by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The readings for Sunday, October 7, 2012:
optional reading: Luke 23:34
As we begin the reading for this week, surely some of us shake our heads. What is up with these Israelites? What is Aaron thinking? Are they so quick to forget the God who rescued them?
We might see the creation of the golden calf with different eyes, if we think of it as an incident in a long line of incidents where humans want a god that they can control. We're quick to think that we would not behave this way, but I would point out the popularity like the recent book The Prayer of Jabez, a book which tells us that if we say a certain prayer, that God will behave a certain way, and we'll benefit materially.
Humans are control freaks, and from a psychological standpoint, we understand why humans want to control this world which seems to be so chaotic. From a psychological standpoint, we understand why we want a god that we can fully experience with all our senses. A golden calf makes sense if you want to keep track of your god.
Again and again, our Bible stories remind us that we worship a God that we can't contain. And again and again, we're reminded that we don't really want a contained God. Our God has a greater vision for us than any that we can dream on our own.
We also see that humans get into trouble when they insist on their timeline. God's salvation has its own trajectory. We're invited to be part of that trajectory, but we're not in ultimate control. When we insist on our own agenda and try to bend God to our agendas, we open the door to all sorts of trouble.
We also see in this story that we worship a God who engages with humanity in a variety of ways. We see God in disappointment calling humans "a stiff-necked people" (verse 9). We see God's first impulse as destructive.
This vision of God as Judge, a displeased judge, might disturb us. It's likely not our favorite aspect of God. But maybe the vision of God as angry judge should disturb us less than the many examples we have of people who followed their own plan and got into more trouble than they would have if they had made better choices. Our own free will provides enough punishment. We don't need God to smite us. The outcomes of bad decisions are crushing enough.
We should take comfort from the central message of second chances and forgiveness. Here Moses acts as intercessor. We see a God who will listen. Moses talks back to God, and lives to tell the tale. Not only that, Moses changes the mind of God. Moses reminds God of the covenant, and later, he will do the same with the Israelites and Aaron.
Again and again we're called back to God's covenant. Again and again, we're reminded that we're put on the planet for a greater vision than our own. Again and again, God forgives us and continues to mold us into the people that God wants us to be.