v. 19b But the LORD listened to me that time also.
In our reading this morning Moses recalls how the first time he came down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments he found the Israelites had not been able to wait on him (he had been there 40 days and 40 nights) and they had begun to worship an idol. He smashed the tablets signifying the breach that had occurred.
Moses was angry. God was angry. What to do? Both Moses and God could have turned away from the faithless people. They were sorely tempted to do so. But Moses prayed and God listened to him and his love saw through his anger.
Our story is that from the beginning we have been in trouble. God is holy and asks the same of us. Lest we not understand what that means, he has give us commandments that get summarized "love God and love your neighbor." When we fall short God is disappointed, even angry. We need someone to pray for us. While Moses was alive leading the Israelites he was that person. The people drove him crazy, but he kept praying for them.
Lent is a time when we are asked to become more fully aware of how far we fall short of God's dream. This awareness could be frightening if we indeed believe that God is holy and asks us to be so a well. But Jesus, we believe, prays for us "at the right hand of the Father" (as we say in the creeds). And God hears his prayer, always. So, while we need to be aware of our fallenness, we do not need to be afraid. There is a gap between us and God, but Jesus bridges the gap. Christian faith doesn't get more basic than that.