Idols are so convenient.  Manageable.  Tidy.  When it’s time to move, you just pack them up and move them along.  Otherwise, they stay in one place.  Not like God, who is elusively on the move.  Or Moses, who disappears for long periods of time, supposedly to talk to God.  Maybe he’s really on vacation, taking a break from their complaints. Who knows?

As people who are weary of the worldwide COVID pandemic, we can understand the fatigue of the people of Israel.  Exhausted people, fearful about the future, take a shortcut to guarantee themselves some certainty.  We get that. The people of Israel, stuck in limbo in their desert journey, evoke our own angry, frightened state, as the COVID epidemic continue to leave us all stuck, too. The end of this painful journey is unclear, and we’re grasping for things to hold onto to give ourselves hope. 

Read the scripture here.

Read the Working Preacher commentary.

The people of Israel, in this story, are experiencing so much of what we are right now.  In their case, with Moses gone, they start to wonder: if they can’t see evidence of God, does God really exist?  They’re accustomed to life in Egypt, where statues of different gods are everywhere.  Now they don’t even have Moses, who talks to God on their behalf. 

Our story right now is similar. 

Many of us are fearful.  Or restless.  Or isolated.  No one seems to have a clear answer about when it’s safe to go to work…travel on an airplane…sit indoors in a restaurant.  What will keep us safe?  Who will keep us safe? 

The people of Israel are wondering the same thing.  A golden calf seems like the perfect object for worship – visible, not likely to wander off, permanent and eternally the same. 

Sermon possibilities:

We all have the potential to turn aside to one kind of golden calf of another.  What golden calf is most alluring to you right now?  Where are we fixing our attention in the wrong places?  The sermon might look at the idols we are tempted to construct in our own lives, as a distraction, or a shortcut, or for some mental relief.

Or the sermon might explore our cultural idols.  In the US, we are having a long-delayed reckoning with the idol of white supremacy, and some here would rather hold onto it than change.  We don’t quite know who we will be when we succeed in dismantling this idol, and we are about the work of trying to let it go. We are tasting its bitterness deeply.

Or, the sermon might look at how Moses has the ability to stay in the presence of God.  Moses has the spiritual skills, after all these years interacting with God, of meeting anxiety face to face, and knowing that the living God is bigger and better than whatever substitute we’re looking at. 

Or, the sermon might look at the relationship between Moses and God, revealed in this dialogue where Moses convinces God to change the divine mind. 

Where are your thoughts taking you this Sunday?  We would love to hear, and to continue the conversation, in the comments section below. 

Mary Austin is the Senior Pastor of Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church, where the members come from over 30 countries.  She’s trying to fit in as much outdoor fun as possible before the cold weather comes. 

RevGalBlogPals encourages you to share our blog posts via email or social media. We do not grant permission to cut-and-paste prayers and articles without a link back. For permission to use material in paper publications, please email revgalblogpals at gmail dot com. Image above via Pexels by Karolina Grabowska.

2 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Nice Suitable Idols (Exodus 32:1-14)

  1. Good Friday to you!
    I’m pretty much nowhere so far with my sermon, but I wanted to say that I love the thought of pondering what it takes to have the spiritual *skills* of Moses to stay in the presence of God. I think so often in terms of spiritual *gifts* and think that “my” people do, too. Maybe we haven’t talked enough in our context about it being a skill set as well as unbidden gifts. What would it take for us to develop those skills? Hmmm …


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