Exodus 31–33, Psalm 27, Matthew 28
It was a miracle that Moses even lasted forty years in the wilderness with the Israelites. What with their steady whining and frequent backsliding, leading them was no picnic. And his brother Aaron, whom he trusted, was little better—here, for instance, we read about the golden calf he and the others make while Moses is up on the mountain talking with God.
There is something distinctly familiar in Aaron’s response when his brother catches him in the act: “Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:24). Well, that’s not exactly how it went down, is it? The writer of Exodus makes sure we know that Aaron worked pretty hard himself on that golden calf (“fashioning it with a tool”). It didn’t just pop out of the fire like magic—Aaron made it.
Forming a golden idol out of people’s melted earrings is not a sin we’re likely to commit today. But minimizing our own role in the sins we do commit is alive and well. We see it on the news all the time: “Mistakes were made,” someone in public life says carefully, which falls considerably short of saying, “I made a mistake.” And all of us know what it is to avoid owning up to our own less-than-holy moments. Even to ourselves.
Just come clean, we silently beg the straying politician as he parses his words ever so carefully into the forest of microphones facing him and his frozen-faced spouse. Get it over with.
Yes. Do it. However much a truth hurts, avoiding it will hurt more, in the end.
There has been much discussion about the relationship between private morality and fitness for public office. How do you respond to it?
Have you ever been caught in a web of your own falsehood? Or caught someone else? How did the decision to take responsibility—or not to do so—play out in that instance?
Merciful God, you know the secrets of our hearts. Give us the integrity and the courage to be what we seem to be, and lead us back to the truth when we stumble and fall short of it. For you never turn away when we turn to you, and for this we give you humble thanks. Amen.
-The Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton
Author and Retreat Leader
Newark, New Jersey