Readings for Sunday, Sept 18, 2022
The First Reading is from Exodus 32:7-14. We know that God is unhappy when, in verse 7, He tells Moses that the ex-slaves fleeing Egypt are “your people” and not his people. God is more than unhappy, He is disavowing connection with all those who worshiped and who bowed down to the golden calf. God’s angry speech is introduced by the phrase “The Lord said to Moses” as the opening statement for verses 7 & 9. The fact that Moses says nothing between these two outbursts of anger by God means that Moses can find no way to defend the people’s action. However, Moses asks God not to give the Egyptians any excuse to cast false charges against the Israelite God. Moses also asks God to remember the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel that their descendents would inherit the Promised Land. The lesson for the ex-slaves in the desert, and for us as well is that God’s mercy is unbounded and available for all those who ask for forgiveness and promise to change our ways.
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 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! The Lord said to Moses. “ I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 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.”
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? 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. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servant how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, I will multiply your descendents like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it.” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
The 2nd reading is from 1 Timothy 1:12-17. In our 2nd reading Paul describes a very different interaction between Jesus Christ and humans than was the norm for the interaction between a pagan god and a worshiper of that god. A pagan god was the recipient of sacrifice, worship and service and gave nothing in return and was not capable of giving anything to a human. Verse 15b says it all; “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Jesus Christ strengthened Paul even though Paul had been a great sinner. Paul and we can open our hearts to the mercy of God just by asking for the grace of God to enter us. This concept would be completely foreign to a pagan. Even though our knowledge of pagan gods is limited we would not associate the word “patience”, as in verse16, with a pagan god. Let us be eternally thankful that the one and only God sees us as important enough to die on the cross for our salvation.
I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.