I was in elementary school when my family moved to the north side of Atlanta and joined a new United Methodist church start. My mother was constantly at the church, and I never balked about going with her. At the back of the property was a standard Little League field. I played ball on Saturday and went to church on Sunday—where I would reconstruct every play in conversations with anyone in my path. The exuberance of both weekend habits intertwined for me.
I will never forget being 11 years old and playing in the championship game. It was the bottom of the third inning and the score was 0–0. With a runner on second base, I came up to bat.
As I was walking from the dugout to home plate, my grandfather boomed, “If you hit a home run, I’ll give you five dollars.”
The pitcher was the best in the league. I took the first pitch, but the second one was right down the middle. I swung as hard as I could. Thwack! It only cleared the fence by a couple of inches, but it was home run. That night, as I touched home plate, it became holy ground.
Like every kid who hits a home run in Little League, I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Somehow the scouts never called me.
David, shepherd become king of all Israel and Judah, dreamed of the big leagues. Once he was settled in as king, he looked around and said, “I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent” (2 Samuel 9:2). David wanted to build a temple, a holy place. The ark of the covenant—God’s own holy presence—would reside there.
But God had other plans. God’s response was that God did not need a building to be present among the people. God had always been present, manifesting glory. In the end, it was David’s son Solomon who built the temple, and the ark was kept in the Holy of Holies. In the centuries of Israel’s history, the temple was destroyed and rebuilt; the ark of the covenant was lost and regained. In 70 AD, the temple was destroyed a final time and the ark permanently lost.
So if God lived in the Holy of Holies and the temple was destroyed, where does God live?
To this day, orthodox Jews believe that the Shekinah, the glory of God come to dwell among humans, never left the temple mount. They pray at the Western Wall, all that remains of the temple, because they believe God is still there. It is still holy ground, and not just to the Jews but to Muslims and Christians as well. In the United States we build churches at an astounding rate. Some of them are modern cathedrals holding thousands of seats, only without the work of Michelangelo to adorn them.
Our churches, our homes, our work places, even our Little League fields can all be holy ground. David gives us this lesson. What makes a place holy or an event sacred is the movement of God in what transpires.
Are we on holy ground?
This is the question for our churches and for individual Christians living faithful lives of love and joy that take them closer to God. We know we stand on holy ground when we seek God there, live out our faith there, respond to our calling there, and expect and welcome God’s presence. Not everything will be a home run, but God is present and shows healing glory in our lives.