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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Scripture Reading: Genesis 11:1–9
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth. (NRSV)

The story of the Tower of Babel is one of the most haunting stories in the Bible. It speaks of human ambition and takes measure of optimism in human accomplishments. The optimism is palpable when the people of the earth say to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.”  At their disposal is the brick needed for stone and the bitumen needed for mortar. Once they see that they have everything they need, they envision building a city and within it a tower so tall that it will reach into the heavens. Given how unified the people are, speaking one language and sharing one culture, it seems as though their plan might just work.

Nothing seems to stand in their way until God complicates their plan. Confusing their common language into multiple different languages and geographically distancing them from one another, God complicates their plans. It is almost as if God wants to show them that they have been dreaming too small, that their vision has been too provincial. It is almost as though God wants to teach them that the work of building a city in which true unity and peace reign takes more than the hard work of supplying sufficient brick and bitumen. It takes the harder, more vulnerable work of traveling to distant lands, understanding and being understood by others, sharing dreams, and then realizing those dreams together. 

Almighty God, forgive us when our plans are too provincial. Correct our ways and set us on the right path. For the sake of your Son, who traveled a great distance to dwell with us and to help us to dream, we pray for peace for all your people. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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