Sermon: “Undoing Babel”
Rev. Glenn G. Grant
Kirkridge Presbyterian Church
Transcription from June 5, 2022
Sermon transcription is automatically generated. Please forgive any grammatical errors.
I hope that most of our adults that are sitting here are a little more familiar with a story of Babel, than our youngest ones were.
It's not one of those stories that a lot of people like to try and teach the children because well, face it, the outcome, wasn't a happy ending. You know, we had people that were working together and trying to do something. And scripture says God confounded their language so they couldn't communicate. And therefore their efforts failed. And that's not the way we would like to think about God, is it? We want God to really reward us for our efforts when we work together. And we kind of forget about the fact that the reason God confounded the language was not the fact that they were working together, but what they were trying to do, which was reach heaven.
So, Pentecost, the events of Pentecost that are recorded in the book of Acts, is the reversal of Babel it was a world where people weren't seeing eye to eye, they weren't talking to each other, they weren't listening to each other. They weren't communicating with one another unless it had something to do with commerce.
The Jews didn't want to talk to the Romans. The Romans didn't want to talk to the Jews or the Egyptians, The Egyptians and didn't want to talk to the Babylonians. Nobody wanted to talk to each other. All they wanted to do is conquer and enforce their own way. And I'm so happy that we no longer have that going on in our world today.
I’m glad you realize that was a little bit sarcastic because it goes on all over the place in our world today. We have countries that won't or can't talk to countries, well, they want to invade and enforce their way, or they want to enforce their way economically, or they want to enforce their way, find a way, pick your method.
And of course, it's not just between countries, it's between people within countries. In this nation we have had a lot of problems over the last few years, especially with people that could not communicate with one another or would not communicate with one another and turn to violence as a way of enforcing their will, or trying to show that they're right and the other person is wrong
And we need Pentecost. We desperately need Pentecost in this world today. I don't know how many people were listening to news this morning, but as we were driving in here, reporting of yet another mass shooting. South street, Philadelphia, last night, someone opened fire on the crowds. Actually, they said there were multiple gunmen. Just open crop fire on the crowds on south street in Philadelphia, you know, a few of us know that south street in Philadelphia on weekends is a little bit of a party scene. So, there were thousands of people out there. There are at least three dead and several more injured.
That is the results of people not talking with each other, not communicating because communicating is more than just talking. Communicating is coming to an understanding, listening to one another. And it's an effort or is the results of someone deciding that because things weren't happening the way they wanted them to they were going to do something about it and what they were going to do entailed violence.
We talk about this day and age mental health; we've got to do something regarding mental health. Yes, we do. Starting with taking care of our youngest children. I don't know how many people realize that the number of school counselors has been reduced by 40% or more across this country in the last 10 years. That's not dealing with mental health at a time when the mental health needs are growing not decreasing.
Obviously, we need to… wouldn't it be nice if we could get past Babel on Capitol hill or in Lansing or in Genesee county board of commissioners or in the Grand Blanc school board. Wouldn't it be nice if we get past babble? We need to work as Christians to get past Babel and take the message of Pentecost and make it a reality because God has given each and every one of us sitting in this room, the gift that is needed.
Every one of us has been given the gift that is needed. Now that doesn't mean that I have the gift that is going to make everything happen. Or the Laurie has a gift that's going to make everything happen or that Frank has a gift is going to make everything happen. But together we have the gift that will make a difference. Together we have two gifts that are gonna make a difference. The tongues of flame in our passage from Acts didn't rest on one disciple, it was on all of them. And we think of the fact that, oh, so there were 11 tongues of fire. Or maybe if Matthias was there with them, there was 12, there's nothing that says how many disciples were together. And we know that there were more than 12.
So, God's gifts came on the whole group so together they could do what was necessary and they could go out and they could start spreading the good news of the gospel. God's love and grace and mercy to all of the people around that could hear their voice. And of course, acts tells us that people question how they could each hear in their own language what was being said.
