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Exodus 3:1-5
“Holy Now,” words and music by Peter Mayer 1

        I imagine the ancient Hebrews—tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of them—huddled around campfires in the Jordan River valley, near the lowest elevation point in the entire world. Even in the darkness they would have felt the arid brown hills looming above them. Especially in the darkness, they might have wondered what they were doing there and what would become of them.

        “Their ancestors had been wandering 40 years in the desert for this? This was the Promised Land? Surely they had made a wrong turn.” There might have been much grumbling.

        I can imagine the elders among them deciding it was time for a story, one of the best stories of all: How their ancestor Moses had been tending his father-in-law’s sheep one day when he saw the strangest thing—a bush that was burning but didn’t burn up. How Moses stopped and looked and wondered, and then heard a voice calling his name. How the voice belonged to God, who told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.

        Maybe the story put a stop to the complaining—for a little while, at least. It might have inspired a few people to glance up at those massive hills in wonder rather than fear. Maybe someone was encouraged to pay attention to  the awesome silence, to listen for the sound of their name. Maybe someone, hearing that story about Moses, looked down at their feet, down at the foreign dusty ground and wondered if it, too, could be holy.

        Such is the power of story. Such is the gift of awareness and attention.

        Well, years passed; generations came and went; Israel became a tiny nation with judges and kings and prophets.

        Eventually, someone wrote down the stories, the commandments, and all the laws designed to help them walk humbly with their God and live together in justice and peace.

        Over time, the lonely God who wanted company and so created humans in their image out of dust, the heartbroken God who sewed garments for Adam and Eve, the listening God who spoke to Moses from a bush, the law-giving God who commanded a people to set aside one seventh of their time and declare it holy, the lovesick God who was forever pursuing and restoring her people—well, that same God somehow became for many people a distant God. A God who was wholly other.

        And so the word “holy” came to mean separate, set apart. And so the things of God were set aside and considered different than ordinary things and places. The things of the world and the many facets of human experience were divided into the sacred and the profane—one or the other, either-or.

        Over time, this false dichotomy created distance between God and the children of God. And because the children of God considered themselves so different from the divine, this created created distance and division between them. Just as some things were considered sacred and others not, so some people were considered acceptable and others not. In some instances, the very things of God were used to demean and exclude entire groups of people.

        Jesus encountered this all the time—and he rebelled against it, insisting that this was not God’s plan. He touched the unclean, lifted up the lowly, welcomed the outcasts, and became for many the human representation of God—not a God far off and different but a Word who became flesh like us, a holy light who dwelt among us but loved like God. The beloved son of God, he reminded us that we are all born of God, that we are all children of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.

        Well, this got the people riled up and the powers upset. And so the powers that be did away with Jesus, or so they thought. They tried to do away with his followers. And, when that didn’t work, they struck a deal: The all-powerful, indwelling Spirit, the transforming awareness of holiness would again be relegated to particular buildings and objects, set aside for a certain day of the week, and otherwise separated from “normal” life. The secular powers would control the boundaries of religion, and the religious powers would limit access to the scriptures, communion, the authority to teach and preach, the very image of God.

        But the Spirit of God will not be contained; the good manifestations of the Creator cannot be separated from the creation. Not even the Enlightenment could quench the human longing for the Divine; even the most repressive political systems have failed to kill art, music, literature and other expressions of that longing; the most advanced science opens us to even greater wonder.

        People who say they can’t believe in the God of Abraham, entire peoples who have never even heard of Moses or Abraham or Jesus, recognize within themselves a Life Force and acknowledge in the world around them a wondrous unity of things, a sense of holiness that they don’t always think about but that sometimes struck them as miraculous, leaving them awed and speechless.

        The mystics say this is because there is a piece of God in all of us, that there is within each of us a holy Spirit forever seeking union with the Divine. At its best, the church and all of religion point the way to that All-Encompassing love and prepare the way for that re-union, opening eyes and hearts to see the Christ within each person, the Holy within each moment.

        We set aside special times and places for worship and prayer not because God is separate but because we need the discipline of practice, we need rituals to help us remember, and fellow travelers to keep us on the way. We need to be reminded to stop and turn aside as Moses did, to take off our shoes, to realize that we are standing on holy ground, to enjoy all that God has given us, and to give thanks to the Giver.

        Right now I invite you to think back on the last few days of your life. Recall just one experience that made you feel deeply, one glimmering moment in which you were reminded of a love beyond yourself, one ordinary task that spoke of the utter sacredness of this life.

        Maybe it was seeing the sun rise over a mist-covered meadow or watching it set over the ocean. Maybe it came in the midst of a painful conversation or in the laugh of a beloved child. Maybe it involved digging in the dirt or preparing a meal out of things you grew in that dirt. Maybe you felt it in a lover’s touch or as you helped a dying woman drink water through a straw.

        Whatever it was, whenever it was, remember that moment, and say to yourself: That was holy.

        Look around you here in this place, in this moment, and consider what is holy now. Prepare yourself to receive the Bread of Life and the Cup of Blessing, knowing that God’s grace has made you worthy and God’s love is making you whole. Consider that every moment lived with intention and gratitude is a sacrament. Prepare yourself for the miracle of Encounter.

        Walk and talk with a reverent air, singing like a scripture verse, realize that the Holy has always been in everything, praying for the eyes to see and the heart to receive it with joy.

        Hear the Stillspeaking God calling your name, and respond with every fiber of your being, “Here I am.”


1

“Holy Now”                        
music and lyrics by Peter Mayer

When I was a boy, each week
On Sunday, we would go to church
And pay attention to the priest
He would read the holy word
And consecrate the holy bread
And everyone would kneel and bow
Today the only difference is
Everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

When I was in Sunday school
We would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two
Jesus made the water wine
And I remember feeling sad
That miracles don’t happen still
But now I can’t keep track
‘Cause everything’s a miracle
Everything, Everything
Everything’s a miracle

Wine from water is not so small
But an even better magic trick
Is that anything is here at all
So the challenging thing becomes
Not to look for miracles
But finding where there isn’t one

When holy water was rare at best
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
Everything, everything
Everything is holy now

Read a questioning child’s face
And say it’s not a testament
That’d be very hard to say
See another new morning come
And say it’s not a sacrament
I tell you that it can’t be done

This morning, outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
I remember when church let out
How things have changed since then
Everything is holy now
It used to be a world half-there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now