We are never in more danger of getting things wrong than when we are certain we have them right. The saints of the ages warn us against seeking certainty in our faith and remind us that even the people of God can be wrong. Each reading this week offers an example of our ability to be wrong, along with related insights regarding how we might avoid the problem.
We begin with the people of God in the wilderness. When Moses does not return from Mount Sinai when they expect him, they turn to Aaron. Strangely enough, he asks the people to take off their golden earrings and give them to him. He then melts the gold and refashions it into a golden calf. When the people see the calf they declare, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” At first glance, their exclamation seems blatantly false, almost unbelievable. But then they turn the occasion into a hedonistic display.
The Israelites get it wrong when Moses and God do not meet their expectations. They are not the last ones to do so. All the way up to the present day, we are tempted to turn to new leaders who will make us “golden calves” when our accustomed ones do not say and do what we expect. There are always leaders and golden calves to substitute for the real thing. We get it wrong when we live by a “my way or the highway” view of life.
O God, help me to understand what to expect of you so that your will takes center stage. Amen.
The texts this week remind us of how quickly we can turn away from God. Even while Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments—the first of which is not to worship any other gods—the people fashion an idol and begin to worship it. The psalmist refers to this story as evidence of how often the Israelites have gone astray, and yet God repeatedly has restored them. The parable in Matthew speaks of many who are invited to a banquet, yet they reject the invitation of the king. It is often read as a warning about turning our backs on God’s gracious invitation. Paul encourages the Philippians to seek God with confidence in difficult situations and to focus their thoughts in ways that lead them closer to God.
Read Exodus 32:1-14. When have you or your faith community gotten it wrong? When have you interceded with God on others’ behalf?
Read Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23. How has forgetting that you can be wrong hurt you or your faith community? How has admitting that you were wrong strengthened you or your faith community?
Read Philippians 4:1-9. What issue or conflict has divided your faith community? How might Paul’s urging to “be of the same mind in the Lord” help you work toward peace?
Read Matthew 22:1-14. What work might you need to do to open your heart so you can resolve a conflict?
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