Sunday, October 12, 2014

“Fair Weather Fans and Jumping on the Bandwagon” (Exodus 32:1-14)

The definition of a “fair weather fan”: A fan of a sports team who only shows support when the team is doing well.  During hard times they usually jump the ship for other teams because they basically have no loyalty to the team.  Their creed is: Last to join, first to leave.
To “jump on the band wagon” means to follow a popular trend or idea because everybody else is doing it whether or not there is evidence to support it.
After taking a week off of the story about the wandering Israelites, we hop back into the story this morning.  The Israelites have set up camp and their leader—Moses—is up on the mountaintop having intimate conversations with God.  Basically God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments up there on the mountain . . . of which, Moses being a good human being, I imagine that he attempted to find all the loop holes while talking to God . . . why else would he be up there on the mountain so long.  He was up there long enough that the people began to worry . . . maybe even get a little panicky.
It is here that we learn that the Israelites are “fair weather fans” who quickly and easily jump on the nearest bandwagon when given the opportunity.  Not seeing Moses the people approach Aaron to plea with him to create for them new gods to follow: “Come, make us gods who will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses, who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”  The people were a little worried that something had happened to their leader and that they were in a whole lot of trouble without him.  The waiting was killing them and they wanted something to hold on to right then and there.
And, Aaron—the brother of Moses—a high priest—does exactly what is asked of him . . . he creates a new god that looks like a golden calf.  From all the gold the people can gather he creates this golden calf which the people proclaim: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”  Oh, how quickly they forget . . . how quickly they shift allegiance.  The last to join and the first to leave . . . that was the Israelites as they basically then threw a huge party and broke out into all sorts of debauchery.
Of course such a party was not going to be quiet . . . in fact, I imagine it was quite loud.  The noise caught the attention of God.  I think that God enjoys a good party, but wondered why there was no invitation for God to join.  God doesn’t like to be left out . . . nor does God appreciate being dumped on the side of the road for a golden calf when things get a little rough for the people.  To say the least, God is not happy about the party or the reason for the party.  God is angry . . . really angry.  Angry like, “I am going to wipe out all those ungrateful people off the face of the earth,” sort of angry.
God tells Moses that the people are corrupt.  They are quick to turn their backs.  They have created false gods.  They are a stiff-necked people.  God is angry and tells Moses to go back to them so that God can stew in the anger: “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.”
Anyone who is a true fan of a team will tell you that he or she does not appreciate “fair weather” fans.  Mainly because “fair weather” fans are band wagon jumpers going for whoever is the hottest or most popular team whether they really care or not . . . as long as they are winning they are among the loudest of fans with no idea of why they are even cheering so loudly.  To a true fan, a “fair weather” fan has not earned the right to call him or herself a “fan” . . . they have not endured the hard and lean years when the team couldn’t even tie their shoes . . . they have not experienced the thrill and agony of being so-close to winning it all only to lose on a fluke.  True fans stick with their team through thick and thin, win or lose . . . no matter what.  “Fair weather” fans jump the wagon as soon as there is even a sign that things are going bad . . . those are the people you see leaving in the middle of the third quarter.
The epitome of a true fan are people who follow the Chicago Cubs . . . those are true fans.  These are people who follow the Cubs through thick and thin . . . win and lose . . . and, they have been doing it despite the fact that they have not won a World Series in 106 years or even being in a World Series since 1945.  These are real fans despite enduring the “curse” of the Billy Goat in which bar owner, Billy Sianis, was asked to leave the 1945 World Series in which he had brought his goat to the game.  He was asked to leave because the goat smelled.  Angry at his ejection from the ball park, Sianis declared: “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”  And, basically that has been the case ever since . . . but, Cub fans keep hoping.  Despite the long, long streak of no championships, no pennants, and sub-par seasons . . . true Cub fans always stick with their team earning them the nickname the “Lovable Losers”.
Apparently the Israelites were “fair weather fans” when it came to their faith . . . and, it did not take much for them to jump on the next bandwagon that came by.  Even God was amazed at how quickly they jumped ship and started worshipping another god.  If there is one thing we know about God in the Old Testament it is that God does not like being jilted.  Like a jealous lover God is quick to anger and quick to strike out . . . God is going to kill them all and start over.
Now I am not sure why Moses was so quick to jump to the defense of the people . . . after all, they had been a burr in his saddle since they had left Egypt; but, he jumps to their defense.  Or maybe, he jumps to the defense of God.  His defense is more about how God will appear to others than if God goes on to wipe the people out . . . it just wouldn’t look good, says Moses.  Whatever the case, Moses argues for God to spare the people . . . to not kill them . . . to give them yet one more chance.  Maybe Moses just didn’t want to start all over again.  Either way, Moses prevails and God spares the people.
After all, we are here today thanks to Moses’ fast talking.
Apparently God does not like “fair weather fans” . . . or jumping band wagons.  God likes loyalty . . . loyalty from those that God loves . . . from those that God stands beside . . . from those that God showers with grace and love . . . from God’s children.  We know that our God is a jealous God who wants no other “gods” before us and expect devote loyalty through thick and thin.  We know this and we also know that we are human.  In our humanness we are like a reed that bends in the wind . . . that we are a fickle people who have short memories and are quick to jump on the latest and greatest thing that we see coming down the road when things get tough. 
But, in the end, that gets us nowhere.  “Fair weather fans” and people who jump on the band wagon have nothing when it is all said and done.  They have no foundation . . . no loyalty . . . no understanding of what it means to be faithful no matter what the circumstances might be.  They are just blown to and fro in the prevailing winds.  But, true fans . . . those who are loyal . . . they have everything to stand on . . . they know what it means to be loyal when loyalty seems to be the farthest thing in their minds.  They stand tall in the face of the prevailing winds . . . unmoved in their love and loyalty to the team.  Such is the faithfulness God desires from all of us.  God wants us to be true fans.
Earlier I mentioned that Cub fans are the epitome of “true fans”.  Two people I know and respect are Cub fans . . . my oldest son, and Bob Hull, our pianist.  Every year, at the end of the baseball season, I have come to appreciate the loyalty of Cub fans who always tell me, “Wait until next year!”  And, they believe it.  My son believes it . . . Bob believes it.  Such is the faith of those who truly believe.  May we all find such faith in our love for God.  Amen.

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