First Lesson: Genesis 11: 1-9
Responsive Reading: Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b
Second Lesson: Acts 2: 1-21
Gospel Lesson: John 14: 8-17 (25-27)
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The year was 1851, a new group of western settlers within the Oregon Territory, wished to govern themselves. In 1852, this group of settlers decided to appeal to the U.S. Congress for new independent territory. The floor debate broke out early in 1853; the original proposed name was the “Territory of Columbia.” For its division from Oregon between north and south was taking place at the Columbia River.
Representative Richard Stanton of Kentucky hated this name; he was worried that the “Territory of Columbia” would be confused with the “District of Columbia” where the nation’s capital Washington D.C. sat. So Representative Stanton proposed an alternative name for this new territory named after the nation 1st’s President George Washington. The Territory of Washington was incorporated in 1853 and became a state in 1889 hopefully never to be confused with Washington D.C. ever again.
Today’s first lesson tells a similar tale where a group of settlers seek to become famous. But in the end, they created nothing but confusion among themselves.
Our lesson comes from the 11th Chapter of the Book of Genesis. The story comes right after the well-known Biblical story of Noah and the Great Flood. Noah and his three sons: Ham, Shem, and Japeth and their descendants spread throughout the Earth. They still had one thing that tied them together: “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.”
Many of Noah’s descendants settled in a place called Babel or Babylon. As soon as they settled in Babylon, they began to plan to make Babylon their permanent home. The first thing they sought to do was build a: “tower that reaches to the heavens.” They did this so they would become so famous that God would know them.
God seeing their plans intervenes: “Coming down and confusing their language so they would not understand each other.”
Why did God do this? Why did he stop the construction of the Tower of Babel? God had seen pride nearly destroy humanity multiple times in earliest days of creation: first in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, then Cain killing Abel, and finally needing to flood the Earth because the people had grown so prideful and wicked. God needed to make the point that human sin will lead to nothing but brokenness and separation from God going forward. So God scattered the people to repopulate the Earth and confused their language.
The Year was 1173. The place was Italy. Plans were made for a 180-foot high marble stone tower. Prominent local architects and builders were hired. A problem would arise on the building site having nothing to do with the builders or the materials. The problem was the land on which the tower was built. The tower built in Pisa, Italy was named “Pisa” because it was Greek for area of marshy land. The Leaning of Tower of Pisa was born because a structure was built on land that could never possibly support its weight.
What had taken place at Babel is Noah’s descendants had lost sight of their foundation. They thought their salvation would be found in more possessions, more status and fame, yet this wouldn’t be enough until they dared to try to reach heaven themselves. So God brought down their tower to remind them of the source of their salvation. God placed a curse upon the Earth, where people would be separated by their speech for generations and generations.
The story of Abram begins right after the Tower of Babel reminding us that God vows never to abandon his people. Abram would not have any children with his wife Sarah for 99 years, yet just as God had previously promised, he would end up the father of a great nation with descendants as “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” Through Abraham’s family tree, salvation would come to the Nation of Israel through Jesus Christ. The people of Israel were forced to wait thousands of years to witness salvation coming down from out of heaven upon a cross.
What Abraham's story reminds us is that it is often in our greatest confusion that we find our greatest clarity.
Once upon a time in Kansas City, Missouri a young cartoonist was fired. The reasons given were that the young man lacked “imagination.” And “good ideas.” He then started his own animation studio in Kansas City only to see it file for bankruptcy. The man then decided to move to California to try to start another animation studio with his brother. This idea seemed destined for failure. In 1928, he created a character named Mortimer Mouse who would soon be renamed Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney had spent years in confusion and uncertainty before great clarity came into his life.
Here’s something interesting about Walt Disney nearly eighty years after being fired by the Kansas City Star newspaper. The animation company bearing his name purchased the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) which owned the Kansas City Star newspaper.
The clarity amid confusion at the Tower of Babel would also eventually come. It was the Festival of Weeks or Shavuot. It was a celebration of the day in Israel’s history when God spoke to the people on Mount Sinai delivering the Ten Commandments. So people from all over the world were gathering in Jerusalem: Libyans, Egyptians, Romans,Arabs and Asians, all were gathering. While they all worshiped the God of Israel, they dating back to the days of Babel were separated by a lack of common language.
