Summary: Sacred space may be anyplace you encounter the presence of God.

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Title: Sacred Space

Text: Exodus 3:1-15

Thesis: Sacred space may be anyplace you encounter the presence of God.


In The World’s Fastest Indian, Anthony Hopkins plays the part of Burt Munro, a New Zealander who set a number of world speed records in the 1960s riding an old-fashioned, Indian motorcycle built in 1920. The film traces his journey from a tools shed where he worked on his bike for decades to the most sacred place he can think of – salt flats of Utah where speed records are set.

We know the place as the Bonneville Salt Flats along the Utah/Nevada border. It is some 30,000 acres of ancient sea basin. Every winter a thin layer of water covers the basin and every spring and summer the water evaporates leaving a nearly perfectly flat plain. And while there are events throughout the year but mid-August is the time for the Annual Speed Week.

After shipping his Indian to the United States, he trailered it to the Salt Flats where upon arriving he got out of the car, put on his jacket and said, “All my life I’ve wanted to do something big – something bigger and better than all the other jokers. This is it: Bonneville. This is the place where big things happen. Do you realize that the fastest man has ever gone on land is here?” After taking a deep breath, tears well up in his eyes and with a voice filled with emotion, he says, “I’m telling you… this place is holy ground. Holy ground. And I made it here.” (The World’s Fastest Indian (New Zealand Film Commission, 2005, written and directed by Roger Donaldson)

We normally associate pilgrimages as being of spiritual significance but secular pilgrimages are becoming increasingly popular. A secular pilgrimage may take a NASCAR enthusiast to “The Brickyard” in Indianapolis; an Elvis fan to Graceland in Memphis; a baseball fan to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; an airplane enthusiast to Kitty Hawk in North Carolina; a vet to the Viet Nam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC; a patriot to Ground Zero in NYC; a holocaust survivor to Auschwitz; or a country enthusiast to The Grand Ole Opera in Nashville.

You could say that Burt Munro was on something of a secular pilgrimage to Bonneville Salt Flats, the site where man continues to set world land speed records.

However we generally think of pilgrimages as being journeys to a sacred place. Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca; Buddhists pilgrimage to Tibet; Christians pilgrimage to the Holy Land to see what Jesus saw and walk where Jesus walked; Precious Moments people may pilgrimage to the Precious Moments Park and Chapel in Cathage, MO; evangelicals may visit the Billy Graham Museum in Wheaton, IL; Shuler fans trek to the Crystal Cathedral; for others it is the Vatican.

In our story today, God spoke to Moses from a burning bush instructing him to, “Take off your shoes, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” The thing that made that little patch on the far-side of the desert on the Sinai Peninsula holy was that God was there.

A simple way of understanding what is meant by the term “holy ground” is this: Wherever God makes His presence known is a holy place.

A broader understanding of holy is that any place, anything or anyone set apart for God is holy.

Last Sunday I spoke from Romans 12:1 where the bible says, “Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual act of worship.” When we offer our lives as living sacrifices to God we have set our lives apart, consecrating ourselves to God.

So, what makes a place holy for us?

I. God sometimes shows up at unexpected times and unlikely places.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Exodus 3:1

A. There are places where we expect to experience the presence of God.

In spirituality there are places known as “thin places.” Thin places are places where people are known to experience or feel the mysterious presence and power of God. In the Old Testament diagram of the Tabernacle Moses built in the wilderness, there was an outer courtyard which led to a tented place called the Holy Place which led to yet another area called the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was a place designated as the dwelling place of God. The Holy of Holies could only be entered once a year by the High Priest with an offering for the sins of himself and the people. The Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were separated by a veil or a curtain. Hebrews 9:1-9

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