Thursday, June 6, 2019

Hope for Babel Genesis 11 and Acts 2

There's a story in the Bible about Babel that's just a few paragraphs long. Modern day folks would call Babel an industrious city. They had a goal, to make their city great. They wanted to claim a name and a place for themselves in all the world. And at first I wondered, What could God have against this city?.

At first glance their goal of greatness and the unity they needed to work together doesn't seem all that bad. Many people aspire, just like the people of Babel, to prestige. The city kept growing with a common purpose and language holding them together. They decided to build a tower to reach up to heaven. Their tower would put them on par with God. Scripture says God watched and decided to bring confusion. A people united with one language and one goal splintered as new languages just appeared.

A whole civilization oriented to it's own greatness came to a stop as God confused the people by bringing in new languages. Many people think the goal of human life is to make a name for yourself. Others think the goal is to be united for common purpose--but it's completely possible to be united for the wrong reason. Babel's quest for greatness was not innocuous. And God stepped in to stop Babel.

Other groups in history found strength in the wrong kind of unity. Germans in the late 1930's were unifying. Slogans spoke to the uniformity the Nazi's aspired to force on others. They aspired to be an empire. Their slogans spoke of uniformity and unity, but to what end?
ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F├╝hrer
one People, one Nation/empire, one Leader
Historic propoganda teaches us that Germany had united. But hind sight clearly teaches that the nation had united for the wrong reason; if we are honest they were united in a quest of greatness at the price both of their national soul and the dignity of other human beings who they relegated to a lesser status. So unity clearly itself isn't always good.

There's another story in the Bible that seems to go in the exact opposite direction of Babel's confusion. It's often called Pentecost. It happened at a festival in Jerusalem. Jesus first followers had gathered together. As the Jesus people gather they mixed in with people from all over the world. Luke, the writer of Acts, names all kinds people from a variety of places, languages, and ethnicities who had gathered together. In one moment they all understood one man, a fisherman from Galilee. They all heard him speaking and they each understood him in their own language. It was the reverse of what happened at Babel. Where confusion had reigned now there was understanding.

The promise of Pentecost is that God is up to something new in our divided world. God is bringing new life and new hope sending God's very real Spirit into our hearts and lives. May we hear the wind of the Spirit blowing in our lives. May the fire of God's love burn in us. May we be part of the kingdom of God breaking in and hope returning to all the world.
AMEN.