From the Desk of Pastor Clay
“When the Lord saw that Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush and said, ‘Moses! Moses!’ He answered, ‘Yes, here I am.’ God said, ‘Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ So Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God" (Exodus 3:4-6, GNT).
A few weeks ago during the children’s sermon, my buddy Micah stopped me, as he often does, to ask me a question, as he often does. “Pastor Clay, where are your shoes?” This was and is a perfectly fair question. So, I answered that. When Moses found himself on Holy Ground, he was instructed to take his shoes off. When I am leading worship, I am on Holy Ground, so my shoes are off. After I said that during worship, a few people expressed that they had often wondered why I preach barefooted, so let’s talk about it.
I have been preaching barefoot for about ten years and was also ordained barefoot in 2016. Despite my entire ordination class being gifted red Toms brand shoes in 2016, we were also all ordained barefoot. If Holy Ground does not extend to that holy moment, I do not know what does. But it all started during a training I attended as a part of my time as a provisional elder where we were discussing what we wear during worship. We talked about suits and casual clothes, the different challenges we face being young clergy, and the injustice of pockets in men’s and women’s clothing. Then someone mentioned that they preach barefoot as way of expressing reverence to God and feeling more grounded and more comfortable in their preaching space, which I understand. Taking our shoes off is a sign of feeling at home in a place, and walking barefoot in certain places can ground us and connect us to where we are. Think of places outside of the church: whether it is the damp grass in your garden at dawn, or the sand on a quiet beach, feeling the surface beneath your feet can help you feel connected.
For me, preaching barefoot does come with an element of comfort and feeling like home. Our church has certainly come to feel like home over the past few years, and that will only grow as we continue in ministry. Being barefoot on Holy Ground also connects me to my calling.
The idea of being barefoot comes from Exodus 3. Moses is out checking the flock of his father-in-law and sees a bush engulfed in flame but not burning up. This apparently was not uncommon but the fires would not last long as they would quickly burn out. This one refused to burn out. That was odd enough to necessitate a visit. Then he heard a voice out of the bush saying his name. The command came: “Do not come closer and take your shoes off for you are on Holy Ground.” The conversation that followed sent Moses to Egypt to live into God’s call on his life. Lives change when we are on Holy Ground. Each time I stand to lead worship and preach, I am on Holy Ground, and it is my hope that God works in the midst of what we are doing in worship in such a way that you, too, are inspired to come close to God and hear the call that God has on your life.
I should mention that after I explained that to Micah during church, someone asked if they should take their shoes off in church. I cannot answer that for you, only you can. It is okay if you don’t take your shoes off; it does not mean that you do not feel welcome or “at home” in our church. I know there is more than one sign of feeling at home or connected to a place, If you feel like it will connect you to God and make you feel more at home in our church, try it. If not, that is okay, too.
Whether we are barefoot, wearing sandals, wingtips, high tops, flats, or Crocs. God loves you and has a call on your life and invites you to discover and explore. No matter what is on our feet, God is more concerned with the state of our hearts. And we figuratively “remove our sandals” when we commune with God and learn how far God’s love and grace extend. Thanks for the question Micah.
In Christ’s love,