If you have ever seen the Samuel Beckett play “Waiting for Godot” you have experienced how tedious it is for human beings to have to wait. The play is all about the subject of waiting and waiting, endlessly. The frustration of the wait drives the two main characters in the play to repel one another, then out of painful loneliness they come bouncing back in fear, resigned to their waiting together. Some people have interpreted “Waiting for Godot” as a drama about the human condition of hoping and waiting for the arrival of God and maybe that is so. Waiting for the bus or train, waiting for the baby to be delivered, waiting for your loved one to return home, waiting for that last Amen of a sermon can seem insufferable and we have all had that feeling of waiting too long.
The text from Exodus we read today parallels this beautifully as it is all about waiting for God, in a sense, and it is a troubling story. The Hebrews’ not-so-fearless leader Moses was up on Mount Sinai communing with God. According to his endlessly griping followers, their leader Moses had taken way too much time up there, no matter what he was doing. To be honest, part of the problem may have been that – they didn’t know what he was doing. Everybody wants to know what the leader is doing. All the time! right? Transparency is everything, plus they had already proven themselves to be complainers. So, what do they do? Impatiently, they turned to Moses’ older brother Aaron and demanded that he create gods for them, on the spot, so they can stop waiting for Moses’ to return with his message from God.
Now Aaron, and Moses who was the younger brother, had a complicated relationship. Moses had a mighty power to him but he was slow of speech and relied on his much more eloquent brother Aaron to be his spokesperson. Aaron was a priest and seen as lofty and spiritually superior to many and got away with a great many things that Moses had to take responsibility for. Nevertheless, Aaron may have been somewhat jealous of Moses’ clout over the chosen people and over his close relationship to God. It takes Aaron about five minutes to turn his back on his brother’s authority and he does so in order to placate the people who clamored at him to take action while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai. Aaron is swift at getting them to give up all their gold jewelry from which he fashions a golden calf. Pretty neat trick eh?