Everybody Hits 5-19-13

Genesis 11:1-9 Throughout the earth, people spoke the same language and used the same words. Now, as they moved eastward, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They all said to one another,  “Let us make bricks and bake them in the fire.”  They used bricks as building stones, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top can reach to heaven.  Let us make a name for ourselves, to keep us from being scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  YHWH came down to see the city and the tower these mortals had built. “They  are a single people with a single language.”  YHWH said.  “And this is but the beginning of their undertakings!  Now there will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come,  let us go down and baffle their language so that they can no longer understand one another.” So YHWH scattered them over the face of the earth, and they had to stop building the city. It was named Babel, because YHWH made humans babble different languages throughout the world.  It was from there that YHWH scattered them over the whole earth.

This week, my son’s baseball team, the GFS Tigers, had their playoffs, the last games of Elijah’s high school career. He was starting pitcher in the championship game yesterday. They lost, as teams almost always do eventually, but they put up a fight, and made the dads proud. All this makes me nostalgic and potentially weepy. So allow me to make my baseball analogy to Pentecost today as we read about this amazing entrance of the Spirit into the God’s community.
Acts 2: 1-21

May 19, 2013

Everybody Hits

I remember the boys sitting in the dugout and encouraging each other in their batting. They made up a half chant/ half whistle: “Everybody hits!” Whoo-hoo! They would sing. And though it was never totally true, (and certainly wasn’t true yesterday) everyone did get to try their best to hit that little elusive white ball.
Baseball has very little to do with Pentecost, but at least once or twice a year I ask you to indulge me and allow me to use sports metaphors to make a spiritual point. In this case, I title my sermon “Everybody Hits” in honor of those early baseball days, when we really did work to include everybody and to encourage even the little guy who basically closed his eyes on every swing and only got a hit by coincidence of the ball finding the bat, not the other way around.

Pentecost is a time when we celebrate the entrance of the Spirit into the people of the early church. We read in Acts how everybody was finally included in the assembly because everyone understood each other, heard them speaking as though they were speaking their own language.
We do not imagine that everybody has the same capabilities, that everybody actually hits every time, nor do we insist that everyone speaks the same language, just that everybody gets a chance to hit, just that we will make the effort to reach and hear people no matter what language they speak.
Let’s look at the story of the Tower of Babel from Genesis for a moment. The Acts reading seems to be a response to this story near the beginning of Genesis. This ancient story imagines a time when everyone on earth spoke the same language, lived in the same community. They understood each other because they had the same traditions, the same customs, the same ways of being with each other. Everybody knew what to do when someone in the community died. You brought them a casserole. Everybody knew you don’t clap in church and that children are seen and not heard.
The people in Babel wanted to preserve this unity, so they built a city with big walls and a big tower, so no one else could get in (turns out they weren’t the only people on the earth, they just felt like it) and everyone would know how grand their city was.

Well, God saw what they were doing and how isolated they were becoming and God didn’t like it. God saw their big city with all it’s steps and said “This is totally inaccessible. how is anybody with a cane or in a wheelchair supposed to get up all these steps? When they come to change the flowers on the altar somebody is going to fall on all these steps and break their arm!?

And God dispersed the community and they spoke different languages and had different ideas. It was confusing for a long time as people struggled with all their different world views and different ideas about everything. The people longed to go back to Babel where everybody – at least everybody they knew – believed the same thing and spoke the same language and had the same customs and ate the same kind of food.

But that’s just not how God wanted it. God likes variety. God, it seems, likes color and different kinds, and a variety of ideas and languages and world views. God was concerned that people in their comfortable homogeneous communities wouldn’t learn anything new. It was easier for them to be in nice groups where everybody spoke the same language and knew the same customs, but God didn’t care about easy.