Remember the story according to Genesis, of how all peoples of the world came together to create a monument for themselves, to build a tower that would touch the heavens. So determined and unified were the people in their human pride that God had no choice but to confuse their verbal communication, which began the diversity of languages and cultural groups. Well, let us consider how at Pentecost God reversed what happened at Babel: miraculously people understood the words that came out of the mouths of the disciples, who each spoke in their own native language.
Interestingly, both stories describe two similar and yet such different congregations: the one is a large gathering out in the open at Babel, while the disciples meet as a small secluded group in an upper room in Jerusalem. Both of these congregations had gathered in harmony with a common purpose and lofty goals. Yet the gathering at Babel resulted in the raising of barriers, while the one at Jerusalem resulted in the overcoming of barriers.
Both congregations were reaching for the heavens. The people at Babel wanted to do so in order to make a monument for themselves, while the disciples humbly stretched out their hands to heaven in prayer. The first group of people was relying on their own power, while the second group was waiting for power from on highâ€”God’s power. The first group ended up with tremendous communications barriers, the second group found that through the power of God, language barriers can break down.
In a sense, these two stories tell the tale of the fact that humanity needs God to be in control. We all need to look beyond ourselvesâ€”to Godâ€”for help, especially when we are ever to overcome the devastating ethnic, racial, political, social, religious, and economic barriers in the world. These barriers divide us, keep us apart, can cause strife, bitterness, hatred, and even wars. One only needs to open a newspaper to realize that fact.
At the original Christian Pentecost the Spirit of God caused the miracle of language, whether it was a miracle of speaking or hearing what is important is that people heard and understood the good news of God without a communication barrier.
Perhaps the deeper Pentecostal message is that the miracle of overcoming the language barrier can result in the overcoming of all barriers. As we continue our ministry to overcome such barriers, whether it be with people of different faiths or by welcoming folks of different orientations, may God fill us once again with this Spirit that we may be instruments of peace and proclamation of Godâ€™s love for all.