all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’
The people came to Aaron in the fear and demanded ‘gods.’ Aaron gave in, sort of. It is interesting that Aaron forms the golden calf, the people call it their gods and Aaron proclaims a festival to YHWH. It isn’t that Aaron has given up on YHWH even if the people have. Aaron is trying to make the people happy and they want present, easily manipulated gods. But Aaron knows that this statue is just a statue (as do the people when you think of it) and not wanting to completely offend God, proclaims a feast for the Lord. Which leads to a troubling question to ponder. Does invoking the name of God somehow ‘baptize’ choices, decisions and behaviors that are clearly outside of the covenant expectations that God has revealed? Does God-talk make up for behaviors that are outside of God’s clear ethical instruction?Clearly the answer in this story is no. Despite Aaron’s attempt to cover up the people’s rejection of God for an image of God that made them more comfortable, God is still angered.
To make this a bit more real and challenging; it is not the presence of the word God on our money that pleases God, but instead how we use our money. Are we generous with the poor? Do we forgive debts? Do we engage in systems that allow poverty to exist? When we are generous, do forgive debts and do our best to participate in trade that is just and fair for all, then God is pleased. The same challenge could be made for the church itself. The Church is continuous created by God to be a witness to the world of God’s Kingdom. We are called to live lives of justice and peace, and to attract others to this way of living. Which begs the question, if God’s justice and peace along with evangelization is not a regular part of the mission of the local church, will God be pleased? Will hymns and prayers make up for the lack of actual discipleship? What do you think?