I have been thinking about the incarnational nature of our theology since a visit we made to India in December.
In Delhi we witnessed the remarkable service and outreach work of the Sikh communities, who feed many thousands daily in their temple or Gurdwara, Bangla Sahib. Our family was readily welcomed to assist in the kitchen preparation of these massive meals. Our granddaughter, eight, learned to roll out chapatis while others of us skinned potatoes with a polyglot cast of rich and poor, drop-ins and regulars (one gentleman said he’d come daily for 35 years to help). Because temple grounds are considered holy, all who enter and work do so barefooted, consigning shoes to still other volunteers who return them, cleaned as you leave. These acts made me mindful of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, and God’s direction to “remove your sandals, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex 3:4)
What is it about holy ground that wants the soles of our feet to be in direct contact with it? And, I wonder, are we not invited to treat more of God’s green earth as holy ground? How might I make room in my days for more barefooted experiences, whether of service to others or of encounter and sheer awe?
We enjoyed a second transcendent experience at a Hindu temple in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Guided early on the morning of my birthday to a shrine hosting ancient images of Krishna Govind Dev Ji and his consort, nothing was said about a theology. But the spirit of the sheer joy was palpable and demonstrable as worshippers offered each other physical blessings, sang celebratory songs, and even danced before the shrine. We were deeply moved and delighted to witness and join these celebrations, while our guide quietly withdrew and prostrated himself on that holy ground in prayer.
What a wonder, that God should show God’s face to us in so many forms, that God should call us all to worship and celebrate incarnations of God’s love, whether represented in an ancient blackened visage, in hands shaping chapatis, or in the eloquent emptiness of the cross.
May I show that love today in my own hands, face and feet.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: