Message from Our Pastor
Excerpted from Pastor Hoffman's June 9th homily. Relevant text: Genesis 11: 1-9 & Acts 2: 1-21
There is some irony in today’s reading from Genesis. Did you hear it? It’s right there in verse four. The people of the world say, “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.”
Sooo, the people build a tower and what happens? The Lord comes down from heaven to see what is going on; and, the Lord doesn’t approve. In response, the Lord confuses the language and scatters the people where? Abroad over the face of all the earth.
Now, you might be asking, “Why the Lord found the building of the city, and a tower reaching to heaven, so disdainful?” It wasn’t the tower itself, but the reason behind the tower that troubled the Lord.
“Let us make a name for ourselves,” the people said. In other words, let us be somebody. Let us do something great and grand, so that others will know who we are and that we are important, a force to be reckoned with.
Everybody wants to be somebody, right? Isn’t one of humanity’s greatest fears to die a nobody? We want to do something, be someone that will be remembered, cherished and respected long after our body disintegrates. We might not build a tower, but we certainly work to build up our reputations. For many it is their life’s goal, to be somebody worth remembering.
Isn’t this how we encourage our children? “You can do anything you set your mind to do.” Do we not encourage each other to try, and if we do not succeed, to try, try and try again? And doesn’t scripture say that nothing will be impossible, in fact, that all things will be possible for us? So, why is God throwing a hissy-fit about the people of the world doing the very thing that he promises?
Because this isn’t really what God promises is it? In Matthew, Jesus says that nothing will be impossible for you, not if you put our mind to something and try, try, try again, but when? If you have faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed, then nothing will be impossible for you.
You see, the people of Genesis forgot their place and their purpose in the world. They did not need to make a name for themselves because they already had a name, Adam and Eve, Man and Woman, names given to them by their creator, the Lord.
The people also forgot that their purpose, the reason for which they were created, was not to be great and mighty and famous, but to live in communion and community with one another and the whole earth, in such a way that would bring Godglory, not themselves.
The missing piece to the puzzle is God. Without God, disaster awaits.
Today’s reading from Acts describes a similar scenario. Do you remember what Jesus did in the Gospel of John that caused the Pharisees and Scribes to plot against him? He raised Lazarus.
They were concerned because if Jesus continued to do such things, everyone would surely believe in him. And, if people started believing in Jesus, they would no longer believe in the established order of things, through which the Scribes and Pharisees drew their name, power and purpose.
Like the people of Genesis, the Scribes and Pharisees were concerned about self-preservation. But the end of the story is the same for both groups of people, their greatest fears become a reality. And, in both cases, it’s the Lord who intervenes.
In Acts, the Holy Spirit descends upon the people. This time the people are not scattered, they are united by a common story shared in their many languages.
And the result? At the end of Acts chapter 2 it is reported: “those who welcomed Peter’s message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
Today’s texts are a reminder that God can do anything through those with faith the size of a mustard seed, even bumbling disciples, betraying Peters, doubting Thomases, dense Philips, and the smallest of congregations, if they are willing to serve for the glory of God and not their own.
This is precisely how the church started and it will be the only way the church will continue to thrive. Because without God we can do nothing but with God by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ we can set the world on fire. Amen.