Summary: Communication with God, as well as others, is important. God’s purpose must become our purpose.

E=mc2, but W.W.J.D.?

The disciples, despite the presence of the Holy Spirit, were misunderstood. They were perceived,

because of their exuberant behavior, as being loaded. Sauced. Drunk. How rare it is to

experience real communication. The kind of communication where every word is clearly and

completely understood.

Years ago a conscientious homeowner wrote to a manufacturer of cast iron pipes, telling them

that he had found that by pouring pure hydrochloric acid down his drain, he immediately opened

his grease clogged pipes. He asked if there was any way in which the acid might be harmful to

the pipes.

The plumbing manufacturer wrote him back. "Thank you for your letter. The effect of such acid

upon ferrous-constructed materials is certain to be deleterious. We therefore strongly urge you to

cease such activity in the interest of the future of your plumbing."

He read their letter and responded, thanking them for their letter, telling them that he was

relieved that he was doing the right thing in using the acid on the pipes.

Another letter from the manufacturer: "We fear that there may have been some

miscommunication in our correspondence. Acid, of that density, applied to cast iron pipe, is

certain to have dubious results. Therefore, please desist from your current practices."

The homeowner read the letter, then wrote back, thanking the company for its response, telling

them once again that he was delighted that he was doing nothing which might harm the pipes.

Finally, an exasperated manufacturer sent a telegram: DON’T USE ACID. IT RUINS THE


The possibilities for misunderstanding are limitless.

There was a time when the whole world had only one language, when the descendants of Noah

settled in a plain called Shinar. Everyone understood everyone else. These descendants had a

plan - use baked bricks instead of stone and asphalt for mortar to build a great city with a tall

tower. You see, with bricks, you could build as high as you wanted. The sky was the limit.

They had lofty plans . "Come, let us build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the

heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the

whole earth." They wanted to reach to the heavens. They wanted to be famous. They wanted to

be like God. Baked bricks and tar were the key to their fame and future, the way people today

talk about computers, the Internet, cell phones, and beepers.

But the way God saw it, one people with one language wasn’t a good idea. He knew what would

happen when sinners learned to cooperate. He knew how we could mess things up. The

ambitious city and the tower made of baked bricks were just the beginning. And so to protect us

from ourselves, God confused our languages and scattered us. And we’ve been babbling ever


Have you ever wondered why some churches can’t hold it together? We’ve all seen or heard of

churches growing from almost nothing to a exciting, vibrant church. Membership increases

dramatically. They have several services, programs for every kind of situation. It’s the church to

belong to. They’re trying to build their own present day, personal tower of Babel. Pretty soon

the leadership fails, or division comes in because people come up with their own agendas, or

they stop communicating and the church splits, or becomes spiritually dead, or dwindles away to

nothing again. Lack of communication (or not speaking the same language) will always be a

divisive thing. The language or communications barrier will always keep us from being very

efficient at getting the job done.

By following the Lectionary, every three years we look at this story of the Tower of Babel on

Pentecost Sunday. Two completely opposite events come together today, Babel and Pentecost.

At Babel, God created confusion and scattered. At Pentecost, He created order and gathered. At

Babel, the diversity of tongues brought an end to the ambitions of men. At Pentecost, a diversity

of tongues marked the beginning of the preaching of the good news of Jesus to the nations of the

world. Babel and Pentecost are about language and how God uses it - to scatter and to gather.

At Pentecost, the scattered Jews were gathered for worship. Pentecost happened 50 days after

Passover. It was a harvest festival and there was a sound of violent wind, and tongues of fire.

Wind and fire signaled that this was something special, something big. The disciples were filled

with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in a variety of languages, languages they previously

couldn’t speak. The confusion of Babel was lifted, in a sense. The languages remained, but the

Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak them. Everyone heard the good news of Jesus’

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