On this day, of Shavuot also known as Pentecost in Greek, Jesus’ disciples were standing among the crowd. Remember, Jesus’ disciples were primarily a group of fishermen from Galilee. They were not experts in foreign languages. The crowd saw what appeared to be tongues of fire come upon the Disciples. The Disciples then began to speak in the tongues of every language of the Earth. Peter began to preach and three-thousand new Christians were created by the Holy Spirit on this day. Pentecost is the day where Babel’s curse is no more. Peter proclaims human pride as a way to the salvation was broken upon a cross.
What happened on the Day of Pentecost? Let me tell a story; I was in fourth grade. In music class, we were learning to play the recorder as our first instrument. We go through the semester with me paying particularly little attention during the lessons. Finally the exam is the next day. Nine o clock at night, I’m forced to admit that I’m unable to identify or play any of the notes. My parents were gone and they would have been furious if I failed a recorder exam.
They had a babysitter staying at the house. She happened to be a very talented church musician. She stayed up with me until I learned how to play the recorder. I passed the exam on the next day. A seemingly hopeless situation had been given “new life.” I was given the gift of “musical” language that I could not achieve on my own.
The following is what the Holy Spirit does on the Day of Pentecost. The spirit gives us the ability to confess the faith into which we are baptized and often unable to confess on our own. The spirit gives us belief when so many forces within this world tell us not to believe.
To illustrate this further, let me close with one final story. Meredith Wilson’s Music Man tells the story of Harold Hill. Harold Hill is a traveling scam-artist going from town to town promising to form boys bands then collecting money for instruments and uniforms before leaving town to find his next group of suckers. Harold arrives in River City, Iowa. Harold like had so many times before convinces the town to believe in his charm.
Finally, a gentleman from Harold’s past arrives in River City vowing to expose Harold Hill as a fraud with no musical credentials to his name. Harold Hill seems destined to end up in jail. Harold is handcuffed when the town’s folks meet to decide his fate. The mayor finally puts Harold on the spot asking: “Where’s the band?”
Finally, a group of boys enters the gym, and through some power other than their band director, the boys begin playing Beethoven's Minuet in G (Min-U-ET). Regardless of how the band actually sounded, every mother thought their child’s music to be the most beautiful music they had ever heard. Before long the whole town celebrates to a rousing rendition of 76 Trombones performed by the previously inept boys band. Harold Hill is set free.
What did the Holy Spirit do on the day of the Pentecost?
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”-Romans 10:9.
The Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost brought clarity to the confusion by leading people to confess “Jesus is Lord and Savior”. A number of years ago, the Tower of Babel was built where people attempted to reach heaven from themselves. The pride of this act brought death and pain for generations. What happened on the day of Pentecost is God came down from heaven in the form of the Holy Spirit. It was this Holy Spirit who created 3,000 new, unexpected believers speaking every language from around the Earth. This Holy Spirit would keep spreading the message of salvation through human voices many times the world over: into the German, Swedish, and Norwegian language of many of our ancestors and then to the language where the Gospel was first proclaimed to us. Reminding us that heaven’s trombones and trumpets will sound all around us when we least expect it. Amen
 “Washingston Territory.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 9.Apr.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 “Richard Stanton.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 12.May.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 Unknown Source. “Confusion.” Sermon Illustrations. Web. May.30.2019.
 Genesis 11:1-9.
 Genesis 11:1
 Genesis 11:4.
 Genesis 11:7
 Donovan, Richard Niell. “Bibilical Commentary: Genesis 11:1-9.” Sermon Writer. 2006.2010. Web. May.30.2019.
 “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 26.May.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 Leaning Tower of Pisa Website. “Leaning Tower of Pisa Facts.” Tower of Pisa.org. 2018. Web. May.30.2019.
 Perkins, Alan. “Leaning Tower of Pisa had Poor Foundation.” Sermon Central. 2019. Found on Family Times.net.May.30.2019.
 Donovan, Richard Niell. “Bibilical Commentary: Genesis 11:1-9.” Sermon Writer.
 Genesis 22:17.
 Gillett, Rachel. “How Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, and 19 Other Successful People Rebounded After Getting Fired.” Business Insider. 7.Oct.2015. Web. May.30.2019.
 “Walt Disney.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 25.May.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 “Kansas City Star.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 22.May.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 “Shavout.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 29.May.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 Acts 2:9-11
 Stier, Leon. “The Tower of Babel and Pentecost.” Email Mediatations. 24.May.2015. Web. May.30.2019.
 “The Music Man.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 22.May.2019. Web. May.30.2019.
 “The Music Man.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
 Schick, Steve. “The Music Man (1962).” Text Week: Movie Illustrations for Holy Spirit. Web. May.30.2019.
 Acts 2:41.