7The Lord said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they 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! 9The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10Now 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."
11But 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? 12Why 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.'" 14And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Like last week's scripture reading from Deuteronomy, Exodus is part of the five books of the Pentateuch in the Old Testament /Hebrew Bible. We sometimes call those first five books Torah, God's law or rule that goes far beyond English-language stereotypes of law because it is flexible, malleable, insightful, responds to the current needs of humanity and of all creation.
God says, "Moses, your people" ... and Moses reminds God, 'God, your people.'" It's always both/and. Could God accomplish God's plans and desires without human agency? of course! As frequently happens, we again discussed ways our hands (feet, minds, creativity) can do God's work.
This conversation between Moses and God is only one of countless instances in scripture where God calls and in the power of the Holy Spirit enables humans to do God's work. I quickly sort of proof-texted a handful:
• In the garden of Eden, God gifts Adam and Eve land "to till it and to keep it," and tells the humans they may freely eat of everything in the garden except one particular tree (or type of tree). Genesis 2:15, 16
• God literally inspires Jeremiah, and then sends and appoints Jeremiah as prophet—someone who speaks truth to power, unsettles the status quo, lines out alternatives that include hope for a future that's different from today. Jeremiah 1:9-10
• Jesus tells his disciples (taught people) / apostles (sent people) he possesses "all authority in heaven and on earth" and charges them "therefore, go, make disciples, baptize, teach..." and promises his ongoing presence with them. Matthew 28:18
• Jesus tells his followers they are his witnesses (people who testify, have a testimony), and tells them to stay where they are in Jerusalem for now. Luke 24:49
• Still imagining the return of the reign of a Davidic king they trust will annihilate imperial Rome, the disciples famously ask pre-Ascension Jesus if now he finally will "restore the kingdom," and Jesus tells them (their question is wrong) to wait, and soon they will receive power on the day of Pentecost, and they will be Jesus' witnesses in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth, that we now know is a far more extensive expanse then they knew.
Since the dawn of creation, the reign of the Holy Spirit of life, the primacy of grace has pervaded earth, but since that Pentecost event in the upper room Spirit and Grace have been even more alive.
On Sunday most of us wore "God's Work / Our Hands" shirts for the denomination's God's Work / Our Hands weekend. The choir sang contemporary composer David Haas' anthem Christ Among Us, with text inspired by Teresa of Avila. I frequently remind everyone we're God's hands, feet, eyes, ears, voice, and the anthem took it further with thoughts, words, song, heart, touch, care, love, light, hope, strength, joy!
Sunday was the 18-year anniversary of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center twin towers. We spent some time remembering our original 9/11/2001 experiences and updating our emotions and intentions to remain God's presence wherever we go.