Sermon 22 Aug 11 — Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-14 Unravelling the Babble of Babel”
Discussion/Reflection: Read both passages. Note words or ideas or concepts that are in both stories. (I call this Sesame Street Bible study – what is the same and what is different in the two?) These things are the main clue to the interpretation I will present. Also, read each story and look for pointers to “culture” as we have been looking at it, namely: “how a group of people with common values and principles put those values into actions and communications everyone “gets.” In what ways does culture play a role in these accounts? What is God’s relationship to or approach to culture in each? Is it the same or different?
Communication is a significant piece of culture. It is done through words but also body language. I told two stories in the course of the sermon that demonstrated poor communication, aka “The Bable of Babel”
In the first of our passages mankind feels invincible and wants to defy God’s instructions to live in relationship with him and to fill the earth. They want to stay together (not scatter) and have command of heaven by building a stairway to it. God (or heaven) comes down his own stairway to see what is happening, and scrambles their communication so that communication breaks down and the people scatter — the very opposite of what they set out to do. Since that day, we could say, there have been cultures that have difficulty understanding each other. In fact, since that day, individuals of the very same culture have had trouble with communication. What is the root? They hear with an ear to “Making a name for themselves.” This badly distorts the hearing. That is where the second story came in, the one about the farm couple.
In the second passage people who have a belief in the God of the Old Testament have come together from all over the known world for a religious festival. In the middle of that the apostles are praying, and suddenly what looks like a big flame comes down from heaven (like the other account where heaven came down) and separates (one of the theme words in both stories) to settle on each individual under God’s power (not kingdom of this world power). And a surprising unity of understanding and glorifying God and becoming the body of Christ breaks out. The Bable of Babel is decoded. The kingdom of God is out in its own kind of force, to bring good news to all cultures.
This bringing is done by the values it’s citizens live out. Values that can be lived in ANY culture and are not to be culture bound. The way to close the culture gap is available to believers today via the Holy Spirit and a willing setting aside of making a name for oneself, or their church, or their denomination, and instead doing all to make God’s name great, to bring God glory.
Over time, again and again since the body of Christ was ‘born’ out of the grave and ‘baptized’ at Pentecost, humans have formed that body into institutions (which are helpful and necessary). Over time, as people forget their first love and what takes over is the need to keep the institution operating (we don’t want to offend people with the gospel because they might leave and not fund our insitution anymore – for one example), and the need to simply have a pleasant community experience… well, the body of Christ dies off and all that is left is the institution, and puzzled people saying “What is wrong?”
We at CCC are on a journey of challenging that problem! May God bless us as we continue to explore!