Day 20

Thursday, March 11
Exodus 32

For Christmas, my 4 year old son got a pair of Mario and Luigi remote control cars. He. Loves. Them. Whenever they come out of storage, there is low-level chaos in the house. The small cars are ramming into doors and baseboards. He lines them up so they can ramp off steps to a thundering crash. Of course eventually the cars run out of battery life and need to be recharged. Recharging would be convenient if the battery was easily accessible. But it’s not. It requires one of those miniature screwdrivers which I seldom seem to have handy. So I often opt for a butter knife or a larger screwdriver. Neither work as well. They take twice as long, if they work at all. I usually end up frustrated, finally give up and walk downstairs to find the correct screwdriver. There are a number of things where a substitute works just fine. But when it comes to these small screwdrivers, there’s no good substitute. I know this. But it sure doesn’t keep me from trying.

Today’s scripture story presents us with so many questions. Why did the Israelites make an idol? Why did God get so angry? How did Moses change God’s mind? What’s the big deal, it’s just a golden calf? Why all the death? But one question the story leaves me reflecting on is why couldn’t they just wait a little longer for Moses and God to come back?

The answer seems obvious, and maybe that’s why the question sticks with me. They did not wait longer for God to come back because they thought God was not coming back. They thought God was gone so they were willing to try a poor substitute.

And just before I shake my head at the Israelites, I consider my own story and all of our tendency to do the same thing. When God doesn’t show up how and when we want God to show up, we find a poor substitute. We substitute God with all sorts of things. Most of the substitutes are not bad in and of themselves. They simply are not God. We substitute God with work, money, achievement, Netflix, alcohol, sex, even partners, kids and family. When we do this we are left frustrated because, while most of these things are good, they were never meant to be a substitute for God.

The season of Lent reminds us that while we may want to find a substitute for God because we are tired of waiting on God to show up, we will only be frustrated and disappointed with the poor substitutes.

Prayer: “God, today help me to find sacred space to wait on you. Help me see and remove any substitutes I’ve tried to make for you.”

Reflection by Rev. Matt Fulmer

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