A reflection on Exodus 32:1-14, the Hebrew Bible lesson for Proper 23a, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
Their feet were still covered with the mud from the Red Sea’s floor. Their nights were still aglow with the brightness of the pillar of fire. Their hands were still covered with the callouses born from brick making.
They had just tasted the sweetness of freedom, won by the hand of God Almighty.
But, Moses and God were taking too long on the mountaintop. What in the world were they doing up there that could possibly keep them this long?
We’ve all been there. We’ve sat in a terminal waiting for a plane that was supposed to have arrived an hour ago, and which would still need to be cleaned before we could begin embarking. We’ve sat in a long line of endless cars, going nowhere, wondering what in the world is going on “up there.” We’ve waited for technicians to arrive for a scheduled installation, well beyond what any human being would call a “normal,” acceptable, delay.
And, if we’re with other people, group-think gets going. Which pretty soon turns into group-rage. Words are exchanged. People want to talk to managers. Sternly worded letters are going to be written, I promise you that! We get out of the car, and crane our necks as far as we can to see if we can get a glimpse at whatever in the world is going on.
But, does it ever cross your mind to fashion an idol, and fall down to worship it? Me, I’ve never been tempted to do that. Maybe I’m weird.
Here’s what this little episode shows, though: Pharaoh wasn’t the only problem.
One could be excused for thinking that once Israel escaped the evil clutches of an economic and social system that was brutally built upon their backs, that everything would be just fine. That would be the case if Pharaoh was the main issue. But, he wasn’t.
It’s so easy to point the finger towards “the man” and say that it’s “his” fault. It’s easy to always look towards flagrant abuses of power and acts of injustice and decry them as the great evil that’s going to bring us all down.
It’s easy to decry our society as losing its religion. It’s easy to point at Sunday morning soccer, creeping secularism, and see wars on Christianity at every turn.
It’s harder though to look in the mirror and see our own issues. It’s harder, and a lot less fun, to do real self-examination.
Where do I need to grow? Where do I need to change? What do I need to let go of, or take on?
What Sea is God Almighty asking me to ford? And, how patient does God need me to be? Because maybe sitting at the bottom of a mountain for a few days is just what I need.