Read: Genesis 11:9
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.
This story of the division of languages posits the beginning of a global economy, as human beings once gathered in one place and united as one family become divided and then scattered through the action of divine will. Human ingenuity married to pride creates conditions for a global economy oriented to a single purpose—the building of the city and the tower, which is frustrated by God’s intervention.
Read Acts 2:1-11. Here, the effects of the division and scattering at Babel are reversed by God as people from all over the world gather in Jerusalem for the observance of the Jewish Feast of Weeks, or Shavout. Scattering is replaced by gathering, and the confusion of languages is superseded by understanding, through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a new global community created by the action of God and the proclamation of God’s deeds of power in Jesus Christ.
The globalism of a single community with a single economic purpose has a dark side, as reflected in the story of the Tower of Babel. Our own situation in a global and interdependent economy is more complex but has its own problems. What might those be? The story of the Pentecost moves humanity back to unity and understanding through the power of the Spirit, yet in the story people remain Parthians, Medes, Elamites—even in the midst of this new cohesion. There is localism in the midst of a new globalism. The gospel still needs to be carried into every part of the earth. What might be expressions of an authentic localism in our own day? Christians believe that people are more than interchangeable integers and that our local context matters. What weight do we give to people with a particular claim on us, of family or nation? What is the value of a particular place to us?
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 815)
John Bauerschmidt serves as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee.