Pentecost Year C / June 5, 2022 / St. Paul’s Random Lake
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as they migrated from the east,[a] they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and fire them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” 5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and theyleft off building the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel,[b] because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth, and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Stairway to Heaven
Let us pray. Lord, give us humility to see that while we seek to make a name for ourselves in this world, that your Holy Spirit is truly our power source. Whatever we seek to achieve in this world comes only through your guidance and strength. Help us to use your gifts wisely to advance your kingdom that the good news of Jesus would be spread to every corner of the world. AMEN.
It seems like in today’s world there are so many possibilities when we think about all the advances in technology and science that link us all together–the sky’s the limit on what a person could achieve or be. When you think a person can get on the internet and chat with someone a world away in Australia or make machine parts on a digital printer.
Our whole society seems to be focused on the race to get ahead, to make a lot of money, to live a comfortable lifestyle. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with striving to clim the ladder of success, as long as we don’t step on other people to get to the top and lose sight of God who is the source of all our blessings and achievements.
That can be tempting in a time where the whole world seems to be at our fingertips. Whenever we need anything we can just go to Amazon. Who needs God anyway when anything we want or need is only a mouse click away.
Isn’t that exactly what was happening in Genesis 11 when the folks in the land of Sinar decided they wanted to get into the construction business? They believed the possibilities were endless. Everyone could speak the same language and the sky was the limit to what they believed they could do or achieve on their own: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”
In the story, God comes down to see what the people have done and is far from pleased. They’ve built a tower up to heaven, who knows what they have in mind next!
“Look, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and theyleft off building the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel,[b] because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth, and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
You may listen to that story and think that God has quite a jealous ego–not wanting humans to accomplish such a project on their own and achieve greatness. On one level that’s true, God doesn’t want us to get so involved in our own goals and projects and forget that God is truly the source and power behind all that we are and build and do in life.
In giving the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai, God said: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above, on the earth below, or in the waters beneath. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing loving devotion to a thousand generationsb of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Our lives today can be so driven. Even youth and children are constantly on the go with lessons and practices and meetings with little time for free play, family, God or church. It’s no wonder God is jealous. It is no wonder that we are scattered, with so much to keep track of going in so many directions and ways other than God’s ways.
We may achieve some goals and successesfor ourselves on our own a part from God, but at what high cost? It was not so much God’s jealous ego that cause God to meddle at Babel, but God’s love for us and God’s sincere desire to protect us from the damage caused to ourselves and those around us by our own destructive egos when we push ourselves or our kids to the edge of burnout. God reminds us that we need to replenish our own spirits at the bottomless well of the Holy Spirit.
In the 70’s and 80’s actor Burt Reynolds made a name for himself. For 6 years he was the #1 box office draw in the world. he spoke of that experience in an interview. “When you’re number 1 in the world you go to China and you get off a plane and they know you and you’re like a god to him.”
But like any human achievement, fame can be taken away in an instant. The time came when Reynolds was not #1 anymore. His world came crashing down. It was falsely rumored he was dying of AIDs. All of his friends deserted him. Reynolds commented: “When you’re dropped by everyone the way I was you need an enormous faith in God…If you don’t have something, you’re going to go directly to whatever puts you out of this world, whatever pill, whatever you smoke, whatever you can stick in your arm, whatever you can drink.”
Now, I don’t want to discourage folks from having ambitions or plans in life. What I do want to remind you is to shape those goals with God in mind. Remember that it is God who is the source of your living and serving and giving.
Whatever you do in life, whatever you achieve or accomplish, it doesn’t come from you alone. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. Success is not a matter of making a name for yourself, but growing into the name that God has given you, child of God.
Breathe deeply from the wind of the Holy Spirit. Keep rooted in God who is your life, hope and strength. No matter what happens, even when human plans and goals fail, even when accomplishments and achievements topple like the Tower of Babel, even when the friend you always depended on to be loyal to the end scatter and they no longer seem to understand you, God will be there.
“Once there were two caterpillarswho discovered a tower of caterpillars each struggling and fighting its way to the top of the heap. One of the caterpillars soon gives up and goes back to the bottom. The other finally reaches the top and discovers nothings but other caterpillars. Then he looks around and sees a butterly who looks strangely familiar. He crawls back down, spins a cocoon as he is meant to do and when he emerges, he and his friend fly off together, far higher than the tower, far higher than they could fly on their own as caterpillars.
We can strive for our own power and struggle to make it to the top of the world on our own, and sometimes find only disappointment. When we trust in God and try to discern and discover God’s will for our lives and give the control of our lives to God, God may just surprise us. God has the power to turn us into butterflies so that we can soar with a freedom beyond what we can do or achieve for ourselves. Soar butterflies, soar. And may the Holy Spirit be the gentle wind beneath your wings. AMEN.