, pulsing light streamed through, almost blinding me so that I could not look at it. This happened several times, and I had to close my eyes each time because the light was so bright. It was at that moment that the image of Moses flashed through my mind. Surely that was how Moses felt as he beheld the burning bush — on holy ground — with God. I knew that was where I was at that moment, and it was as if God was speaking to me and letting me know that I was not alone — that God's presence was right there with all of us and that we had no need to fear. What a faith-filled way to start our Lenten pilgrimage — on holy ground.
Prayer: Gracious One of burning bushes, holy ground, and bright light, we thank you that you shine in our lives. We pray that you will illumine the nooks and crannies that are so easy for us not to see. May we feel safe as we look, for you don't do this to punish or judge us but rather to show us where we need to direct our attention. May we respond to you with our hearts and souls in such a way that a transforming time may be ours and that again we may know we are on holy ground. We pray this through Jesus Christ. Amen.