I am always intrigued by the account of the Burning Bush, from Exodus chapter 3. It is the type of story to catch your attention. There is a drama to it. And a sense of wonder. What does it mean? Why was it included within the canon of the Torah and then the Christian Bible? And why did the compilers of our current lectionary pick this incident for the second story in the Moses sagas, when the passage that precedes it shows Moses identifying with the oppressed Israelites and killing an Egyptian overseer and would have provided a strong message about supporting the oppressed. I think the choice at each of these levels rests on a very simple and obvious detail, in this passage we meet the Lord God.
Here we have an unusual sight, a bush that appears to be burning without being turned to ash as we would normally expect. Eucalyptus trees, in Australia, apparently give off volatile and inflammable vapors when subject to hot drought conditions and can burst into flames which then destroys the eucalyptus forest. But this bush didn’t turn to as hand as Moses came closer to inspect this unusual sight, he heard a voice telling him that he was on Holy Ground.
The symbol of the flame has long had a connection with the Deity. In its simplest form, we use candles to invoke or denote the presence of God in our worship both in church and, for many of us, in our homes. In many Icons the presence of God is often represented by flames around or behind whatever is the representation of the Deity. Sometimes the narrative representation is simply an intensely vivid flame or light. Check out the call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6), the call of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3), the translation of Elijah (2Kings 2.11), and Moses on the mountain with God (Exodus 24. 15-18).
Holy, Holy, Holy, we say or sing in our Communion Liturgy. Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus! Sanctus – to be holy, God is the source and being of holiness. Sanctify – to make holy, to be set aside for God’s use, to become Christ like through the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Sanctuary – the holy protection in a holy place.
This is Holy Ground!
Canon Donald J Lawton