Summary: Modern man shirks personal responsibility by blaming society, parents, TV... or anything else. In this sermon, Aaron is the biblical representative of all those who refuse to accept their personal responsibility and look for a scapegoat to blame.
The Fire and the Calf
It happened four days after my seventh birthday, in a place I had never heard of.
At 3:15 am, on March 13, 1964, getting home from work, Catherine Susan Genovese, known to her friends as “Kitty” parked her car about 100 yards away from the front door of her apartment. As she walked to the door, she was unaware that Winston Mosely, an African-American man, was on a mission… to kill a woman… any woman. Mosely saw Kitty get out of her car and he parked and followed her on foot. Before she reached the door, Mosely ran up from behind her and stabbed here two times.
When he stabbed her, Kitty screamed, “O my God, He stabbed me. Help me!” Neighbors heard the scream. Some looked out the window and saw it… others heard the scream and assumed it was some drunks or lovers quarrelling. One actually raised the window and called to Mosely to stop, which he did, running away. One heard the scream but admittedly turned up the volume on the tv to drown it out. Because no one came out to help Kitty, Winston Mosely, who had attacked Kitty and run away… returned to finish the job. About ten minutes after leaving the scene, Mosely later admitted to police, he returned to the scene but Kitty was gone. In his car, he changed his hat to a wide-rimmed one to shadow his face. He systematically searched the parking lot, train station, and small apartment complex, ultimately finding Genovese, who was lying, barely conscious, in a hallway at the back of the building. Out of view of the street and of those who may have heard or seen any sign of the original attack, he proceeded to further attack her, stabbing her several more times. Knife wounds in her hands suggested that she attempted to defend herself from him. While she lay dying, he sexually assaulted her. He stole about $49 from her and left her dying in the hallway. The attacks spanned approximately half an hour. When neighbors finally found Kitty and called police, it was too late for Kitty.
The newspaper headlines read, “For more than half an hour, thirty-eight respectable, law-abiding citizens in Queens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens.”
Clergymen decried the incident from their Sunday pulpits, politicians spoke gravely of the country’s moral lethargy. Mike Wallace broadcast a CBS radio special called “The Apathetic American.” Loudon Wainwright concluded in Life magazine that Americans were “becoming a callous, chickenhearted and immoral people.”
But the one quote that stood out the most and wrangled the most people was the one by one man, who admitted to hearing the scream and seeing the attack, and justified his lack of action with the words that will live in infamy… “I didn’t want to get involved.”
What he was saying was… it wasn’t my fault.
That same lack of personal responsibility is on display in our text today, Exodus 32:24. Moses is the spiritual leader of God’s people, the Jews as they are traveling from 400 years of slavery in Egypt to freedom in their new home… the promised land. As he often did, God called Moses to the mountain to speak to him about important matters. On this occasion, the conversation was lengthy and Moses was gone for longer than usual. the Israelites believed he was dead. If he was dead, they reasoned, then his god is too weak, we need a new God. So they turned to the spiritual leader, the priest… Aaron and demanded that he give them a new god. Aaron, for many reasons, caved in and did what would please the people. He told them to give him their gold jewelry which he melted down and cast an idol… a golden calf. The Israelites bowed down and worshipped the idol.