What exactly is a golden calf? You know the story. Moses was up on the mountain for a long time working with God on plans for a place of worship and the rituals to go along with it. Meanwhile, the people down below figured he had abandoned them and asked Aaron to do the same according to their own plans, which he did by constructing a golden calf and declaring a festival to YHWH. He didn’t declare a festival to some other god, he declared it to the LORD, and that was just fine with the people.
I don’t think this story is about a statue of a calf made of gold, nor do I think it’s about worshiping idols.
Even our small city has its share of violent incidents requiring a forceful response from police. Maybe we’ve been lucky, or maybe being in a small city makes a difference, or maybe our police and sheriff departments are well-trained and well-disciplined. Whatever the reason, we have not had to face questions about whether the police were justified in using deadly force.
Recently an armed man with a history of violence sent a text to another household that he was on the way to kill them.
Max Stackhouse, in his essay on “Public Theology and Ethical Judgment,” asks, “What allows human life to flourish so that the common life can flourish?” If it is a question that is ever asked in the congregational setting, it will drive teaching and preaching toward other questions, and some answers, in the political realm of the life of the community.
My friend Bill died recently. A brilliant scholar, he had suffered a number of strokes, and was being cared for in a facility that catered to patients with dementia and brain injuries. He decided that it was time to let nature take its course. He refused most food and medications, and died in short order, but he died fully confident in the resurrection life that lay ahead.
A few weeks later I was in the ER with a man in his mid-to-late nineties who had also suffered from a number of strokes.