“The Babble in Babel” May 28, 2023
The Babble In Babel”
Genesis 11:1-9 Psalm 104:24-35Ib
Acts 2:1-21 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 John 7:37-39
Welcome, one and all to this, the day that we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. , if I were to ask what is the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word Pentecost, what would that be? Those of us who grew up in the traditional church would probably say, “the color red,” because traditionally that’s what we wear on this day. We do this to remind ourselves Of the moment when Jesus made good on his promise to bring the power of the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Again, from the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples to “wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Luke describes this baptism as being somewhat of a baptism by fire. It is times like this that I wish we had more little kids in the church because we would possibly all be sitting right now wearing little hats made out of red construction paper that would make us look like our hair was on fire. Oh well- maybe next year.
After all, this particular feast day has been around for a long, long time. According to Christianity.com: “If you go back and read the Old Testament, you will discover that Pentecost was one of the Jewish feast days. Only they didn’t call it Pentecost. That’s the Greek name. The Jews called it the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. It is mentioned in five places in the first five books —
But like I said, for us, Pentecost will always be the day that we remember and celebrate the unleashing of the Holy Spirit. “The unleashing of the spirit;” yes, I would have to say that would be a fair description. It was John Eldredge who wrote: “The early Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit ‘the wild goose.’ And the reason why is they knew you cannot tame him.” (or her, if we want to set the record straight.)
So what do we do with this ‘wild goose?’ You know, I couldn’t resist sharing the story of the tower of Babel In today’s readings. I couldn’t resist if only for the reason that what happened at Babel was almost the exact opposite of our Pentecost story.
The story from Genesis describes a people who had been told to go out and populate the earth. But when they found the perfect piece of pleasant, fertile ground, they decided to stay put. They even planned to build a tower that went all the way to the heavens to show the world that they meant business; that they have arrived.
God’s saw things a little differently, however. But rather than smash their buildings or cast down plagues and pestilence, the Lord chose instead to take away their ability to communicate. Suddenly, these folks were speaking all sorts of different languages and the idea of building this ridiculous tower became just that: ridiculous.
At Jerusalem during the festival of the Weeks, however, the streets were packed with people from all over the world; all of them speaking in their own native language.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a busy International Airport, you might know what I mean. The jibber, jabber of multiple languages all going off at once can be .unnerving.
But just for fun, let’s imagine this same crowded International Airport after a fiery visit by the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, every word that you speak is understood by everyone, and likewise what sounded like gibberish to you only 5 minutes ago is now as clear as a bell.
Now, it saddens me, but this little analogy between the airport and Jerusalem at Pentecost can’t last forever; mostly I suppose, because when Peter hollers out, “These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. —it’s only nine o’clock in the morning,” there would surely be a voice or two yelling back that the airport bar stays open 24 hours a day.
So, what’s this all about? Is this just another fanciful story that Luke up at the local diner? Or is this friend, this advocate, this power of the spirit something that is relevant to us today? I wish that I could say that some of us are old enough to remember when the power of the spirit took over Congress. And because of that, legislation was finally passed to guarantee equal rights under the law for persons of color. Well I can’t say that, but I do remember that the equal rights amendment And voting reform came to pass due to a lot of grit and determination and the spirit that lived in a lot of people Both white and brown.
And I’d like to say that I remember when the spirit took hold of this denomination And when it did, it spoke the language of love and forgiveness and inclusion so loud and clear That there was no mistake what to do: there was no mistake who and whose we are. I’d like to say that I remember that, but I don’t.
And here’s the thing: I do remember those children of God whose spirit lifted them above it all; who never stopped speaking the language of love.
They have been our bishops and preachers; they have sat in our pews and they have taught our Sunday schools. I am grateful and I am aware that In a world full of babble and nonsense, The power of the Spirit works in our hearts and our congregations that the voice of Christ be heard.
In a world full of babble and nonsense, Now more than ever, it is critical that the church remains the voice of compassion. Now more than ever, it is crucial that the church speaks with the language of love.
Once again, from the second chapter of the book of Acts, Peter addresses the crowd who are trying to make sense of it all, saying” . This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit
on those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy.”
And they will prophecy,/ / /
You have to wonder: is it really all this easy? God has unleashed this companion, this advocate, this Holy Spirit That we might find power and strength in the spirit. So is it really this easy that all we need to do is kick back And let the spirit do its thing? Not hardly, But I would suggest that over the last 2000 years we may have had a bit of a language problem.
Our God took on flesh and came to this earth that he might be revealed to us. But somehow the language of love, the language of forgiveness, and the language of salvation have become garbled. We like the language of judgment and the language of exclusion. Once again, verse 11 from Luke’s account in the book of Acts.
(11) “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!” It just occurred to me that I could have started with that and saved us a lot of time. Because that’s it in a nutshell, it isn’t it? What I mean is, if we attempt to speak of our faith and ‘describe God’s mighty works’ to others,’ it will be nothing but babbling unless we can speak to the heart. The language of love- that’s the language that our God through Christ has taught us to speak. So listen close and speak it well; God’s Kingdom a waits.
Amen and Shalom