“Do not comeany closer. Take off your sandals,because you are standing on holy ground.”-Exodus 3:5b
When God first called Moses, he was in the wilderness working for his father-in-law. He was probably not in the place he wanted to be or that he planned to be. He used to be a prince. He used to have servants. He didn’t ask from whence his meals came; like many of us, he just sat down at the table and ate. Now here he was at the edge of the desert taking care of the animals he had always taken for granted, working for his father-in-law to whom he was obligated as a part of his responsibility for taking Zipporah as his wife. Then, in a literal flash, everything changed. Seeing a bush that burned without being consumed, Moses receives a call from God. Fire was a real and scary thing to a shepherd in this dry region. It can travel up to 20 miles per hour, consuming flocks and people in a matter of minutes. A burning bush in a dry place would elicit fear from Moses. Having just been caught in a forest fire area in Colorado this past week, I can tell you that Moses would have had some real fear about that burning bush that perhaps you haven’t considered in this story. Walking right into the place of his fear, though, Moses found God waiting.
I can’t say that my call story was so dramatic. I remember preaching my first sermon and thinking, “this is what God wants me to do.” I was 13, and I thought my experience must be the same as everyone else’s, only for some reason it was not. Churches wanted to hear what I understood about God. When I went to college, I continued being active in chapel services, and I became the student chairperson of the Faith and Life committee that organized the chapel services and also provided pulpit supply at nearby churches as it was needed. In fact, when I met Jaye, he told me that he grew up at one of the churches I had preached at, and he found a video they had recorded of my preaching back in college. His dad always teased me about the fact that we preached at the same church even though we are in different denominations. My career test in high school even listed Catholic priest as my numberone future career possibility. Apparently there was not a gender question! Even though I didn’t think I was pastor material because of my own background, those around me, God, and even standardized tests saw it coming. I stepped into the fear of my inadequacy and found holy ground, yet it never seemed as dramatic as that burning bush. I understand that there might not be the drama of a burning bush for you either, but this I know for certain: the place where you step into your fear and talk to God about your call is holy ground, and everyone has a call from God.
I once met a Sunday School teacher in Southwest Iowa. She asked about my call as an elder, sharing that she had never seen a woman as an elder before (this was 2008 or so). She said, “I wish I hearda call from God like you!” I explained that she clearly had a call from God. She passionately taught Sunday School and led her congregation in an amazing program that bridged the generations in her congregation. She was called to lead her church in many ways! But she thought the only call that mattered was a call to ordained ministry. What a tragedy! She never knew that she, too, was standing on holy ground. When we take time to pray about our call, to talk to God about what work we are being guided to do, we stand on hallowed ground. We all are invited to the burning bush, to take our shoes off, to come close to our fear without being burned, and to hear God’s call for us, whatever that call might be. Everyone is welcome to join God in the holy place of call. But have we all? Have we each regularly approached our own type of burning bush to step through fear into the presence of God? I invite you today to walk into that fear that overshadows you, and listen to what God says. Even if it seems scary or strange, God is calling you. And forgoodness sakes, kick off those shoes because this is holy ground.