The Return of Babel – a reflection on Genesis 11 for our Times

Posted on 4 Nov 2019 in Breathe, Reveal | 13 comments

In my last post, I talked about the flood. The painful, messy, and beautiful termination of humanity by Mother God. But the story does not end there. After Noah lands the Ark, humanity begins again. And once they begin again, they begin to build things. Sacred monuments, towers of gathering, big walls.

They begin to erect the Tower of Babel.

In this text, we see God scatter people in order for them to fulfill the prophetic word that was spoken over them – to multiply, be fruitful, to steward and fill the earth.

In our times, we are seeing a similar re-enactment to the Tower of Babel and the scattering of God’s servants once again.

Over the last hundred years, the Church has been focused almost exclusively on either “bringing people in” to the Church, or going out and colonizing people to fit their mold and erect more towers to “Christendom.” This was never ever the plan of Jesus.

In the New Testament, you see a man on the move. Continually wandering from place to place, scattered, yet grounded in his purpose and plans. You see it in the Acts church as well. When Jesus ascends to Heaven, he says that we will become his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the Ends of the Earth. And when we talk about that commission, we often get the idea in our head that witnessing is going out and putting starched white shirts and ties on men and longer skirts on women and getting them to memorize our particular translation of the Bible in English. But we’ve forgotten what Jesus looked like on the move… or the early disciples.

They would go to a place, and sink roots in relationship. They would love people well, throw parties and celebrate. They would live into the fullness of abundant live and invite others into it as well. They didn’t erect towers or even altars to commemorate the occasion. As a matter of fact, Peter was quite clear that we were the living stones for memorializing the witness of what Jesus and the Holy Spirit were up to. Paul called us Living Sacrifices and called us to dance on the altar of the rigidity of the past sacrificial system.

So here we are. With our megachurches, and our towers. We’ve been building walls – presumably to keep us safe, but in reality to keep out the unsavories, the undesirables, the questionables, the misfits, the pariahs. We’ve been immersed in our Holy Huddle instead of throwing our gates wide and getting our feet on the road. Because while Jesus, of course, is with us in our worship, He’s actually quite busy out in the world. And he’s waiting for us to join him.

What we are seeing today in the church (and other religious institutions) is a powerful re-enactment of the Tower of Babel. We are seeing generations of people who cannot recognize the Jesus in one another anymore and are fleeing the scene of the crime in order to rediscover the Sacred Story, the Holy, that is residing through the Spirit in every inch of this world. People are refusing to worship something that they can no longer recognize or find words to communicate, and are moving into spaces where wonder, mystery, and the adventure of Sacred Story can emerge.

We can talk about the hemorrhage of younger adults as a tragedy, or we can recognize that it is part of God’s desire to see the fulfillment of the promises spoken over us.

Connection is the intimacy of being thoroughly Witnessed.

And God longs for us to be connected, witnessed, seen. God wants our stories lived, breathed, and heard. The Divine is a sacred storyteller, the author and perfecter of our faith, and longs for that connection to send us out to share Sacred Story and our own part in it with the world, even as we invite others into this delicious YES to story.

Relationship is the intimacy of being thoroughly Known/Understood/Translated.

And God longs for us to belong, to feel understood. To have fellow characters who understand our underlying narrative and plotpoints and who can help redirect us along the way. To TRANSLATE the unknowing that haunts us as we try to rediscover our own story, our own song.

The miracle of Acts 2 is the redemption and resurrection of Babel – no one speaks in different tongues, but rather everyone is understood in their own. We don’t go out into the world without help, without Connection, without Relationship. We are scattered together. In pairs, in small groups. In dinner circles, or mom groups.

We are being scattered to dismantle the sacred towers that build walls to keep others out and use the stones to build the New Jerusalem – one mitzvah at a time. We are being scattered from the walls of the church to see the Reign of God at work in the wide world, bringing life and transformation, and translation.

So don’t get trapped in the old way of building towers and forcing people into them to worship the way you do. Don’t get deceived by the mentality that people who have left the Church have left the pursuit and service of God. Don’t get confused by people’s longing to have authentic encounters with the God they’ve experienced in incredible and moving ways. And most of all, please don’t get trapped behind those walls in the Holy Huddle. Don’t let your knowledge of Jesus and desire to help people connect with him lead you to hide the Goodness of God away from the world.

Because the world needs the Goodness of God – hands and feet in action, loving and pursuing justice and goodness for ALL the people. Shalom – the flourishing, wholesome, holistic, and delightful sown seeds of peace and joy and restoration. Tikkun – healing, restoration, the making all things new. Chesed – a love that knows boundaries, but knows no limits. Expansive, compassionate, and transformative.

You, my beloved friends, are invited to become the Scattered Servants of a very Good, Loving God, who is eager to see the beautiful arc of Shalom, Tikkun, and Chesed come along and transform the world.

You’ve got this. I believe in you. Go Forth.

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