Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Ground…

We have no fire pit in my backyard, around which to roast marshmallows and tell tales. I have friends whose abode brags of this feature. I’m jealous. For there’s something magical about a campfire, an open stack of crackling wood, flames reaching into darkness, shedding light and warmth and comfort. Some nights, when I’m near one, I wish the blissful minutes would last longer. But all things fade, even firewood. It’s too much to wish we’d abide forever in a fleeting moment.

Perhaps that certainty of change is critical. Maybe we’d cherish it less if the wood blazed, but we knew it wouldn’t disappear. Or maybe we’d grow terrified! How can fire burn, but not destroy?! It would seem out-of-place, menacing, impossible, diabolical. But Exodus 3 tells a tale of exactly that kind, you’ll recall. During Moses’ shepherding days, he confronts a bush that burns, but doesn’t diminish. Fear grips his spirit. It would paralyze most people! A voice says, “Do not be afraid.” As if that helps! Now, there are strange sounds to go with otherworldly sights. Yet it continues, “Remove your sandals. You are standing on Holy Ground.”

A fire that burns, but doesn’t destroy. Passion that consumes, yet won’t ruin. An apt metaphor, I believe, for experiencing of The Holy. Fear does seem appropriate; can’t blame Moses there. We don’t encounter such unadorned holiness most moments of our days. We’re accustomed to profound feelings that fade, intense desires that overwhelm, even harm people. It’s a rare wonder to discover power working alongside longevity and protection. Fright, many say, arrives when we perceive something unexpected. Unknown events scare us. Unfamiliarity seeds suspicion. This story, however, suggests that not all things unusual are made the same. Sometimes terror is appropriate. Other times- holy times- call for awe.

I’ve pondered this issue recently for two related reasons. The first is Easter. In Christian tradition, no other experience unveils God’s Holiness- God’s power and love tied together- as blatantly or blessedly. Death broken by Christ’s broken body rising again to new life. We proclaim that event as the ultimate revelation of sin defeated, fear chastened. As Paul declared, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God we find in Jesus,” our risen Lord. The unjust powers of his day attempted to burn him, extinguish his life. Didn’t work. They failed to see that he hung upon Holy Ground.

As well, our church’s regional camp in Newton, Iowa- the Christian Conference Center- has appealed in recent months for support to make improvements. I haven’t said much because, frankly, we’ve had our own capital campaign ongoing. Still, I’m aware how critical camp was to many Christians’ spiritual development. As a youth, I first learned the gentle force of holiness around campfires at church camp, singing songs, telling tales of Jesus, asking God’s presence to come closer. Since daily life is rarely so…concentrated as a week of summer camp, the passion would fade once I returned home, but it never smoldered out completely. That’s another characteristic of encountering The Holy- it makes an impression, stamps an imprint that lasts beyond the holy fire’s flames.

Plymouth Creek members have long sent youth and others to Conference Center camps. I can’t guarantee their experiences matched mine, though I wouldn’t be surprised. Because of that history, then, I wanted you to know this fundraising was happening. Will you pray about whether you can contribute to help ensure new generations can gather there? Call me or go to to learn about plans and donate. It’s quite the vision they’ve prepared- responsible, sustainable, bold.

And if you’ve never been, you should know that as you drive onto the grounds, a sign reads, “You are entering Holy Ground.” It’s true. For there, a powerful love encircles youth and families that’s safe, gentle and strong. But the ultimate truth is- my apologies to Moses and the Region- in light of Christ’s resurrection, we can all experience Holy Ground. Wherever we are. It takes eyes to see and hope to believe, but always and everywhere God is there. Burning with love for you that will not destroy. Offering, instead, abundant life eternal.

Grace and Peace,


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