The Bible passage in the Office of Readings during Lent have been working through Exodus. It is a reminder to us of the link between the Passover and the rescue from Egypt and the Easter story. Today’s reading was the making of the Golden Calf.

Many years ago, before Neil was ordained we went to Egypt for Christmas. Most of the sites have at least one figure or picture of the goddess Hathor. We were told she was the goddess of Love. A short search on the internet will show that she had many causes ascribed to her but joy, love and motherhood are most often mentioned. When, towards the end of our stay we went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we walked into one room that was dominated by a golden calf, a representation of Hathor.

Were the Hebrews, after years in Egypt, replacing the God who had loved them and rescued them with this goddess of Love? It is impossible to know. However it is interesting to reflect on that possibility after spending time listening to Henri Nouwen’s writing on God’s unconditional love. Hathor, like many gods and goddesses of the time required offerings to buy favours. She was a goddess whose love was conditional.

Through out the Old Testament we see God trying to teach humanity that his love was unconditional. God had remained faithful to his people since the beginning. He had brought them out of Egypt and in the pillars of fire and cloud he was with them. Later through the tabernacle he came to dwell with them, right in the centre of their camp. However far they wandered he would always be their home. The making of the calf was an act of rebellion like the one Nouwen talks about: replacing a faithful unconditional love with one that had to be earned. Isn’t our rebellion and rejection of God the same as the people of Israel, when they melt down all their gold to make the calf? Don’t we deny that it is in God that we ‘live and move and have our being’? Each time we do we re-make the golden calf.