Forming Faith Blog

Hot Wheels, Holy Ground (October 3, 2021)

What makes a place a holy place?  Is “holy” something that happens in a space or something we as Christians assign to that place? Is it a matter of “sacred is as sacred does?”  If God’s presence makes a spot a holy one, and God is everywhere, then is everywhere holy ground?

Abstract painting looking like fire. What makes holy ground?
Holy Ground

Moses…Mossseeesss…take off your shoes because you are walking on holy ground.

You have to think there was just a little piece of Moses’ brain that was saying, “Holy ground? What do you mean, Holy Ground? I was here yesterday. It wasn’t Holy Ground yesterday. In fact, there’s still a bunch of sheep crap everywhere. I’m not taking off my shoes. Are you kidding?” 

Holy Inappropriate!

When I was a boy, I grew up in a church. I mean that literarily. My father was the choir director my mother was the Director of Christian Education. We were always at the church for one reason or another. Sometimes my father would take my brother and me to church when he practiced the organ on a weeknight. We’d take along our Hot Wheels cars and set up that bright orange track across the tops of the pews. Some might be appalled, but it kept us occupied while my dad practiced. 

Does a sanctuary become “holy” on Sunday morning or is it holy Monday through Saturday as well?  Do we all just collectively agree that it is holy?

Holy Smoke

The bush does not suddenly burst into flame. It was already on fire when Moses found it.

The area where Moses saw the bush does not become Holy. It already was because God was already there. Moses just connected to sacred.

God says, “Take off your shoes; this is a Holy Spot.” God speaks to Moses from a burning bush…a lot of symbolism has been assigned to this moment, but for now, let’s assume this is an actual bush, and it was on fire but was not being consumed by the flames. As Comedian Ken Davis says “It was burnin’, but it wasn’t burnin’”

Forget how many times Moses actually tried to get out of the job. Forget the severe amount of complaining the “children of God” did as they wandered in the desert for all those years. Let’s focus on the moment Moses realizes this ground is holy. He REALIZES the ground is sacred. Moses recognizes God’s presence in this place. The moment is holy.

Holy Location, Location, Location

Some of the most meaningful and heartfelt worship experiences of my life have not been in the sanctuary or even in a church building. I’ve stood out under the stars. I’ve worshipped in a bell tower. I’ve lead worship services at night behind a hotel by the dumpster (long story for another blog). The place becomes holy because we make the connection to God at that moment in that time.

Holy Fire Hazard

A few years back, I was working for a denomination that had a large retreat center out in the middle of nowhere on the shores of a lake in the shade of hundreds of trees. Many people I knew had their first “come to Jesus” moment in that center. There, in the dark, singing “Kumbaya” in a circle illuminated by candles. It was a sacred place. It was Holy Ground. When the conference determined that the building was getting too old and was quickly becoming a fire hazard, they began to discuss the possibility of replacing it. They did not talk about replacing Jesus with a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater. They talked about replacing a building that, unlike Moses’ bush, WOULD be consumed by the flames should they get out of hand.

People protested. They complained. They organized. They demanded their voices be heard and this sacred place be saved. The moment was sacred. The location was timber.

Holy Understanding

God is here. 


God does not need to be invoked. Some churches even have a Prayer of Invocation to invite God to the church. Someone once told me, “God is a gentleman; he does not go where he is not invited.” 

I disagree. God is right here right now. When we recognize that the place where we are becomes Holy Ground. 

Holy (Next) Steps

You can still take off your shoes if you want.

  • Scour your church for holy items. The pastor’s robes, the communion set, the cross on the altar. The Miriam Joyce Funbanner Memorial Carpet?  What makes these things holy?
  • Talk about some of the holy locations you’ve been to? Was it the location or the experience you had in that location?

May you walk in holy places and may the places you walk be holy.

Steve Case

Steve is a 30-year veteran of youth ministry and the author of 45 books. (Some of them are even holy.)

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download a free activity “Meeting Moses” from our intergenerational worship resource Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship (NL) home devotional resource which can be used with many ages in many contexts!

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