Exodus 32 is too monumental not to mention. And while the lectionary assigns 32:7–14, it’s important to include verses 1–6 as well. I suggest we stop calling this text the “golden calf” incident and begin calling it the “God changes God’s mind at the request of Moses” incident.
Season after Pentecost | 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; (Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23;) Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
It’s the second movement of Leonard Bernstein’s choral work, Chichester Psalms. A boy soprano (or a countertenor), in the “role” of the shepherd boy, David, sings in Hebrew the opening verses of Psalm 23. He is accompanied–sparingly, fittingly–by the harp. The first several measures are tender but not tentative; filled with sentiment, but without sentimentality (this per Bernstein’s instructions). When the women’s voices take over the text at גַּם כִּי־אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת . . . (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .) there’s an ethereal echo-canon effect. This part of the movement, when executed well, is something sublime.
If you wrestle with this Matthean parable through the night, it'll leave you limping by morning. Martin Luther didn't like preaching on it, and worshipers in early October won't be in the mood for its judgment.