For Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011: Proper 24, Year A

THE READING    Exodus 33:12-23
Last week we heard about the people of Israel, feeling bereft of God’s presence, worshiping the golden calf. In the verses that precede today’s reading, one of the consequences of their idolatry is laid out: God will not go with the people to the land of promise. In today’s reading, stubborn Moses persuades God to change God’s mind. But then Moses asks for more: to see God’s very self—and that is too much, or at least too much for the purely human Moses to bear.

THE EPISTLE    1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
We begin reading from the first letter to the church at Thessalonike, which in Paul’s time was an important trading and administrative center in Macedon, north of Greece. Paul commends these believers: in the face of persecution and of all the temptations that living in such a city would entail, these believers are not only spreading the Good News but living it in steadfastness and love and hope. What an example they set for us!

Further thoughts
Finding a common thread in the three texts for today—including the Gospel, Matthew 22:15-22—is not a simple task. I suppose a common theme might be rendering unto God what is God’s, or the consequence of doing so wrongly. Moses wants to walk more closely with God, and that is a good thing. Like Adam and Eve, however, he wants to know more about God than is quite good for him. Moses is, in a way, striving for a peer relationship with God by overreaching himself. The Pharisees and Herodians of the Gospel, in contrast, are eager to trap Jesus on the question of paying taxes to the Roman overlords; in the process, they are declaring that parts of this world are outside of God’s sphere of interest. They are striving for a peer relationship with God by bringing God down to their level. It is the Thessalonians who strike the right balance: they know how to wait on God, and they know how to live in the Spirit.

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