What makes a place holy? Don’t expect me to answer this question. I am just sharing the question in my mind as I go to a place that billions of people in the world consider a holy place.
A few years ago, Bernie and I went on a tour of the territories of Arizona including Sedona and the reservation of the Havasupai Indians tucked into one corner of the Grand Canyon. Both are considered sacred. To walk upon those lands is supposed to be a sacred experience. I don’t know that my experience was uniquely sacred, but I came away full of questions. If God created the earth and all that is on it, then isn’t each part of it sacred, every territory, every country, each square inch of it? I knew that the Havasupai reservation was considered sacred by the people to the extent that only special ones were permitted onto their land even though it was the only way to come to the floor of the canyon without a riding a mule along perilous cliffs. It was beautiful, for sure, just as the red rocks of Sedona are beautiful. But I am from Minnesota and to my eyes the land of 10,000 lakes is beautiful. My son and his family traverse the trails in the mountains of Colorado. I am sure it is more than the exercise they seek. I can tell by the pictures they post on Facebook that they find the land sacred in some way.
I came home from that trip, I remember, wondering. It is always good to come home to familiar places and routines, at least it is for me. My routine includes a walk on our road to a place beyond the woods where I can watch the sun rise over Minnesota. It is a prayerful time for me. This first morning home I pondered my question about sacredness and thought, “Isn’t this piece of land just as sacred as those we just experienced?” I wondered if my being grateful for the land was enough to make it sacred. Moses took his shoes off when he thought he was stepping onto holy ground. Does that mean that the trail that got him to that place was on ground not sacred in God’s eyes? Perhaps it was his spiritual awakening in that moment that made the place of the burning bush sacred to him. And perhaps it became a sacred place to the Hebrews in the years to come because Moses was sacred to them. Perhaps it was the spiritual experience of an honored person or people that made Sedona and the reservation sacred. Perhaps, too, this little five acre plot in middle Minnesota will be considered sacred one day by someone.
I can say this…the plot is sacred for me. I found God here. It doesn’t make sesne to me that any God is so selective that he would deprive anyone of presence just because he or she is standing in the wrong place.
Next Sunday I board a plane to Israel. While some cultures find other places more sacred than this, my roots are so grounded in Christianity that I can’t even name what these others are. My daughter pointed out to me the wonder of touching a wall that Jesus might have touched or walk upon a mountain that he may have climbed to pray. Funny, I hadn’t thought of that before. I plan to take pages and pages of notes (see my blog from yesterday). I will figure out what they mean after the fact no doubt.
I don’t know if I will find the answer to my question on this journey. I am not particularly dissatisfied with the answer I have come up with so far. But the important questions are never fully answered, are they?