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
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 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’