Perhaps as many as 500 years have gone by between the time the people of God get it wrong in the wilderness and the psalmist writes about it in today’s lesson. This tells us that the people of God take their historic sinfulness with dead seriousness, so much so that the psalmist writes, “We have sinned—right along with our ancestors” (ceb). With force equal to the original moment, the people of God are once again getting it wrong.
This time around their rebellion does not seem to be so much that of expectations but of failed understanding. The psalmist means more than forgetfulness, although that is surely a factor. The writer more nearly means that the people of God do not realize that they have not moved beyond being susceptible to the things that resulted in the defeats and downfalls of their predecessors. The scene shifts in today’s reading to reveal that the people of God get it wrong through presumptions.
We share a similar history. The church has gotten it wrong before. When we fail to acknowledge this part of our history, we turn susceptibility to being wrong into self-declared certainty that we are right. When we purport certainty, we repeat the mistake of the Israelites in the psalm-period of their history. What we take for correctness is once again arrogance. We allege a certainty about our views apart from the humility to ever call them into question. The psalm names the problem and, as in the wilderness, gives us hope—the hope found in God’s steadfast love. We claim mercy not by touting our “correctness” but by making the confession, “We could be wrong”—just as the people of God have been before.
Dear God, I confess—I could be wrong. Keep my heart open and my mind tender through this confession. Amen.
The texts this week remind us of how quickly we can turn away from God. Even while Moses is on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments—the first of which is not to worship any other gods—the people fashion an idol and begin to worship it. The psalmist refers to this story as evidence of how often the Israelites have gone astray, and yet God repeatedly has restored them. The parable in Matthew speaks of many who are invited to a banquet, yet they reject the invitation of the king. It is often read as a warning about turning our backs on God’s gracious invitation. Paul encourages the Philippians to seek God with confidence in difficult situations and to focus their thoughts in ways that lead them closer to God.
Read Exodus 32:1-14. When have you or your faith community gotten it wrong? When have you interceded with God on others’ behalf?
Read Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23. How has forgetting that you can be wrong hurt you or your faith community? How has admitting that you were wrong strengthened you or your faith community?
Read Philippians 4:1-9. What issue or conflict has divided your faith community? How might Paul’s urging to “be of the same mind in the Lord” help you work toward peace?
Read Matthew 22:1-14. What work might you need to do to open your heart so you can resolve a conflict?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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