Hands down and without a doubt, Aaron’s answer to Moses’ (and I paraphrase here) question, “What the Sam Hill is going on here with that golden calf?” has to be the greatest answer since “The dog ate my homework”:
(Again, I paraphrase, as well as giving a nod to Billy Crystal…)
“Well, uh…you know…um…well, you know how these people are. You can’t turn your backs on ‘em or they’re back to doing evil…and, well, you know, they came to me. They said, “Where’s your Moses now? We don’t even know if he’s dead or alive, and we need some gods.” So, uh…well…I got them to give me their gold jewelry and I tossed it all in the fire, and…and…I dunno…OUT CAME THIS CALF! I dunno what happened. I mean, you know, POOF! A calf!”
We’ve all seen some version of Aaron’s response, whether it’s the three year old trying to get out of the de facto evidence of crayon drawings on the wall, or the person having an affair getting caught in the act–the big shrug, the wide-eyed looking around and to the sky, and the hands palms up…
“Honestly, I dunno what happened!”
(See also the corollary phrases, “I dunno…it just happened!” and “I dunno, nobody was here when it happened!”)
But here’s the dirty little secret…This reading would be downright comical except for the fact not only have we all seen it, we’ve all done it at one point or another in our lives. None of us are immune to the old device of feigning innocence via selective amnesia, and as convoluted and disturbing as this reading gets, what remains true in the end is…well…it’s a mess, but it is what it is, and we need to figure out where to go from there.
That’s exactly what God tells Moses to do–keep moving forward. Keep moving to the place God wants us to be. “Yeah, okay, it is what it is. No doubt, there was some sinning going on. Now is not the time to deal with it. It will be dealt with later. Now is the time for you to take the people to the place I told you about.”
Might, at some point in our life, we have some sort of experience of reckoning, in of those episodes of blindnesses to our own 21st century forms of idol worship? You bet we might. Many of us have come head to head with our worship of the idol of achievement…or the idol of busy-ness…or perhaps the idol of ego, and it’s not pretty. We hear the words of that reckoning in one of the forms we use for the confession: “We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf.” Yet, all the same, the Eucharistic table beckons us. We are invited to come forward, keep moving, and head out the door into the world, to find the place where God calls us to be.
When is a time you could no longer hide behind, “I dunno, it just happened!” and where was the place God was ultimately calling you to be, in spite of it?
Image: Worshipping the gold calf. Fresco from Dura Europos synagogue from Wikimedia Commons.