Saturday, June 3, 2017

Acts 7:33 -- On Holy Places

"Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground."
Acts 7:33

The idea of holy ground is an interesting one.  What makes one place holy and another unholy?  It seems strange on one level to say  that one place is good and another place is bad... they are just places.  But when we start thinking about it, there are probably places that we can think of, either in history or our own lives, or both, that we consider good, or bad, or even holy and unholy.  Why is that?  It's because we associate that place with something that happened, or an emotion or spiritual experience.  There is a power in places, through the way we feel about them.  One place might feel safe to us, while another makes us feel uncomfortable.  If we've ever said to ourselves "I'll never go back there," we understand on another level why place isn't always just geography.

Here, Stephen is referring to the story of Moses and the burning bush, and God is starting to teach Moses about reverence for holy things.  One way that we respect God is by respecting his presence, and our communication with him.  We try to show reverence in church and especially in the temple, not just because we are respecting his stuff, because really the whole Earth is God's stuff, but because these are places set aside for the sole purpose of communicating with and worshipping God, and God wants us to have good associations with them rather than bad ones.  He also wants us to understand that he isn't just another being.  He's God, the creator of the Universe, and more. :)  When we show our respect for him by dressing up and being on our best behavior, it's very polite and nice to God... which is of course, good.  The lesson isn't really for him though.  Like everything else in life, the lesson is for us.  We need these partitions in our lives so that we can remember and learn about God.  We need to see that he is different, and better, so that we can also learn to be different, and better--to go after the good and not the evil.

Psalms 24:3 asks us "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?" and many scriptures tell us to stand in holy places (2 Chronicles 35:5, Matthew 24:15, D&C 45:32, etc.)  Standing in holy places means choosing the good over the bad, choosing the holy over the profane--Choosing God over anything and everything else.  Today, let's learn, as Moses was learning, to recognize the good, and choose it over other choices, even if it is harder.  Let's (symbolically) take off our dirty shoes and be clean so that we are learning to become worthy of the holy places rather than tracking dirt into them.  And above all, let's learn to understand why God asks us to choose a different and a better path, and holy places over profane ones.  As we understand and choose that, we will be on the path to a better life, and better world.

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