Five Rivers District
Today's Lectionary Text
All people on the earth had one language and the same words. When they traveled east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them hard.” They used bricks for stones and asphalt for mortar. They said, “Come, let’s build for ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and let’s make a name for ourselves so that we won’t be dispersed over all the earth.”
Then the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the humans built. And the LORD said, “There is now one people and they all have one language. This is what they have begun to do, and now all that they plan to do will be possible for them. Come, let’s go down and mix up their language there so they won’t understand each other’s language.” Then the LORD dispersed them from there over all of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore, it is named Babel, because there the LORD mixed up the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD dispersed them over all the earth.
More than 7,000 languages roll off the tongues of people around the world. In China alone, more than 300 dialects are spoken each day.
I find that amazing!
The passage I chose for today explains how we have so many languages, and it’s a story you probably know well. The people have settled in one spot, they have decided to build a grand city and a grand tower. Their goal is to bring themselves fame.
God is displeased and garbles the single language while also scattering the people. At first glance, this looks like a rather simple crime (sin)-and-punishment story. But I think it contains a lesson for those of us living today.
The story just before this is the tale of Noah and his family after the floodwaters have dried up. They are told to make the world better than it was before, be fertile and multiply, and spread out.
While the people did multiply, they stayed in one spot, apparently choosing to stay with people just like themselves. Based on their actions, the people in this story yearned for uniformity, for homogeneity. They were comfortable in their situation and didn’t see a need to reach out.
But based on how God responds — by mixing up their language and giving them a push to move out from that one location — it looks like God is urging them to embrace diversity, to move beyond the uniformity of the region and to branch out into this renewed world. They are to leave their comfort zone and reach out to others, people who now will speak a different language.
In other words, they will have to work to build relationships because they won’t immediately understand one another. They will have to be intentional about gaining understanding of people different from them.
In a world where we seem to struggle mightily to understand cultures different from our own, the lesson to leave our comfort zones and embrace diversity is one worthy of our time and attention — an effort that goes beyond words.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Loving God, we thank you for the richness of diversity on our planet. Help us to see the benefits of getting to know new people, understanding different cultures, and embracing the idea of moving beyond homogeneity to instead embracing diversity.
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