Sunday, October 9, 2011

All That Glitters

Exodus 32: 1-14
Golden Calf by Imago Amin
You’ve probably heard the saying in some form or another, “all that glitters is not gold”.  I remember taking a trip out west with my parents as a little girl and we went panning for gold in the California hills.  Of course it was all rigged and we really weren’t panning for gold we were panning for pyrite, fool’s gold.  I was pretty disappointed when I found out I wasn’t ‘rich’.  But it sure was glittery and pretty.  I wanted so much to be rich but was fooled by the shiny brite.  All that glitters is not gold.

Today’s scripture is about something that glittered and was made out of gold but was not worth its ‘weight’ in gold in God’s eyes.  Today’s scripture is also about patience or the lack there of on the part of the Israelites who by now had been without Moses for forty days and nights as he was consulting with Yahweh, God on the mountaintop out of view and receiving the Lord’s law.  Hear now from the 32nd Chapter of Exodus the story of the golden calf…..

After the people saw that Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, they went to Aaron and said, "Make us an image of a god who will lead and protect us. Moses brought us out of Egypt, but nobody knows what has happened to him."

 Aaron told them, "Bring me the gold earrings that your wives and sons and daughters are wearing." Everybody took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, then he melted them and made an idol in the shape of a young bull.
   
All the people said to one another, "This is the god who brought us out of Egypt!"   
When Aaron saw what was happening, he built an altar in front of the idol and said, "Tomorrow we will celebrate in honor of the LORD." The people got up early the next morning and killed some animals to be used for sacrifices and others to be eaten. Then everyone ate and drank so much that they began to carry on like wild people.
The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Marc Chagall
You see at this point, chaos reigns supreme.  Their leader Moses took way too much time talking with the Lord and the people just plain old got tired of waiting.  They thought they had no God to worship, no leader to follow.  Aaron should have known better but he didn’t, in Moses’ absence he took the reigns and tried to placate the people.  But God caught notice of the anarchism, we continue…..

The LORD said to Moses:
Hurry back down! Those people you led out of Egypt are acting like fools. They have already stopped obeying me and have made themselves an idol in the shape of a young bull. They have bowed down to it, offered sacrifices, and said that it is the god who brought them out of Egypt. Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, and I'm angry enough to destroy them, so don't try to stop me. But I will make your descendants into a great nation.
   
Moses tried to get the LORD God to change his mind:
Our LORD, you used your mighty power to bring these people out of Egypt. Now don't become angry and destroy them. If you do, the Egyptians will say that you brought your people out here into the mountains just to get rid of them. Please don't be angry with your people. Don't destroy them!

Remember the solemn promise you made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You promised that someday they would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky and that you would give them land.
   
So even though the LORD had threatened to destroy the people, he changed his mind and let them live. Amen!

Moses had some power of persuasion with God and it worked.  It was not the first time that the Israelites showed their impatience or mistrust of Moses’ decisions.  Remember when they were quickly pulling out of Egypt and the army was in hot pursuit of them? They wished they were back in Egypt because they couldn’t get across the Red Sea quick enough.

And then, in the wilderness, their incessant complaining?  They were impatient because they couldn’t get the good cucumbers that they were used to in Egypt, all they received was manna.  And then they thought they would dehydrate but eventually got some water from a rock.  They just couldn’t get their needs met fast enough.

Now, they grew tired of waiting on Moses and his promises once again.  For too long he has been on Mount Sinai.  Long enough for the sun to set forty days and the moon to rise forty nights.  Their impatience grew to abnormal proportions until full anarchy ensued.  The virtue of patience goes right out of the tent flap windows.
 Moses Indignant at the Golden Calf by William Blake
We, as a culture, are not to far off from the Israelites, are we now?  We can relate.  Have you ever gotten impatient waiting for your Internet service to boot up?  That is me all over!  Or there’s a line at the Jiffy Lube instant oil change which makes your getting oil a two hour ordeal.  Or you send an important email but don’t get a response until a day later.  In this day of instant oatmeal and instant coffee this little spiritual nugget called patience has taken its leave. 

When God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers quick enough, when God seems up absent up in clouds on top of some mountain far removed from our reality we become disenchanted with the one who is supposed to answer all prayers.  So we lose our patience.  And we build our golden calves. 

The calves of technological conveniences, of overeating and drinking, of bigger and better, of cheap thrills - our idols take curious shapes and sizes and all of us are tempted by them.  They give us satisfaction and gratification, maybe even a false sense of security but they don’t give us what only God can give us and that is grace, joy and peace.  It’s just sometimes we have to wait.  And that’s ok.

There is a reason for this time of waiting.  As Rick Morley, an Episcopal priest says, ‘waiting raises faith to a profound trust that God is working and moving when things seem to be going no where[ii]’. 

Trust is what we need in the deepest, darkest valley – and light will come – be patient.

Trust is what you need when loneliness overcomes you – you are never alone – be patient.

Trust is what you need when you world has come to a screeching halt – the wheels will start turning again – be patient.

God is not silent, or absent, you are not in the dark, or alone, or at a stand still in your life.  God is working on it.  Trust in God’s extraordinary composition for your life.

Idols cannot get things moving again, only God can do that, and will do that.
All that glitters is definitely not gold, but all that is needed is accomplished in the one who created the gold.


Amen.

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