Thursday, June 1, 2017

From Pentecost to Babel

The United Methodist Church should not observe Pentecost this year.

Pentecost is the birth of the Church. It is also the culmination of a story that began centuries earlier. The story begins in Genesis 11:1-9 with the construction of the Tower of Babel. Remember in that story the whole world speaks one language. A prideful group gathers together and begins building a Tower to reach the heavens. To thwart their efforts God confuses their languages. They can no longer communicate with each other. Thus they have no choice but to separate one from the other into tribes and nations across the Earth.

Pentecost is Babel Part 2. As people from all across the world speaking all different languages gather in Jerusalem, the Spirit descends upon the believers and enables them to speak different languages. They share the Good News in multiple languages, or perhaps in a spiritual tongue that could be understood by multiple languages, and as the shared the news that has the power to unite all people 3,000 individuals were converted in one day.

It is not a complete reversal of Babel. The multitude of languages still exist. The multitude of tribes and nations still exist. But the multitude could exist together because even with the differences they were able to communicate. They were able to listen, share, and grow together. Diversity in the Church continued even into the writing of Scripture as we have four Gospels that tell the same story in four different ways.

The United Methodist Church should not observe Pentecost this year because we have gone back to Babel. We speak different languages literally (both in the United States and certainly across the globe) and figuratively traditional, progressive, centrist, exclusive, inclusive, conservative, liberal...) Our figurative language differences identify the tribe to which we belong (WCA, Love Prevails, Good News, MFSA...) Instead of being drawn together in Christ with our differences as happened at Pentecost we have chosen to withdraw to our tribes in the spirit of Babel.

We don't have to talk to each other. We can simply go our separate ways. We can associate only with those who think like us. But we can't do that and celebrate Pentecost. We have become people of Babel instead.