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Exodus 32:1-14

Today is September 11, as I write this in preparation for Proper 23 (October 15th). Posted everywhere is the mantra “Never Forget.” Never forget those who lost their lives on that tragic day. Never forget the first responders who ran into falling buildings to risk their lives to save others. Never forget where you were when you were stunned as you abnormally flipped on the news to see what on Earth was happening in Manhattan, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania.

I was sitting in Chemistry class my junior year of high school. A classmate walked in and said, “I just heard on the radio that a plane hit one of the World Trade Center Towers.” We turned on the TV in time to see the second plane hit the other tower. We watched as the first tower fell. Then the other. There were tears in the classroom. When recalling that day, most people remember right where they were.

People tend to remember where and when important things happen to them. Usually these sorts of memories are visceral. Perhaps the closest thing we have to a time machine are scents. It is amazing how the olfactory centers are so closely connected to the limbic system of the brain. The smell of an old girlfriend’s perfume or an old boyfriend’s cologne caught walking through the mall might unlock memories one wishes to keep suppressed, the must of a church basement that transports us to a time in our youth learning the stories of Jesus on flannel boards, the unique smell of grandma and grandpa’s house and all the memories tied up in visits with them.

One of the most interesting themes of the Exodus is how God continues to remain present with a people who forget so easily. Their memories are so short. Earlier in the narrative of the Exodus, they forget what it was like to be slaves as they could only listen to their empty bellies (Ex 16). They cannot see the freedom they have just been granted. They forgot what slavery was like. They forgot that when their numbers increased so greatly as a nation, the Pharaoh of Egypt enslaved them to maintain power. They forgot that to keep the population controlled, every boy two years and under was to be cast into the Nile. They forgot that the storehouses that held the bread they wanted were built upon their broken backs. They forgot the abuse and the heavy-handed oppression of Egypt. For they were in true bondage—slaves—subject to another with no freedom, with no liberty, and with no rights.

Whereas earlier they forgot their plight, they now just forget the One who saved them mightily.

It is almost baffling that at the beginning of this pericope, the Israel