Each week Pastor Sarah offers a devotional reflection to connect with the South Shore UMC Family. Use this entry as a way to prepare your heart and mind for worship. See you Sunday!
Sunday's Scripture ~ John 12:12-19.
Devotional Scripture ~ Exodus 32:31-32.
Exodus 32 shares the idolatrous episode of God's people and the golden calf. Moses is up on the mountain with God receiving The Law, and the people are left - anxious and annoyed - in the valley below. They are in unfamiliar territory, unfamiliar terrain. Once - at least - they had what they carried on their backs, but much of those resources are now gone. I think to some degree God's people knew their exodus would be a journey...their journeying quickly became wandering...and now floundering. And their leader? Moses? Their direct connection to God?
Which makes them also feel like God... is... absent...
The people commission Aaron to fashion for themselves a god that they are see - a god that will be physically present with them in this wilderness where Moses and Moses' God brought them - and then they worship that god.
The people's behavior enrages God. God says to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 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!'...I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation" (32:7-10).
Moses returned to the camp in disgust. He reprimands his brother, Aaron. He boldly asks, "Who is on the Lord's side? Come to me!" and the sons of Levi answer the call. They purify themselves, and their purification serves as their ordination - the sign of their of set-apart-ness - to reenter God's service in leading the ritual life for God's people (32:26).
Moses then turns to his fellow kinsfolk to address their sin and to mediate between them and God. Moses will return to the Lord and seek to make atonement for their sin - atonement meaning unity - or the process of reuniting a relationship that has been broken. Moses asks God to forgive the people, and if not, to blot himself, Moses, out of the book of life.
It is curious that Moses asked the camp, "Who is on the Lord's side?" and here it appears that Moses is saying before God "Because I am on your side, I am on their side, too." Not that Moses is approving of the people's idolatrous activity or accepting their idolatrous behavior, but that Moses believes in the redemption of his kinsfolk, so much so that he offers himself to take the eternal punishment for the people's sin.
While the text in Exodus 32 proceeds on immediately, I like to imagine that Moses' sacrificial offering - his offered atonement act - created a pause for God. In the end, God held the people accountable for their behavior. There was restitution as part of their reconciliation with God.
Here though, with Moses, I imagine there was a pause.
And that pause was pregnant with hope. That all with humanity is not lost. That there is a faithful remnant that cares, that desires obedience, and that seeks to live and to lead others in righteousness.
We can be intercessors and mediators with God for our neighbors. The intent is not that we can change God's mind, but rather to affirm for God that we are committed to the work of redemption for all God's creation. Our offerings of self affirm for God that we receive and accept the call to do what God calls us to do, and that we recognize that God will do what God does.
I believe we remind God that we are all pregnant with hope in the pause created by intercessing. That all with humanity is not lost. That though we sin, there is within each of us, a faithful remnant that cares, that desires obedience, and seeks to live and to lead others in righteousness.
This week I am seeking pauses with God on behalf of my neighbors. I invite you to join me, and perhaps, even create a pause for me.
Reflection: Ask God to bring someone to your mind whom you can create 'a pause' for this week. Once you have a name, begin a prayer for them. Explore with God how this prayer on their behalf will lead you physically to their side, in comfort, encouragement, and accountability.
Prayer: "Fix me for my long white robe, fix me, Jesus, fix me. Fix me for my starry crown, fix me, Jesus, fix me. Oh, fix me, oh, fix me, oh, fix me; fix me, Jesus, fix me."* Amen.
*"Fix Me, Jesus," The United Methodist Hymnal 655.
**Devotional Resource: The Weekly Prayer Project by Scarlet Hiltibidal