Where I Found Holy Ground
I’m told America is seeing a resurgence of worship in traditional settings. Fed up with techno churches that remind us of movie theaters, some are rediscovering sunlit cathedrals or candlelit chapels. This is no surprise. We all need a place of rest from the sights and sounds of the world. We need to connect with God. We’re searching, as it were, for holy ground.
It seems that in the Bible, finding holy ground was easier. A handful of Old Testament people found themselves in suddenly sacred places when God appeared. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush: “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground” (Exodus 3:5, NLT). Near Jericho, Joshua met a godly figure who told him, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Joshua 5:15, NLT). And the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, accepting worship and eliciting fear. Gideon responded, “I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” (Judges 6:22, NLT) Manifestations of God himself were showing up in our world to these people.
Even everyday worshipers in Bible times could find sacred space. They could go to Jerusalem. God had come down in a cloud as Solomon dedicated the Temple there, and “the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God” (2 Chronicles 5:14, NLT). A believer in the Temple could be sure he was close to God.
What about us? The building where my church meets certainly does help me feel worshipful, but no cloud came down at its dedication. So where can we be sure to find rest with God? Where is holy ground?
A better temple
It is important to understand first that the search for holy ground has changed due to Jesus. He came calling himself a temple (see John 2:19-21). More than that, he’s the full manifestation of God: “God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ” (Colossians 1:19, NLT). Every time someone crossed Jesus’ path, they should have tossed off their sandals and fallen face down in worship.
Of course it didn’t happen that way. There were moments of worship, but mostly God had a different plan. Jesus—the holy God—was discounted as a peasant, despised as a troublemaker, and crucified as a criminal. That’s treatment we deserved, but he took our place. God planned it to save us: “As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (Colossians 1:22, NLT).
Yes, “you are holy.” Paul put it this way to the Ephesians: “You are members of God’s family. Together we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21, NLT).
A holy temple. Today, God’s holy ground is his people, especially when they come together. You and me.
A bigger rest
I’m not suggesting my neighbors remove their sneakers when I pass by. You and I are mere bricks, not the Cornerstone himself. We’ve been made holy only because Jesus gave up his fullness-of-God rights to die for us. This amazing reality changes us so that, like Jesus, we don’t seek our own honor. Instead, we become servants to the world so honor might go to the Father.
So be humble. But also be confident. Do not discount the rebirth won for you at the cross and worked in you by God’s Spirit. In Christ, we become a taste of the holy rest that all earth’s inhabitants long for. We go about healing hurts, creating beauty, and pointing people everywhere to an ultimate rest in Jesus.
I like cathedrals and chapels. I also liked the local theater my church used to meet in. But I will find no place on earth more holy than wherever Christian brothers and sisters are gathered, serving our Savior. We can toddle through life looking for holy ground, or we can look for places to be holy ground. There’s a vast difference.