Rabbi Lawerence Kushner wrote a book called, “God was in this Place and I, I did not know.” The title is drawn from the story of Jacob found in Genesis 28. Jacob is running from his brother Esau after stealing the family birth rite from him and comes to a place to rest.
The Text says that Jacob came to a “certain place.” This was not a specially marked place or a place of special significance; it was just a place on Jacob’s journey. It was like just like all the other “places” Jacob past to get here and like all the other “places” Jacob would pass in the future.
It was at this place that Jacob woke up the reality that God was present in this very common place. The worldview at the time was the gods rested in temples, high mountains and altars. Through Jacob’s dream, he realized that his God was present in this “certain place.” He woke up the reality that if God was present in this place, perhaps God was also present in other places and he was just not aware of it.
In Exodus 3 we find the story of Moses encountering the burning bush as he shepherds his sheep. This story has often been presented as the miracle of the burning bush but the fact that a bush was burning was not what got Moses attention. Had he seen other burning bushes? Was a burning bush considered something common? What got Moses’ attention was the fact that the bush was not being consumed.
Could the burning bush experience have been a test for Moses? For wood to be consumed, even dry wood, it takes awhile. Moses would have had to stare at the bush for some time to realize it was not being consumed. Instead of being a miracle, perhaps God was testing Moses to see if he had the attention span to notice something special in the common.
Later on in the story of Moses, when we find him about to journey to the top of Mt. Sinai, we find an interesting verse that carries this same theme. In Exodus 24 we find God saying to Moses, “Come up to me into the mount, and be there” (v. 12, ASV). And be there? If Moses climbed the mountain to be with God, wouldn’t he be there? Many people exert a tremendous amount of energy to climb “mountains” but once on top they simply are not there. God was telling Moses to be wholly present.
Much of life is spent in what is considered “the common.” We take these moments for granted but the truth is the sacred is found in the common. God is at work in every moment, every relationship, every person, and every interaction (John 5 v.17). As we continue to live in this time of resurrection, we must live in such a way we are aware of God’s presence all around us and not take for granted the common. We must be concerned with how what we do affects God and how what God does affects us.”