Overcoming Babel

Most of us likely have had the experience of trying to communicate and not feeling heard.  It can happen among friends, marriage partners, parents and children, and church members, and regularly happens among nations.  Who has never said (or at least thought), “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you are aware that what you heard is not what I meant”?

One might think that with all the modern communication technology, communication would get easier.  Not necessarily so.  After the attacks of September 11, 2001, some Muslims in Indonesia nearly went to war against Christians and Jews. “We have to do something, otherwise the Christians or Jews will kill us,” some were saying.  How did they know that?  “The internet.”  While email, Facebook, Twitter and the rest can be marvelous tools in facilitating communication, they also can accelerate our human tendency to miscommunicate, misunderstand, and babble.

“Babble:  a confused mixture of sounds or voices, a scene of noise and confusion” (Dictionary.com).  A story in Genesis 11, which we will consider in our worship on Sunday, June 14, gives an account of serious–and fatal–babbling.  In a city called Babel, God, in an act of judgment against human arrogance and pride, confuses humanity’s tongues.  The people, who heretofore were one community with one language, are now scattered, and their communication becomes impaired and difficult.  The curse of Babel has become “babble.”

Until the Spirit comes at Pentecost (Acts 2), and a miracle happens.  Suddenly the diverse peoples of the earth, divided by language and culture, now all hear the good news of Jesus, in their own tongues.    Humanity’s ears have been opened and its speech has been healed.  The confusing babble of Babel has been overcome.  And our human tendency to miscommunicate and misunderstand continues to be pushed back, in the church, when we let the Spirit  open our ears to hear and  grace our lips to speak to each other.

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