“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.”
This verse follows Moses seeing the burning bush and hearing God call out to him. As Moses began to approach the burning bush, God calls out, “Do not come any closer…. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” The message of removing sandals upon the entrance of holy ground is found in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Churches in the east, especially Eastern Orthodox churches, usually have a sign posted outside the church asking for visitors to remove their shoes. Some will quote this very Bible verse in one translation or another. Churches in the west have seemed to abandon this practice. In fact, many church circles see it as disrespectful to remove one’s shoes in the church.
I am a girl of many flip-flops. I really have enough to change my flip-flops depending on my outfit (I am just too lazy to do so). I also am more likely to be found carrying my flip-flops than I am to be actually wearing them. When sitting in the pew, I always take my shoes off and move them to the side. This carries on to when I preach and or am helping lead worship in some way. I take my shoes off and either leave them behind the pulpit or under the first pew depending on where I am and the set up of the worship space.
Why do I prefer to be barefoot in church? It all goes straight back to the verse in Exodus. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” For me this is a little more literal being an avid flip-flop wearer. I choose to not wear my shoes in church because for me the church is holy ground. The church is not the only place of holy ground but it is indeed holy ground.
Do I believe that the west does it wrong because this is not a common practice? Absolutely not. I do not think there is a right or wrong practice for wearing shoes in church. What I do believe is that there are ways to make a space more guided towards God during worship, and for me, personally, I find removing my shoes to be just one way to guide my attention towards God in worship.
When the going gets tough, we find it hard to believe God hasn’t given up on us. We find it hard to believe because we feel like giving up on ourselves. When we feel broken, we don’t see the reason of pushing on nor do we see the possibility of being fixed again. God is the God who stays.
We tend to feel ashamed and we hide from the people around us. We attempt to hide from God as well, but it is not possible to hide from God. If you have tried, you know this is true. God is the God who stays.
The truth is that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing we have done, said, or thought can separate us from the love of God. No one has the power to remove us from the presence of God. No matter how hard we try to hide from God, God is still there. God is the God who stays.
God is the God who stays. God is always welcoming us with open arms. God is there even when we feel the most alone. God is always reminding us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. God is the God who stays.
How do you know God is the God who stays?
Making new wine comes from pressing and crushing. Breaking new ground comes from the act of surrendering. Neither of these processes are promised to be easy, but they always prove worthy in the end. Surrendering ourselves to the hand of God requires much trust. A trust that we know as faith.
Surrendering ourselves to God means offering ourselves up to align ourselves with the will of God. We become a vessel through which God works here on earth We admit that without God we are nothing and become full when we have God.
When we allow ourselves to become new wine, we are empowered through the Holy Spirit and freed from our hold to sin. The old passes away and we walk away holding the flame of Christ. A light that cannot be overcome.
When we have this flame we will be forever singing praises to the Lord. We will be placing ourselves back on the altar. The process of becoming new wine is an on-going process. A process that continually brings us closer to God.
Are you surrendering yourself to be made into new wine?
Micah Tyler’s “Even Then” has really been helping me through the past few weeks! If you’ve heard it before, take a moment and really listen to those lyrics. If this is your first time listening, let the words wash over you.
Most importantly, have great week!