Now, I think I've shared before, but back in 1992, that summer I was serving as a chaplain for national Capitol council Boy Scouts. I had a worship service that was supposed to have been announced as a non-denominational service. There were two chaplains. One was the Roman Catholic chaplain, and then it was me for everybody else. And I was supposed to be having what was, what was supposed to be a non-denominational service. But I'm looking, as people are coming into the place where we were supposed to be holding the service and one boy got a turban on and the other one's wearing a Yamaka and I'm looking around and like, um, excuse me. How did they announce this service tonight at the dining hall? Oh, they said it was an interfaith service. Okay, put aside the gospel of Matthew that I was going to use, pull out Proverbs. Every one of those faiths has wisdom teachings, use Proverbs eight, which by the way, at various points in it has all 12 points of the scout law.
And I led the service based on that. Now that's not the big thing. The big thing is that afterwards the scout master comes up to me, takes my hand like this and says, pastor, that was a great sermon in the best Baptist tradition! I was like, oh my gosh was I, that far off the mark? Because if I was, I would have greatly offended some of the others that were there. Then another leader comes up and he says, pastor, thank you. He says, that's the first time I've ever been to Scout service where Islam was given any credit.
Then I had a young boy come up with his yamaka on and ask if we could do a prayer service for the sabbath. And an Islamic scout joined us. But I also had an international scouter from Holland that came up to me afterwards. And he said, pastor, after listening to you, it's just, I've never gone to church. He says, but when I get home, I'm going to go look for one.
And I'm sitting there. What did I say? Because it's not recorded anywhere. And I wish I had it bottled!
And the point of this is it later on when I was interviewing with churches. I had one church search committee that asked me if I preach spirit-filled sermons. Now, I think I know where he was going with that question, but my answer was, I don't preach spirit filled sermons, but I hope the spirit is in them as people hear them. Like that service, where people heard what they needed to hear.
We have the gifts to share what God needs us to share, but we can't be timid about it. We can't be quiet about it. We have to be willing to put ourselves out there in such a way that others can experience what we have to share. Now it doesn't mean we have to walk up and (knock knock) have you found Jesus?
But it does mean that we have to put ourselves out there in such a way that when people see our actions and hear our words, they match with what we say, we believe.
Because that's where the flames of Pentecost exist. When, what we say and what we do match. When the faith we claim is the faith we live. That is when Pentecost is happening, because that's the best way for us to witness and share that love of God and Christ that we have with everybody around us.
So when we have people that don't look like us don't dress like us don't act like us, don't worship like us don't speak like us. We can start to undo Babel.
The elementary schools that are over children attended for the first few years of school had 68… 52 countries. We had the three blondes that were there were there, the international dinner for the PTO was the highlight of the year. But what was phenomenal in that school, even though most of the children that started in that school spoke very little English because most of them were children of new immigrants. And yet you would find this child who spoke a lot of English, together, working on project or reading, helping the other one with reading or whichever it was with one that could maybe have four or five words of English. And, you know, those kids found a way to get past the language barrier because they saw each other as children.
And then somewhere between that age and adulthood, we start seeing people as other or different. And we see that as a barrier. We see that as something to confuse us and the message of Pentecost is that God gives us a way to get beyond that. If we just pay attention and use the gifts God has given us.
One of the ways we do that is of course, you know, through our missions, right? We do a lot of mission. For a small congregation this church does a lot of mission. We've reacted quickly to the floods when the dams broke, we've reacted quickly to the tornadoes that went through Gaylord. We've done a lot of things locally and across the state and well beyond. We do things locally.
One of the ways we can get past Pentecost, or make use of our Pentecost gifts Is when we do things like participate in the food distribution or the food bank, but it's more than just that those are the expected things for church members.
But it's all those other things. Do you strike up a conversation with a person that's in front of you or behind you in the line at the grocery store, a conversation that has to do with something besides how long the lines are or how slow the checkout person is? Because if you don't, you're missing an opportunity. When you’re in a theater or at a concert event before or after, do you talk to the people that are around you? Or do you push to get out as soon as you can, even if it means cutting in front of them?
One is Babel and the other is Pentecost. It's that clear. It's that simple. And we are never going to get past in this world, this turning to violence, this demonizing, the other, the political divides. We're never going to get past it unless we start to believe that Pentecost is real and that we're part of it. So let's start acting like we are Pentecost Christians. Amen.