Exodus 32: 7-14
Reading for the 17th Sunday After Pentecost, Year C
Fundamentalists insist on a God of their predicting.
Fanatics, it is said, do what God would do if God had all the facts.
Atheists contend so much with the small god of small minded people that, eventually, they are incapable of considering any other.
These and many others think they think what God is thinking.
None of these have yet understood the freedom of God and the way God has bound God’s self to us.
The little story in Exodus 32 tells us two shocking things about God. First, God’s thinking changes. Second, it is changed by the compassion of a single human being.
The Hebrews have followed Moses and the Lord into freedom. But they have to make it through a wilderness to get to the promised land. How inconvenient. So they turn from thankfully and humbly following this God and make for themselves a golden calf idol. The Lord then burns in righteous wrath saying, “Step aside so that I may let my fierce anger consume these people. Do this and I’ll make you a great nation.”
But Moses’ compassionate heart would not let him thirst for greatness at so great a cost. He calls on the Lord to have a change of mind and change of purpose–to remember the covenant he has made with the Hebrews and forgive their sin.
The Lord then does, in fact, change course and forgives.
The God of the Bible, then, is not bound by our reasoned sense of consistency. This God changes to stay the same, covenanted God. This covenant and this picture of God is so radical that it involves a partnership in creative and redemptive activity.
God forgives because of Moses. God hears the cries of Moses and of the people.
God is fully involved in our reality, and change is at the heart of our reality. Time changes things. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, wives and husbands are constantly changing. Believers and unbelievers are ever changing. If parents are to love their children today, tomorrow and forever, they must change the way they think and show that love. A faithful, committed God changes.
When we are psychically battered we want fairness. We want consistency and predictability. We want God to be solid ground.
That God has created, redeemed and lives and acts fully within this dynamic world troubles us until we begin to understand the vastness of it all. Then we are overwhelmed–awestruck. Then we are set free to love the freedom of God and the power of the conversation between us.
In 1520 Martin Luther wrote the following:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
The Christian is free to bind her- or himself to others in love. The startling, radical freedom and range of God’s love has made this possible.