About Me

My photo
Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Babel, Babble, Bobble, Bumble

2016-05-15 Babel Babble Bobble Bumble 
Gn 11 01-09 and Ac 02 01-04  

And the Lord said, Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language. – Genesis 11 

Sometimes language gets confused. MY language gets confused. I mean to say one word, but another comes out. I do that a lot with names. Maryjane, Marybeth. Emily, Anna. Linda, Steve. Or sometimes I'm sure I'm saying a word or using a word correctly. I'm close, but. 

Like that poor guy in our childbirth class who raised his hand and asked when he should start worrying about his wife's contraptions. He said it, like, three times. I thought the woman having twins was going to give birth right there. 

Confused language isn't just accidental; it's Biblical. According to Genesis, God made us this way. It's not your fault. 

Confusion's part of the story itself. I'll prove it. What's the tower's name? The Tower of…? Raise your hand when you hear me say it the right way. 

The Tower of bA-ble? – like the Mumford & Sons album. Do you know Mumford & Sons? No? You're more into Tupac and Biggie. 

Or is the Tower of Babble? Like babies. God turned us into babbling babies. We're all politicians. 

Or maybe you're British. It's the Tower of Bobble. We're all bobbleheads. 

BAbel, babble, bobble. I don't know which is right. I must have skipped class that day.  

But I don't want to preach wrong. Heaven forbid. So I did what anyone who wants knowledge does. I went to the Internet. To the translation site, BabelFish. Or is it BabbleFish? And here's what I found. Depending on how "scattered" you arethe name of the tower sounds very different. 

Take for instance, the simple words, "Tower of Babel." Let us now hear a variety of translations. 


American English bAble 

American English Babble 

British English 



Computer Welsh 









Which, should give you some idea how it sounded. Not only on the construction site of the Burj Velveeta, but also on Construction Day of the first church, New Testament Pentecost. Babel 2.0.  

The Bible says,  

The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak. 

Many religious Jews from every country in the world were living in Jerusalem. And when they heard this noise, a crowd gathered. But they were surprised, because they were hearing everything in their own languages. They were excited and amazed, and said: 

Don't all these who are speaking come from Galilee? Then why do we hear them speaking our very own languages? Some of us are from Parthia, Media, and Elam. Others are from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya near Cyrene, Rome, Crete, and Arabia. Some of us were born Jews, and others of us have chosen to be Jews. Yet we all hear them using our own languages to tell the wonderful things God has done. 

But holy guacamole, look what it says next. It says: 

Everyone was excited and confused. 

There's that word again: confused.  

Not in-fused, de-fused, re-fused, or trans-fused. 

CON-fused. Everyone was excited, and amazed, and confused. But why? 

At the Tower of Whatever-it-is, they were confused because they DIDN'T understand each other. But at Pentecost, they were confused because they DID, but they weren't supposed to. Because, strangers are supposed to be confusing. That's why we call them strangers. They're strange-er than you. 

It makes me wonder. What's more confusing? That after all these millennia we humans still DON'T understand each other? Or that by some miracle, sometimes we actually DO? 

Which is more normal? Which is more expected? When we're stumbling and bumbling to understand strange people? Or when we're stumbling and bumbling because – for a change – we actually do? 




Some of you are married. Some of you used to be married but decided not to be anymore. Maybe it's because you couldn't understand your spouse. Or maybe it's because you could 

It happens in any relationship. Have you ever been in a heated, uh, discussion, with someone, and later realized you're both saying the same thing, just in different language? You were speaking English, and they were speaking… Klingon? (Which is also a sign you have really weird friends.) 

Or, it's in the translation. You're saying the words in Open-minded Curious, but they're hearing the words in Judgmental Christian Old-person. You say, "Your tattoo is interesting," but they hear, "The Bible prohibits those." (Leviticus 19:28) 

Or, it's in the interpretation. "Take out the garbage NOW." Does "now" mean immediately in this moment and dimension of time? Or does it mean the current era? Like, "Justin Bieber is very popular… now." 

