Summary: God gives confusion when we act out of pride; but He wants in His church to reconcile all of us to one another, and does so through the model of the Christ of the cross.

I am becoming an expert in baby talk. Thanks to two young

granddaughters, I am learning all over again the special

language of infants. What their tiny mouths utter is not

nonsense. They have their own language. Just because I

have become accustomed to the language of the adult world

– just because, as was said of Shakespeare, I have “small

Latin and less Greek” – that does not mean that I cannot

appreciate the language of babies. In fact, woe betide the

parent or the grandparent who cannot understand how

babies tell us they are hungry or tired or wet. I might add,

that ability to know baby language is also important for

workers in the church nursery; I heard of a church where

outside the nursery door they had posted the text of I

Corinthians 15:51, “We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be


The language of babies is not nonsense. It makes perfect

sense. When babies use the sound “M” it is very clear that

they want nurture. It is not an accident that in many

languages the word for “mother” begins with “M”. Mother,

mere, mutter -- mama. The nurturing presence. I know one

little girl who only has to look at food to put her lips together

and pronounce, “mmmmmm”! (Actually, I know some big

boys like that too!).

The sounds “B” and “Ll” are easy for babies too. Babies

make those sounds. Their facial structure helps them with

“B” and “L” sounds. Some have guessed that maybe that is

why we call babies babies! The double “B” sound makes it

natural. Around our place granddaughter number one says

“baby” frequently. She means her two-month-old sister. She

does not mean herself. Olivia is a big girl now. Not a baby.

But Olivia has also learned to “bubble”. There are those “B”

and “L” sounds for: bubble. It all started with Keena and

Greg Brock’s wedding. Margaret and I took home one of the

little soap containers that were handed out as an

environmentally friendly substitute for rice. When Olivia saw

what came out of that bottle, she was entranced. Not only

did she learn to say “bubble” right away, but also she busied

herself trying to catch those wisps of soap. You and I,

worldly-wise as we are, know that you cannot catch and

keep a bubble. But the baby does not know that yet. She

just repeats her new word over and over continues to try to

catch bubbles. Each new bubble represents for her a new

beginning, something wonderful. But she can never quite

catch it.

I say, let her alone. Let her chase the bubbles. Soon

enough she will become older and realistic. Soon enough

she will conclude that some things are not possible in this

world. Soon enough she will become frustrated and cynical,

maybe just resigned that that’s the way it is. No, let her

pursue the bubbles. Babies chase bubbles, beginnings.

Which takes us to the story of the Tower of Babel. This

ancient story is an ingenious thing. Not only does its teller

explain why we speak so many different languages; he does

so by playing with sounds, baby sounds. Over and over he

uses the “B” sound and the “L” sound, so that if you listen to

this story in Hebrew, you not only hear its message with your

mind, you also feel its message in your bones. Babel -- it

means gate of God; it referred to the ancient city of Babylon.

Listen to a taste of Hebrew: “Nilbenah”, let us make bricks.

“Le’eben”, for stones. “Nabelah”, let us confuse. The teller

of the tale is pointing us to something very deep and very

basic in the human experience. He is pointing us to the set

of issues I call Babel and bubbles, babies and beginnings.


Babel. What is the meaning of the story of the Tower of

Babel? It is another way of saying what the Book of Genesis

has said from its very first pages -- that we human beings

always want to put ourselves in God’s place. We want to go

beyond our boundaries. We think that by our

accomplishments we can ascend to the highest heights and

reach to the deepest depths. The Tower of Babel is a

picture of our pride in achievement. Oh, we have done so

much. We can build. We know what is right. We know

what we want. We know. And so, just as the first chapters

of Genesis, with the story of Adam and Eve, tell us that all of

us break fellowship with God, and all of us want to taste of

the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and so, having

broken fellowship with God, we must leave the garden of

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