Food for Thought-First Thoughts on Exodus 32:1-14:Chopin and the Golden Calf

There are two vital elements at the heart of the “Golden Calf” story:

1. Vital Melancholy

2. Unspeakable Joy

The question is how to move ourselves between a melancholy which is so attractive and with each moment eats away at our souls and is so vital to our existence. The Golden Calf isn’t really important. It is the existential question it forces us to ask when we confront its glimmering reality.

What will take us from the impatience of this moment of mulling madness to that point where we may simply be with the God not bound by time, eternity, and the worship of things?

From the beautiful melancholy of Golden Calf (the golden calf in your drive way, the golden calf you’re wearing, the golden calf you send messages on) from within that place of permanent impatience, there is a path to pure joy where you’re forced to encounter a God you can’t caress or touch. The only way to know this God is to listen.

One man who charts the journey from melancholy to joy, like no other, is Frederic Chopin. By listening to a moment of Chopin, you can hear the sadness, the impatience, and the joy of this story come to life. This, for me, is how God become real. This is how idol are shattered. Things you can touch go away. Yet when we remove our hands from the golden calves of our lives and simply listen, we are then able to be with God.

My wish is that we would have a small glimpse of that reality as part of our individual and collective journeys. I also believe that the best way to actually learn to listen is to listen.

As Moses is leading the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness, Chopin will join us this morning to help take us to where we need to go-away from our golden calves. Like the Israelites, we must be led there. It is a journey.

In a moment I am going to play a series of impulses, sounds of impatience and melancholy. Like our Israelites sisters and brothers, this is where we begin. One by one, those impulses will begin to change. From this discordant b flat, which doesn’t seem to stop, like something is wrong with the note itself, coming from some distant sad place in us as we walk around our own golden calves over and over again. We have no idea how to break out of the pattern we are in. We need a way out. We need a way home; a way back to where we ought to have been in the first place.

I’m going to play the Chopin Number 4 in E Minor for you now. I want you to listen. I’m going to stop along the way and point out a few important transitions.

I’m going to play it again, this time all the way through. Listen carefully for the steps on that journey. I want you to think about your Golden Calves. What is it that we worship when we grow impatient with God not acting fast enough in our lives? What are those things we hold fast and secure to as a tangible substitute for the intangible reality of God? Who are the people around us and are they looking to us to be role models when it comes to Golden Calf time? When they guy shows up with the bucket saying are you in on the calf project and people look to you, what will you do? Will you set the trend or stop the insanity?

Think about the assumptions the people around us, in our neighborhood and community hold about the church. Do they see us as golden calf people?

Are we ready to lead them on a journey and help move them closer toward being in a relationship with God toward the spiritual home they are seeking?

Prelude Number 4 in E Minor