Worship March 21, 2021
I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Like the stars of heaven, the promise awaits. Come down from the mountain. With grace-filled exaltation, all are welcome here. Come down from the mountain. Lead us in a way where all exclusions become inclusions. Come down from the mountain. We worship today in harmony and praise for the One who has and will come.
Persistent God, even when we are obstinate, you have been faithful and steadfast. We live in a world with tempting gods of power, privilege, status and more. In this season of Lent, as we journey toward the cross of redemption and sacrifice, we pray that you will give us patience for your timing, trust in your goodness and wisdom to guard against false gods. In the strength of your Spirit, keep us faithful in our love for you alone. Amen.
Hymn UMH # 77 How Great Thou Art United Methodist Church of GNJ
Scripture Exodus 32:1-14 (NRSV)
The Golden Calf
32 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold,[a] 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!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” 6 They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 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!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 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.”
11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Meditation The gods We Make
Amazing God, we come before you and long to know you better. Help us to see the ways you call us and live into being the person you have created us to be. Imprint your message of love on our hearts, so that all we do in your name is a witness to your grace. Amen.
Sometimes we allow things in our lives to become more important to us than God, sometimes things become so important to us that they distract us from God, and these things can even come between us and God. These are the gods, spelled with a little g, that can and do replace our God spelled with a capital G.
I am a morning person! When I awake, I am ready the day and I meet it head on. I know some, maybe many of you hate mornings with a vengeance but not me. I like mornings so much I’ve been teased about jumping out of bed into my pants and I’m off and running for the day.
In addition to being a morning person I need eight and a half to nine hours of sleep. I simply do not like how I feel if I get less than eight and a half hours of good sleep.
I rarely set an alarm and never hit snooze. My body starts to naturally wind down about nine and I’m in bed before 10:30. In my former life I was in bed by 9 and at my office by 6:30 – by choice, I didn’t have scheduled hours. I am truly a morning person.
Being a morning person has some challenges. For me I’m married to a night person so there have been challenges to overcome. For example I want all those “serious” couple talks between 8 and 10 am. Rod, my husband, is a night person and he doesn’t even have enough coffee in him until after 10 am and would prefer to have those talks starting about 10pm.
Another challenge for me, the morning person, is I want to get going so fast in the morning I often neglect doing a morning devotion and focus time with God. I tend to focus on my “off and running” ways instead of spending time with God. Once I am off and running, I find numerous things to keep me busy for the day and sometimes into the evening and before I know it, I don’t have any energy left in me and it is time for bed.
I know how very important it is to spend time with God, in fact I believe it is the most important thing in my life. The time I spend with God will prepare me to take on everything that I have going on for the rest of the day, good or bad. It is an intentional time for me to ask God, “what do you have for me to do for you today, Lord?”
Even knowing and believing that spending time with God is the most valuable thing I can do I still wake up and I’m off and running. Why oh why do I allow myself to put other things first and God second in the morning?
At times, we all find ourselves being pulled in many directions. We may not feel God’s presence and we become focused on the things in our daily lives, things we think will fulfil us and deserves all of our attention. This happens to us individually and as communities.
We get pulled in many directions personally and socially. We struggle with pressures in our control and out of our control. But how we manage these pressures is in out control.
Exodus 32 is truly one of the great story chapters in our Bible. The so-called “story of the golden calf” is rich and understandable. The skill of the writer of this material is unmatched in the ancient world. The details of the text offer a wonderful series of human and divine insights, all of which could serve as basis for many sermons.
Today we focus on the Golden Calf.
When the people got anxious that Moses was taking so long up on the mountain where he had gone to meet God, they started looking for other gods (gods with the little g). Hearing the people Aaron tries to take control and demands their gold, that gold given to them by the Egyptians as they marched out of Egypt. This gold is melted and carefully sharpen into a golden calf.
The people take one look at the shiny thing and announce, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt” (Ex. 32:4).
Aaron, perhaps seeing the chaos he has unleashed, tries to save things by proclaiming, “Let there be a festival to the Lord tomorrow! (Ex. 32:5).
Dutifully, the people get up early in the morning and perform the essentials of Hebrew worship, offering both whole burnt and peace offerings to God. And then in a time-honored way, they eat and drink and scriptures say they then got up to indulge in partying.
The scene shifts to the top of the mountain, and we read that God is furious, demanding Moses to descend the mountain, tell those Israelites that they are foul mouthed and liars, no better than the stiff-necked pharaoh whom God has earlier defeated. And then God says something truly terrifying: “Now let me alone, so that my anger may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you Moses I will make a great nation” (Ex. 32:10). It is now Moses who is promised to be the founder of a great nation, free from the Israelite refugees at last.
One might have expected Moses to say something like, “Whatever you say, boss,” or perhaps he says, “Great idea; I can’t stand these either and you and I can do better than them!” But this is not what he says. He in fact saves them all with some incredible arguments and demands for God. Can you imagine – Moses was arguing with God!
- First, the Egyptians will think you are crazy, bringing Israel out only to kill them at the mountain.
- Second Moses says something like, calm down now, and don’t bring evil on your own people.
