The consequence of building the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) is that the world became separated by language. The Pentecost scriptures tell of those with distinctly different languages being able to understand the Apostles when they spoke. The divine gift of the Spirit opened ears so people could hear one another again, and in that, people were afforded the ability to build community, but even speaking the same language or understanding a language does not guarantee community formation.
How often do a people united by a common language fail to listen, hear and come to understanding on what is being said, even in their native language? As an example, I have heard it said, tongue in cheek, that “Americans and Britons are a people separated by a common language.” Both speak English (of sorts), but that is simply no guarantee of understanding. Understanding takes more.
— Do you take the time to listen to those in your life?
— Do you try to understand before acting or reacting?
— Can you distinguish between the message and the messenger?
—Who in your life, who speaks your common language, do you refuse to listen too?
— What can you do to clear your ears and listen better? Do you even want too?
St. Paul’s powerful analogy of the body drives home the essential building block of community… connection (common purpose), variety, belonging.
The physical body is connected. There are no disjointed parts. There is connection and purpose. A variety of functions. One part no more essential than another.
So it is with the jigsaw puzzle of a community of peoples with our sharp edges, unique shapes and looks, and interlocking pieces… connected through social interaction and purpose, possessing a variety of skills, abilities, interests, strengths and weaknesses, but ever tolerant, accepting, welcoming, forgiving and experiencing unity in diversity. The puzzle is not complete with out all the pieces, nor is community a complete picture without all parts and peoples.
How bland and destructive relationships would be if we were all painted with the same brush. We would be a homogenized nothingness.
— To whom do you feel connected? Why?
— To whom do you feel disconnected? Why?
— Do you consider some in the community, society, “lesser than” others? Lesser than you… greater than you? Why?
The second notable gift of Pentecost is mission. The Apostles received mission and purpose which based on the first gift of community, can now be undertaken. Mission is accomplished only through community.
Before Pentecost the Apostles were a group of cowards hiding in a locked room for fear of their own shadows, but now are able to go out into the world and fearless carry on the work of Jesus. The Apostles and their followers (you and me) were given a mission of peace, forgiveness, and sharing God’s presence with all to whom they / we encounter. The Apostles could not undertake this mission as long as there were sequestered so Jesus clearly “sends” them out of their safe, locked room into the world impelled by the Holy Spirit.
As God breathed into lifeless lumps of clay in the Garden of Eden to form humankind, Jesus breathes life into these lifeless lumps of clay to animate a new people dedicated to the mission of Jesus—Christians.
— What unique mission, that only you can do, has God given you?
— To whom are you sent?
— Have you become a lifeless lump of clay that needs animation?