Monday, April 30, 2012

God vs. The Golden Calf

Monday, April 30, 2012 -- Week of 4 Easter
Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Editor and Prophetic Witness, 1879

Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 961)
Psalms  41, 52 (morning)        //        44 (evening)
Exodus 32:1-20
Colossians 3:18 - 4:6(7-18)
Matthew 5:1-10

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Power and control; greed and gluttony; money and sex.  How powerfully these drive us.  These are our "golden calves." 

It might be interesting to take these emotional drives and take note of how many times they are stimulated today.  Notice the commercials and ads on TV, billboard, radio or online; in newspapers or magazines.  How many appeal to our needs for power and control, greed and gluttony, money and sex?  Monitor your own inner stimuli and motivation.  How often do you have emotional reactions that are triggered by the desire for power and control, greed and gluttony, money and sex?

Today in our Exodus epic, there is a vacuum of healthy leadership.  Moses has disappeared on the mountain.  There he is talking with God.  This is the God who brought the people freedom from the oppression they had suffered at the hands of the Egyptian culture which was a culture driven by power and control, greed and gluttony, money and sex.  God rescued them.  But now they find themselves in a desert wilderness feeling vulnerable and powerless, living simply and dependently, learning the new rules of communal living -- compassionate, mutual regard.  The old ways and old days haunt them. 

The golden calf was a powerful symbol.  Archeologists have uncovered idols and statues of bulls from many ancient cultures.  The idol represented the needs of the people: power, wealth, and sex.  The bull is powerful.  Large and strong, with dangerous horns, a fighting bull is ferocious and deadly.  We want a god who is powerful enough to fulfill our needs.  Male bulls with large sexual organs are an image of sexual prowess.  The gold statue mirrored the people's desire for wealth and prosperity.  Rituals of bull worship also included the sacrifice of great animals, with the burning of the inedible parts as a gift to the gods and the eating of the steaks as the core of a great feast and banquet.  In a culture that rarely ate meat, such festivals were a great attraction.  With abundant food and drink, suggestive dance and music, sexual urges and tensions could be released, sometimes with the aid of religious prostitutes.

This was Moses' competition:  the revelry of a celebration of power, gluttony and sex.  The golden calf is still God's competition.  Politics, economics and personal status are all driven by power, gluttony and sex. 

Most of us become addicted, in one form or another, to power, gluttony and sex; to control, greed, and money.  The symbols of their possession are the symbols of status in our culture.

God's invitation to real life is not as flashy.  Moses found that the Ten Commandments were a hard sell.  The Beatitudes of Jesus which we read today aren't as hot and sexy as the lure of the bull.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, ...those who mourn, ...the meek, ...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, ...the merciful, ...the pure in heart, ...the peacemakers, ...those who are persecuted for righteousness sake."  On the elementary school playground and in many corporate settings, these aren't the qualities that get reward and respect. 

In our culture, most people try the path of power and control, greed and gluttony, money and sex first.  Only when it leaves us hurt and unfulfilled do we tend to turn to the alternatives.  Three thousand years later, and its still God vs. the golden calf.  


Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to:

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Power and control, greed and gluttony, money and sex . . drive us". lol, sounding a bit like a Calvinist there Lowell. And these are the people you want to give MORE power to in D.C.? Because they have done such a great job so far? lol

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Ah, howdy Greg.
Yep. We are all driven by these things -- power and control, greed and gluttony, money and sex -- including those free-market capitalists who have done such a good job driving us into depression and concentrating wealth and power in the hands of just a few, whom you would like to leave alone to continue their plunder.


At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean like Obama? and Bush? and Frank and Dodd? Sorry Lowell. Free market means FREE, not manipulated by the powerful to benefit GE, GM unions, and lets not forget the to big to fail banks that have gotten BIGGER under Obama.
You keep saying to leave them alone? as if they have been. Wrong, they have been given plenty of freebee's by both parties in the form of tax breaks. Tax codes that are allegedly to help the poor, yeah right, as if the poor and middle class can afford a whole division of lawyer to lobby for tax codes that only the tax lawyers can figure out.
Sorry Lowell but you can't even claim this is a free market or even has been for decades. And both parties are guilty. In fact, Obama had the perfect chance to fix the tax code, why didn't he during his first 2 year?


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