- And third Moses says, do not forget that covenant you swore with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to gain an inheritance from you forever (Ex. 32:11-13).
And then an amazing thing happens “God changed the divine mind about the evil planned for the people” (Ex. 32:14).
This story continues in Exodus 32 – 34 but that is for another time.
We have the people frustrated with Moses for being absent on Mount Sinai for so long. Moses had been their God-appointed leader and his absence felt like God’s absence to them. So, they turned to their most prized possessions – golden jewelry — and with that golden jewelry they created an image of a calf.
They said this golden calf was the god (little g god) who had led them out of Egypt. God (with a capital G) responded with burning, all-consuming anger at seeing what the people were doing.
Though we may not like to think of God as angry, God’s reaction to the people’s idolatry demonstrates how God cares about them. God is not removed or distant, as they might feel; rather, God is in a living relationship with them. God wants them, and also wants us, to be active partners in this relationship.
Moses pleads with God to demonstrate grace and reminds God of the promises made to the Israelites’ ancestors that they might be a great people. The text says the Lord “changed his mind”.
Even though God is not indifferent to our sins, God always remains true to God’s promises and character. Even when we go so far as to create other gods for ourselves, God is always faithful to us and calls us back in grace. We too can “change our minds.”
Moses mediated between God and the people. We, too, have been sent a mediator, Jesus the Christ, who shows us the character of God in human life. When we stray and find ourselves worshipping gods (with a little g) that seem closer and, in our reach, we can look to Jesus as God’s eternal promise to forgive our sins and call us back to Godself.
So you might ask “just where do we find this mediator, Jesus the Christ. Well his coming is promised in the Old Testament of Scripture and we read about Him and hear His words in the New Testament of scripture.
Consider what you spend most of your time doing, thinking about, and talking about. What is at the
center of your life? I used to be able to say look in checkbook and you will see what is most important to you but today many of us don’t use a checkbook. So now you have to look at what you do, where do you focus most, what do you talk about most and where do you spend most of your time.
My friends’ sin is anything that draws us away from God. So the question is what draws you away from God? What keeps you from making God first in your life?
For me I must, I must slow-down in the morning and put God first with study, prayer and listening for His still small voice. Until I do this, I have not put God first in my day. I acknowledge that my morning routine is my golden calf my idol and now I must do something about it!
Let us not allow the sin of idol worship, whatever that idol is for you, to draw you away from God. Rather, let us embrace God’s grace that causes us to change our minds and our lives.
Is there anything that our churches have become preoccupied with because it seems closer and more tangible than God? Having a perfect building, sticking to a familiar set of worship music, being a “certain kind” of church? Providing a worship experience in a certain way?
Now when we are finally looking ahead to being back in the buildings it might be a good time to think about and look at what might preoccupy us keeping us from really putting God (with a capital G) in first place in all we think, say, and do.
How do we boldly center God in their lives, even when we do not feel God’s presence? How do we become a Moses example for others – a Moses example that is a witness to the character of God, a Moses example who prays on behalf of others, and a Moses example that works to bring people closer to God.
We are called to put God first in all we do and to be examples to all we meet. When we answer that call in our lives you will have given ourselves the greatest gift. The gift of a relationship with our God. Amen
Amazing God, we come before you and long to know you better. Help us to see the ways you call us and live into being the person you have created us to be. Imprint your message of love on our hearts, so that all we do in your name is a witness to your grace.
Holy God, how easily do we forget you! How easily are we distracted from your call. And yet, you turn away from the wrath which is rightfully yours, and you turn your face toward us. We are neither crushed nor destroyed by your heavy hand, but rather we are humble recipients of your mercy. Save us from our stubbornness and open our eyes, that we may turn our faces again and again toward you. And together in the name of Christ, we pray.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
Today we celebrate the ways God is transforming us in our understanding and knowledge. We celebrate the ways God is redefining love in each of us. We celebrate that God is still moving and changing hearts and minds.
Prayer of Dedication
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on us. As we bring these gifts to you today, help us to refocus on you, to be centered in you. Mold and shape us. Remove anything that we have allowed to come between you and us. And may the gifts be a seed sown as we recommit to you and you only today. Amen.
Hymn UMH # 377 It Is well with My Soul United Methodist Church of GNJ
And may God center you in truth and steady your spirit.
May Christ renew your joy and strengthen your will.
And may the Spirit teach you God’s hidden wisdom and fill you with songs of rejoicing.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.
- Next week March 28 both Ogilvie and Mora United Methodist Churches will continue the online worship and will also meet in person. You are encouraged to gather in a manner that meets your needs. All protocols are in place and will be followed according to the MDH and CDC including social distancing and masking.
Online worship is at 10:30 am, Ogilvie in-person worship is at 9am and Mora in- person worship is at 10:30. There is no before or after fellowship gathering at this time.
- Maundy Thursday worship is at 7pm April 1 at the Mora church
- Worship is available Easter morning on-line at 10:30 am and in-person at 9am in Ogilvie and 10:30 am in Mora.
You are encouraged to gather in a manner that meets your needs. All protocols are in place and will be followed according to the MDH and CDC including social distancing and masking.