Holy Week is Every Week
God said to Moses, “Remove your sandals, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
When our first year seminary Old Testament class got to this verse, Exodus 3:5, our professor didn’t pass by it quickly.
It’s a rare command in the First Testament, so the exact point of it in the tradition of Moses remains unclear. Certainly in other cultures the gesture is a sign of reverence: any number of religious customs expect worshippers to remove their shoes before entering a sacred space.
Even without heaps of internal reference to the practice, then, most scholars seem to think that that’s precisely what’s going on here: the removal of sandals to honor a sacred space. The little word ‘for’ is a big clue for that case, carrying the water for this hefty meaning: because you are on holy ground, therefore you must act with according reverence.
Buuuut the guy was in a desert, not in a temple.
And for Rev. Dr. Nakamura, this was exactly the point.
God is everywhere.
Therefore everywhere is holy.
Even in the wildernesses of life.
The import of that interpretation, that “brief but spectacular take,” has shaped me profoundly.
Granted, at the time I’d anyway been reading a lot of Annie Dillard, John Muir, and Sigurd Olson, so was steeped in the notion that nature is sacred, but Dr. Nakamura helped me take it a step further in my bare feet: there is no place that God is not, and so every place should be entered as if it were holy, for it is.
Relatedly, though, I confess that ever since I’ve been a bit uncomfortable with the term “Holy Land.”
I know exactly what is meant by it, so much so that to even meekly raise a tiny hand to talk about the phrase seems itself a bit blasphemous. But while it is the locus of so much of three great traditions, I can’t quite shake the notion that everywhere is Holy Land, not least of all because of God’s activities in that Holy Land, actions which were quite specifically dedicated for whole world.
For that matter, I can think of any number of events and places before and after, joyous and devastating, rooted in Jewish and Christian history or that of other religious convictions, which beheld the presence of the Holy.
And perhaps, just perhaps, if we saw all land as Holy we’d treat it as such.
But I digress.
The point is that today, Palm Sunday, begins Holy Week.
It’s a flurry of days which concentrate key events of the Christian story: professed love for Jesus, hope in Jesus, disorientation about Jesus, clarity about Jesus, distancing from Jesus, conflict related to Jesus, courageous fidelity to Jesus, self-protection, fear, betrayal, grief, hopelessness, and renewed joy and trust in Jesus.
The thing of it is, though, as Holy as this Week is, that list right there?
That’s every week, and, depending on, that’s an average Thursday.
As Christians begin this week, then, I encourage us not to relegate its events to the past.
Don’t simply re-enact them as if they were part of a scripted play.
These events were the locus of the story that we Christians tell, of course, but they are our everyday story too, even still.
So take off your shoes.
Stay for a while.
We are in Holy Week, and we are on Holy Ground.
God is as present here as God is anywhere, and everywhere, and anytime, and every time.
Peace to you in these and all your holy days.