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Babel & Pentecost!

May 15, 2016

Pentecost                                                              Trinity Lutheran Church

15 May 2016                                                          Murdock, NE

+Jesu Juva +

Click here to listen to this sermon.

Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21


Well, well, well! Isn’t this something? A Genesis 11 Babel and an Acts 2 Pentecost! You can’t get any more opposite of one another than with these two events. Leave it to the Lord pull all this off! At Babel the Lord confuses and scatters. At Pentecost the Lord orders and gathers. At Babel the diversity of languages or tongues brought an end to the illusory-you-shall-be-as-God-ambitions of rebellious sinful men. At Pentecost the diversity of languages or tongues marks the beginning of the preaching of the good news of the Good Friday, Risen, and reigning as Lord Jesus to the nations of the world. Babel and Pentecost are about language and how the Lord uses it – TO SCATTER and TO GATHER.


A long time ago the world had only one language. These were the descendants of Noah after the Flood. They were very naughty people. They had a hankering to be like God. Not satisfied to be creatures. It’s what sinners do. They had a plan. “Let us build” they say. The “Let us” language is the aping of the way the Trinity talks. You remember don’t you? “Let us make mankind in our image,” (Gen. 1:26). As if these people are little divinities they declare: “LET US build!”


They will build a great city with the world’s tallest tower. A skyscraper that will make the Trump Tower in New York City look puny! They will build it with baked bricks instead of stone and asphalt for mortar. Baked bricks means independence and self-sufficiency. Building with stones is just too restrictive. You can only build where the stones are and you can build only so high. But with baked bricks all that changes. The sky is now the limit! You can build anywhere you want. You can build as high as you want.


Haughty confidence. Cocky arrogance. Snooty plans. Listen again. “Come, LET US (remember that languages apes the way God talks) … LET US build ourselves a city with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” Reach the heavens! Achieve Hollywood status! Attain their greatest potential! Control their future! They will be like God! Baked bricks and tar are their tickets to achieve a perfect and unlimited utopia. A man-made kingdom of God on the earth! The possibilities are endless! Man is in charge! With all the technology man can be like God!


WRONG. King David speaks the bald faced truth to the disastrous dreams of the idolatrous utopians. It’s Psalm 2. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” Yes, the Lord’s laughs. You never knew that, did you? The Lord chuckles. In addition, He interferes. Like the Divine Prankster that He is He impedes all the man-made plans. He does it subversively.


The Lord throws a huge “pipe wrench” in the construction site on the plains of Shinar. He doesn’t topple the tower. He doesn’t send Al Gore-like doomsday, catastrophic global warming to melt the mortar and disintegrate the brick. Instead, the Lord … CONFUSES THEIR LANGUAGE! He jumbles up their nouns and verbs. Shuffles their adjectives and adverbs. He tangles their tongues. They can’t understand each other any more!


It’s total confusion. A Babel! Scrambled tongues and scattered people. Later in the Bible the place is called Babylon. Babylon in the Bible is the city that exemplifies man’s ambition to be like God. In the Book of Revelation Babylon is pictured as a prostitute, luring men to their spiritual death with the seduction of her luxuries, her wealth and her power.


In Acts 2 the Lord does a Pentecost. Does just the opposite of Babel. Scattered Jews from all over the world are gathered at Jerusalem for worship, including the blessed apostles and other disciples o the Lord.


All of a sudden there is the sound of rushing wind and tongues of fire. Wind and fire signal something special. Something huge! From the Lord! The Lord’s doing something here. The apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preach in languages that are understandable. Egyptian for the Egyptians. Greek for the Greeks. Arabic for the Arabs. Aramaic for the Hebrews. Etc. In a sense, the confusion of Babel is reversed in this moment. The various languages remained. However, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak them. Everyone heard in their own native language that the Good Friday and Easter Sunday Jesus is the Savior of the world. That Jesus died and rose for the salvation of all sinners.


The MIRACLE of Pentecost Sunday is that the preaching of the Gospel broke through Babel’s language barrier. Not just for the Jews but for all people. All heard in their own native tongue that: “Jesus is God FOR YOU. Jesus died for you! He answered and atoned for all your sin. He is your Savior. He conquered death and hell FOR YOU. He lives and reigns at the Father’s right hand FOR YOU. You can be sure of it because you are hearing this good news in your own language!”


But what about you folks here at Trinity today? Well, every Sunday is a little Pentecost! Really it is! In your own language you hear the good news that Jesus died for you too! He did! Why? Well, because you’re just like the people at Babel. You too have the relentless desire to be a little divinity and not live as a human. As if you have better words than the Lord. As if life is all about making a name for yourself. So you live only for self. Curved in on yourself 24-7-365. That’s why Jesus died for you. To be your Savior. To redeem you. Forgive you.


That’s the absolution. That’s the sermon. That’s the Lord’s Supper. That’s your baptism. In the Word and Sacraments in which you hear the living voice of Christ the Holy Spirit is blowing. The Holy Spirit rolls up His sleeves and bears witness to Jesus! Yes, that’s right, Jesus who is God FOR YOU too. Who completely atoned for all your sin! Yes, you are forgiven. Peace with God and all of heaven is yours. You are saved. All because of Jesus.


You understand these words preached to you don’t you? Of course you do. So every time you hear the gospel in your own language, you experience and receive another little Pentecost. You are winded, flooded and fired by the Holy Spirit as He calls you to faith in Jesus by the gospel, enlightens you for salvation with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps you in the one truth faith!


Then on the Last Day you will see with your eyes what you now have by faith. On the Last Day when Jesus comes to judge the living and dead, the same Holy Spirit will raise you and all the dead by the command of Jesus. The Holy Spirit will breath the breath of life in your corpse and give you a resurrected body like Jesus for life everlasting with God Himself: the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.


All this is most certainly true. You’re hearing it in your own native lingo.


Isn’t this awesome? Sure is! Thanks be to God!


Happy Pentecost Sunday. See you next week.


In the Name of Jesus.



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