Monday, February 22, 2016
Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42
God said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You’re one hard-headed people. I couldn’t stand being with you for even a moment—I’d destroy you. So take off all your jewelry until I figure out what to do with you.’”
[Exodus 33:5 The Message]
Fame, fortune, power, success, security. All these are human motivations that are driven into us since birth.
But has it ever occurred to you that God calls us to be none of these things?
God calls us to be faithful, to be in relationship with God, to trust in God’s promises. That is a constant struggle for us, especially in this society that glorifies individual achievement and personal success. In our world of either-or, those who fall short of success are perceived as failures.
In order to enter into an understanding of today’s portion of the Scripture reading from Exodus, it is necessary to read the events that led up to God’s harsh criticism of the Israelites.
In the previous chapter  Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. He took so long that the people became impatient and decided to create a God for themselves. They wanted a God who would be present with them, not one who seemed distant or unresponsive. So they took off their jewelry and made an image of a calf out of their gold rings and bracelets. And God was angered to the point of wanting to destroy Israel.
After all God had done for them, chiefly to free them from slavery in Egypt, they quickly forgot and went seeking a visible god, an idol in the image of the golden calf. The good news for the Israelites is that God did not destroy them.
The story of Israel’s relationship with God is a seemingly never-ending succession of episodes similar to this one. That relationship continues between us and God to this day. We long for God’s presence so we sin and create idols for ourselves. Fame, fortune, power, success, security – all become our gods. But they are not God.
This time of Lent invites us to rethink our relationship with God, to focus our calling on living faithfully. Are we confident in the knowledge that God cares for us, that God is always present for us and with us, that God provides for all our needs?
That, I believe, is part of the reasoning behind fasting and giving up things at this time. We “take off all our jewelry,” as our reading puts it, to create a sense of faith and trust in the providence of God.
Despite God’s anger at Israel, God did not destroy them. We, too, have that assurance of God’s forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
[from the Book of Common Prayer]