Reference to Genesis 10, in Genesis 11.1, where multiple languages is already implied. Verses 3-4 tell us that the people are motivated by fear to create a single language, culture to protect themselves. The building of the tower was an assertion of strength and intimidation and violence against other nations. The fear of defeat and deportation by the enemy. It was a sin of violence and intimidation against the enemy. The sin of Babel was its quest for unity – one language – which was an abandonment of creational diversity and plurality in favour of exclusion and violence.
In verses 6-9, God intervenes to scatter the people and confuse their language: the word scattered can be a blessing as in the flood story of Noah’s family (Genesis 9:7). But it can also refer to how Israel will be conquered and captured by other nations as it is used in (eg Deuteronomy 4:27; 28:64; Jeremiah 9:15; Ezekiel 11:16).
Genesis 11:1-9 is thus a crime against the divine will for creation and peace and justice. It is an aspect of the Divine intention for the world ordered by God that there be will that diversity of languages and cultures be a blessing to the world. The UN development goal for sustainable development sees language and understanding as a key to achieving peace reconciliation and justice among peoples and nations.
Day of Pentecost.
Fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. Jewish overtones here. In v4 the giving of the Holy Spirit enabled those people to begin to speak other languages. In verse 6 the people thus heard them speaking in the native language of each. The Holy Spirit is given to the church. Emphasis in Acts is on diversity of language and God as the centre of unity for all people. Two main themes from Acts and links to economy and society.
- The people were in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5) and heard the word the word of God in different tongues and heard about the wonders of God (Acts3-11). The wonders of God could be interpreted to mean the wonderful works of God and what he has done for us in Christ: the transformation and re-newal of individuals to live a life of love and service.
- From Pentecost you get communion – they were able to stay together and were able to overcome racism and tribalism. Pentecost experience are led to a reinterpretation of the meaning of community life.
Pentecost is a trinitarian salvation event. The ascended Christ sends the Spirit from the Father who is now the ongoing presence of the Father and the Son in the church and therefore in the world. The Spirit is the paraclete, the helper, comforter, that takes over Jesus’s role of helper and comforter. It is indeed the Spirit of Jesus who is our helper and advocate (John 14:16). St Paul sees the Spirit as being the believers seal (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians1:13). The Spirit continues Jesus’s ministry in and through the church. God fills the people with his Spirit to continue Jesus’ ministry through the church.
Thus we need unity around God, who holds everything together.
Sermon and Application:
In Nigeria we are facing constitutional challenges conference in line with the challenges posed by the UN Goals.
The UN Sustainable Goad seeks “reduced inequality” (Goal 10) and “justice and peace” (Goal 16). There is huge disparity in access to health and education between the rich and poor. Much needed investment in health sector. Justice and Peace among different tribes and ethnic groups are called for particularly as we witness violence against tribes and different faith communities.
Pentecost resulted in and advocacy for a new community and government. Peter talks to his brethren and to the crowd about the book of Joel. Peter became a kind of speaker and an advocate for a new community and relationship with each other and about a new society. He says to the people that what they are seeing is what prophet Joel spoke about. It is about community life and living in love and harmony with other groups and people and going beyond our different languages and cultures. he know began to re-direct the community.
The people in Acts are not out to “make a name for themselves”, as they were in the Babel story in Genesis 11. In Genesis, Acts and in John God is the centre. Pentecost is a salvation event, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
Diversity is a blessing in Acts 2. The text doesn’t say that all there is one language. Each still speaks his/her own native language but there is understanding between all of them. The Holy Spirit gives them understanding beyond their ethnic and linguistic differences.
What has Pentecost done to us?
We, the church, are celebrating Pentecost. Now is the time to begin to advocate for a change society. Peter came out a began to address to them about what happened to them. He is preaching justice, equity. So all who have God’s spirit are called to follow in the footsteps of Christs and to continue this work of redemption in this broken world. To be a disciple of Christ is love Jesus and obey his commands. It is about a joyous life-giving relationship with Jesus (John 14:12,15).
Stories / illustrations / videos:
Today, Nigeria ranks 157 out of 189 countries in the UN Human Development Index, which measures indicators such as health and inequality. Life expectancy is still only 54 years, although that’s an improvement from 46 years in 1999. About 80 percent of people who earn an income are active in the informal sector or have what the UN calls “vulnerable employment,” work that lacks social security or guarantees any kind of rights. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-22/six-people-fall-into-extreme-poverty-in-this-nation-every-minute.
Building peace is a challenge in Nigeria particularly with violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and inter faith violence. There is also lack of trust among the different tribes in Nigeria- Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. Civil society led campaigns against arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture exposed human rights abuses by security agencies, including by the Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).”
Sustainability projects/ themes / links:
by Revd Jaiye Edu, Nigeria / London