Standing on ‘holy ground’ this Earth Day
A Christian Science perspective: On shedding materialistic views to bring healing to the environment.
“Take off your shoes!” This phrase came to me as I thought about global warming. It seemed an odd idea at first, but I recognized it as part of the Bible story in which Moses sees a burning bush, so I looked up the passage.
In Exodus 3, the story begins with Moses going about his daily work shepherding the family’s flocks. As he moves the livestock across the desert, he comes to “the mountain of God,” where he sees a bush burning but “not consumed.” Pausing to look more closely, he hears God asking him to take off his shoes because he’s standing on holy ground. Then Moses hears God’s direction to lead the Israelites out of slavery, with the assurance that God, the great “I AM,” will always be with them.
I found this account to be a wonderful inspiration in regard to caring for the earth. Moses’ journeys to “the mount” seemed symbolic to me of the need to start lifting my thoughts higher, to God – our creator, or Spirit, to use some common biblical terms. From this “mount” I could begin to see a healing, spiritual view of creation.
When Moses pauses at the bush, he perceived an “angel of the Lord” in the flames. I found it interesting that Moses neither ran away in fear nor hurried on about his business. This spoke to me of how important it is to pause to pray and consciously watch for angels, which the founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, describes as “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 581).
What follows in the story of Moses is that he hears God asking him to remove his shoes as he is standing on “holy ground.” Today, as in Moses’ time, removal of shoes at sacred sites is an action of respect and recognition of a location’s holy nature. Yet further on in the Scriptures, Saint Paul says, “We live, and move, and have our being” in God (Acts 17:28) – that is, entirely in Spirit. That would mean we are always in the presence of that which is spiritual and holy, because Spirit is not confined to location, but is everywhere. This isn’t to say that evils such as corruption and destruction are from God. These are not the fruit of the Spirit, which the Bible describes as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22, 23). Waste and destruction come from a limited, material sense of being.
I saw this removal of shoes as a metaphor for shedding this material view of life. We honor and recognize the spiritual nature of creation by both attending to those “angel” thoughts and by removing whatever beliefs or notions would keep us from being conscious of life in Spirit. The more “shoe shedding” we do in thought and prayer, the more aware we are of being on “holy ground” and the easier it is to perceive God’s answers to our prayers.
In Moses’ case, he hears God’s direction to lead his fellow Israelites out of slavery. Initially Moses resists but is repeatedly reassured that God, the ever-present “I AM,” will always be with him and there will be whatever human help is needed at hand, too. I found it reassuring that even in facing as daunting an issue as slavery, God, Spirit, enabled the children of Israel to transcend all apparent material limitations.
So in prayers for our planet’s health, realizing we and our world are spiritual and thus sustained by Spirit can bring inspiration and healing. For example, we might be inspired to make wiser choices about what “stuff” we actually need and its related production and disposal methods. We might also see such mindful prayer bring healing to our environment. I am encouraged by the many healings published in the Christian Science Sentinel, including one related to a North Sea oil spill (see “Environmental tragedy is not inevitable,” Feb. 21, 1994).
This Earth Day I’m remembering Moses and knowing that we, too, can reach that mount of prayer, shed harmful views, and listen for God’s guidance of how to free our planet from the challenges at hand. Even global warming need not daunt us when we realize we are forever on “holy ground” and that our planet, as well as all creation, is never apart from the “I AM.”