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Twelve Months of Sundays – Year A
Ordinary Time
Proper 23

Exodus 32.1–14
Philippians 4.1–9
Matthew 22.1–14

The party was ready, the guests were on the way, but somehow they got distracted. Today’s gospel fits Exodus 32 like a glove, forming a combined warning.

Readers of Exodus perceive the golden calf incident in black and white. It was a wicked blasphemy. But at the time it must have appeared in shades of grey. The key question is: who brought Israel out of Egypt? Moses, say the people, growing restless while Moses is away getting the instructions for the tabernacle (the physical object, symbolizing both the presence and the untameability of Yahweh, upon which golden earrings were to have been lavished). Treat the leader as God, and you’ll have a vacuum when the leader goes off doing business with God. So Aaron gives another answer: the calf brought them out (imagine Isaiah’s mockery).

God’s reaction is interesting. He scornfully agrees with the people: Your people, he says to Moses, whom you brought out of Egypt. Moses knows that this means trouble, but in his prayer he goes straight to the point: No, he replies to God, they are your people. You brought them out. You were fulfilling promises made long ago and establishing a worldwide reputation. You can’t go back on it...

Taken from Twelve months of Sundays year A by N T Wright

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