9/15/2013 sermon: The Lord might change his mind

Location: Church of the Resurrection, Alexandria, VA
Text: Exodus 32:7-14
17 Pentecost, Proper 19, Year C

The Lord might change his mind

Imagine yourself as a parent. You have an 18-year-old daughter, one who is about to go off to college for the first time. She knows she cannot have a car her first year in school. You know the school absolutely forbids first-year students from having cars at school. (I know that this is an antiquated notion, but go with me on this!)

In fact, you’ve already fought about her not having a car at school. And just when you thought the matter was settled, you discover that your spouse—your daughter’s other parent—has bought your daughter a very nice new car to take to school.

Can you imagine how you’d feel? I must admit, I’d be furious. Angry at my daughter, and very, very angry at my spouse.

Maybe you’d “talk” to your spouse. The conversation might go like this:

What in the … WORLD … were you thinking? Go at once to YOUR daughter, the one whom YOU clearly brought into the world all by yourself. She is acting very perversely! In fact, I have heard that she is thanking you all over town for buying her a car I told her not to buy. What is going on here?

Now here’s where my analogy with our Old Testament lesson for today breaks down. Because if you were to continue in the same way that God spoke, in anger, to Moses about the golden calf the Israelites had made, you’d probably be arrested. You would say:

I have seen just how defiant our daughter is on this issue, so I am going to let my wrath burn hot against her—burn her up. You and I will have another child, a more obedient child, to take her place.

You get the idea. God was very angry at the Israelites. They had built a false idol and were worshiping that idol. They had put something, a possession, ahead of God. And they were thanking that possession—that golden calf—for all that God had done for them.

This scripture lesson makes me wonder, are we, the people of Resurrection, like those Israelites? We have set out in great faith on a journey. We don’t know where we are going, exactly. We don’t know how we are going to get there, exactly. Like them, we’ve seen some mighty miracles! AND we know that we are quite a way from the comfort of the home we knew—as untenable as that place was. We might just be wondering why we left that old place in the first place. “Let’s just go back to what we were doing long ago,” you might be thinking, “it worked then; it will surely work now.”

Maybe we have forgotten how bad things were, as slaves in Egypt. We may have forgotten how bleak things looked when we were depressed—few in the pew and less in the plate—only a small song on our lips.

Did we do something wrong, like the Israelites did by worshiping a golden calf? If so, we don’t know WHAT we did wrong. We didn’t do anything wrong, did we? “Look, God,” those first Israelites might have said, “We built you a calf.”

Have we built a golden calf here at Resurrection? Surely not! Let me be very clear: I do not believe so! We love Jesus and let God’s love shine though us in our lives and in our world. Today’s lesson does alert us, though, to the ever-present danger of turning our possessions into false idols.

I read a sermon recently that Jim Green—Resurrection’s first Rector—preached in 1975. The occasion was the ninth anniversary of our first service of corporate worship here in this building. In this sermon Jim confessed his ambivalence about having, about owning, a church building.

IMG_1111On the one hand, he said, “there is the danger that things will come to own you.” On the other hand, he pointed out all the good we were doing here in our community because of having this place to gather and to worship and to be nourished spiritually so that we could do God’s work in the world. In the end, Jim concluded that we just have to pay attention to changing circumstances so that we can continue to be good stewards of what we have been given.

And so, knowing ourselves to be good stewards of all that we have been given, this is where we can begin—like Moses did—to talk sternly to God, and to say:

O Lord, why are you angry with us? Why have you brought us this far only to abandon us here? Have we accomplished your purpose for us? Change your mind!

Has the Lord changed his mind about the disaster he seemed to have planned for us here at Resurrection? We don’t know. The end—our end—has not yet come to pass. Our pray—ers have been praying. Our Re-Vision—ers have been re-visioning. And guess what? They have been given a spark, a tiny hint of a huge, improbable idea. They have been given an idea that won’t go away. And they have been given the beginning of the means to carry out that idea. Perhaps.

Will that idea, that vision, “WORK?” We don’t yet know. The Re-Vision—ers are about the share their spark with us at Forum today. I don’t know what you will think about their spark, or how that spark might catch fire in you.

But I do know this: if we are all “sparked up,” the Lord might change his mind about our future.

This entry was posted in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.