Lent in the Ordinary: Shoes

The Sunday Sermon: March 14, 2021 – Fourth Sunday in Lent

Scripture: Exodus 3:1-6a

Lent in the Ordinary:  Shoes

Lent this year is in plain sight. 

Do we have the eyes to see God’s near presence?  Yes, we do.  We have found the presence of God thus far in “bread,” in the crosses that adorn our walls, bookshelves, or bodies.  And in the coins with which we fill our pockets. 

Do we have the ears to hear the word of the Lord spoken in and through the ordinary?  Yes, we do.  We have listened now for three Sunday to sermon messages, Sunday school lessons, and prayers that seek to consider the extraordinary presence of the holy in ordinary objects all around us..

Will we open ourselves to the holy not only in heaven but also on earth and right in front of us?  Yes we will.  That reply remans in the future tense because even as we have opened ourselves already, there is more ahead.

Can everyday objects remind us to stay awake and pay attention?  Yes they can, they have.  Everyday bread – literal bread and “bread” understood as that which is intended to sustain us in the lives we’ve created for ourselves and for others – has our attention now.  The ordinary cross reminds us of the extraordinary Love that is a part of every encounter we have with it now.  And any and every coin we see from now until Easter (and beyond it) is reminding us to pay attention to how and why we, like Judas, betray what is priceless in our lives for anything less than the wholeness and promise that is full life and everlasting Love.

Lent is in plain sight and we have more ordinary objects to help us answer our Lenten questions.  Pray with me …

This morning we add to ordinary, everyday bread, cross, and coins … shoes.  Our ordinary object this week is shoes.  Now, there may be a few of us who have more shoes in our closets than coins in our pockets, but we’re not going to go there this year.  No, instead of a message that is critical of the amount of shoes in our closet, listen to one that concerns the shoes on your feet. 

Listen for the Word of God.  Read Exodus 3:1-6a, 15b.  The Word of the Lord.  Thanks be to God.

Moses was keeping watch over his father-in-law’s sheep.  An ordinary day in which he was doing the same old thing he always did, turned into an absolutely new experience for him.  He didn’t expect anything like what happened to happen as he wandered off from his father-in-law’s flock to climb a mountain.  He just wanted to have some fun, or (to make his wandering more respectable) he wanted to get a better view of the flock.  I mean, if he wanted to encounter the Most High God, he would’ve gotten himself to a place designated for worship, set aside for ritual, and marked as special.  He just wanted a better view.

God, however – the divine, the Holy, the Sacred at work in the world – refuses to be bound in by our expectation.  It speaks from the clouds and the ground – through our daily bread, the cross, and our earthly coins – admonishing us to pay attention.  Our role is to respond, to recognize the Holy when we experience it, to listen, and to follow instructions.  To do that we must slow down.  So this morning, we .. do … slow down.

And to occurs to me that we slow down, we never move as fast, with our shoes off.  So … take off your shoes now.  I’m serious.  I’m (almost) certain I wouldn’t ask you to do this if we were all gathered in this sanctuary, but we’re not this morning, so I am asking.  Please … take off your shoes or your slippers.  (You, too, Matt!).

Do you feel it?  You’re not nearly as comfortable as you were a moment ago.  If you’re sitting with someone else, even someone you’ve known for forty or fifty years, you’re more self-conscious now.  Go on, acknowledge it … acknowledge them.  We’re all more vulnerable now.  More …. open.  This is the first “step” to the foot-washing that we all dread, I suppose.  The foot-washing that Jesus will require of us on Maundy Thursday.  We’re more … open right now.

This is the first thing that God asked Moses to do when he stopped walking.  “Remove the sandals from your feet.”  Why?  Because “the place on which you are standing in holy ground.”  Feel that now.  Bare or stocking footed, feel the place your feet are touching.  Look at them … (come on, look down or over at them) … the shoes or slippers just beside you, now.  Notice them, pick them up if you want to.  All it took was a quick toe to heel push for you to feel totally different.  More vulnerable … open to something you weren’t before.

When Moses removed his sandals and opened his life to what was happening around and within him, he embraced a new identity.  God, the mysterious “I am”, became known in new ways.  And a new destiny awaited a whole tribe of people. 

With your feet planted on the floor now, with no shoes in the way, ask yourself:  What old ways of being are we being asked to let go of?  What current ways of being are we being asked to let go of?  What new ways of being are we being asked to claim?

There couldn’t be a more Lenten set of questions asked of us.  And they came not from some deep theological doctrine I’ve preached, or some profound scriptural exegesis I’ve offered, or some life experience I’ve related.  They came from taking off our shoes, our ordinary, everyday, shoes.

How many times have you read or heard this scripture passage and wondered why God doesn’t speak to you by blazing but not consuming a bush right in front of you.  I mean, we’d get it then, wouldn’t we?  Where are our burning bushes?!

Well, perhaps they’re right under our feet.  Maybe all we need to do, once in a while at least, is to take off our shoes without going to sleep.  Do that as often as you possibly can this week.  I know it’s not as comfortable.  Neither is letting go of the old and taking hold of the new.  So try it this week. 

And then … and, this is the really cool thing about shoes … when you’ve answered a question or two about where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re supposed to go, but them back on.  Go on and do that now, if you’d like.  Slip them back on, tie them up if you want.  After you’ve considered something new, you’re ready to go once again, to the place, the people, the life to which God is leading you. 

“Fasten your belt and put on your sandals, (now)” says the angel in the Book of Acts.

“As shoes on your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace, (now)” says Paul in Ephesians.

“The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, sends you,” says I AM.

Shoes … Who would have thought it was right under our feet all the time.  Let us pray …

God of shepherds and sheep, God of Moses and me, you speak to us through unconsumed burning bushes and through unassuming ordinary things.  Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.  Show us when to speak and when to be silent.   Tell us when to take off our shoes so we may re-discover the sacred in our world.  And tell us when to put them back on so we may share it.  Amen.

And amen.

Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor

Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / March 14, 2021