Exodus 32: 1-8 (NRSV)
1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” 6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”
It’s not been an easy time, has it?
Worldwide, there can be few remaining unaffected by COVID-19. With government policy again restricting movement, and the threat of massive unemployment in a time of economic downturn, the pandemic continues to bite in ways we could never have imagined early in the spring of 2020.
To draw similarities with the Exodus narrative is futile, but it hadn’t been easy for the Hebrews either: slavery, the plagues, fleeing the Egyptians, the long walk through the wilderness. And now Moses seemed slow to descend Mount Sinai, resulting in bored, impatient, and possibly fearful people awaiting him. Despite being a priest, a prophet, a participant in the wonders intended to impress Pharaoh, and Moses’ official spokesperson, Aaron also appears to have been something of a soft touch. The Hebrew’s request, ‘Come, make gods for us,’ didn’t fall on deaf ears. It was Aaron who cast the image. Aaron, who built the altar and suggested the festival, the dancing, the revelling, while Moses spoke with God (biblical scholars differ in their interpretations of this text, suggesting 32: 4-5 might refer to the Lord [YHWH], thus altering our perceptions of the degree of Aaron’s involvement; the commandment against creation of graven images had not yet been revealed). The golden calf was a substitute for the real thing, a construction, created, not the Creator. Rather, a cheap alternative to distract and amuse while they waited.
We are waiting too. For this scourge of a virus to disappear. For a vaccine that is effective and accessible to all, to work its miracle. Many still talk about ‘returning to normal’, whatever that means, but the double impact of the pandemic and climate crisis surely asks something different of us, especially of those who are leaders in the church and local communities.
Loving God, as we wait to limit COVID -19 through a vaccine or some other means, we would not be distracted from our main purpose. Rather, in prayer and in loving action, teach us to serve you as we serve others. Amen.