Is the confusion a matter of hearing? Or is it a matter of understanding? 

Hearing or understanding. 

I delight in the Facebook posts of one of my oldest friends. That's confusing. He's not OLD-old. What I mean is that we've known each other since Junior High. Our friendship is "enduring." We're not "old"; we're "enduring." Feel free to use that with your grandkids.  

A couple of weeks ago my enduring friend posted: 

Years ago, I thought I was suffering from hearing loss, because I had trouble making out what people were saying in situations with background noise. I had a full set of Audiology tests run. 

The results came back showing – no hearing loss. 

The Audiologist told me, "In fact, your hearing is very good. So your problem may not be auditory, but cognitive." 

Translation? "You hear like a dog; unfortunately, you also think like one." 

(Brent Taggart – May 2, 2016) 

So this is why my children sound like Astro from The Jetsons. Especially when they're asking for money. 

"Dad, can I have aroorahrooorooo?" 

"What? Sorry, I didn't catch that." 



Imagine how confusing it can sometimes be when people from all over the earth, or all over the greater metropolitan area, some even from foreign counties, come together for this thing we call "church." We all love Jesus, right? Or are at least are on speaking terms with him. You'd think we'd all be of one mind, we'd just get along, the Lord would be with you and also with you, holding hands and singing, Kum By Y'all, my Lord, Kum By Y'all. Isn't that the goal? You'd think EVERY church would be like that. If you'd never been to one before. 

Or maybe, church is supposed to be confusing. 




Church is supposed to be confusing.  


O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.... 

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 

what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 

  • Psalm 8 


[God] has made everything suitable for its time; moreover [God] has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  

  • Ecclesiastes 3 


Church is supposed to be confusing. But, O Lord, how we fight against our confusion. Sometimes with each other. 

Presbyterians love doing things "decently and in order." Bless our hearts. We try. We have our Book of Order. We conduct our meetings by Roberts' Rules of Order. We have committee handbooks and church bylaws and policies about everything from where to store the tablecloths to what to do in case of snow. I love it. Then again, I love Leviticus. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together, you've gotta know who's in charge and what are the rules." Well, he should have. 

Sometimes churches – religions – start to think their sole reason for existence is the elimination of confusion. Good luck with that. People built the Tower of Babel for the elimination of confusion. People join cults for the elimination of confusion. Where everyone thinks alike, and talks alike, and looks alike – Hello, North Korea - those are usually places where people bring down trouble of biblical proportions.  

Which is not to say churches should AIM for confusion. People say they don't like organized religion. Disorganized religion isn't any better. Too much confusion is disabling. That's the Tower of Babel. God confused their language to dis-able the people. Unquestioning, unmindful devotion reduces towers to rubble.  

But the confusion at Christian Pentecost was en-abling. It says, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." They were confused in a good way. By how able they were to do and speak the good news of the gospel.  

Don't you hate it when someone you're absolutely sure is a rotten jerk turns around and does something nice for you? Confusing. Or when you say something profound you didn't know was in you? That's confusing, too. Or when your backbone gets stronger than you dreamed it could and you go way out of your way, you sacrifice your own self-interest for someone, give yourself to a cause that you'd never thought much about? Has that ever happened to you? I'll be it has. I'll bet you've surprised yourself on numerous occasions. Could it be you're not alone? Could it be the life and presence of some Holy Spirit mystified you? Confused you? In a good way? 

The Bible says, the people of Pentecost were confused. But it also says they were excited. And amazed. They weren't dumbfounded. They were smarter-than-expected-founded. They were inspired. Not because they were so cool and awesome. But because God gave them the gift of doing things way beyond their sense of personal order. They were out of order. But not broken. Out of order. But working anew. 

Church is supposed to be confusing. Church is supposed to make us bumbling babblers. It should. It really should. Because wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit of the Almighty, Creating and Creative God confronts us, inspires us, we aren't just made better; we are made new. 

But be careful with this. Notice I didn't say, "YOU." I didn't say, "YOU are made new." The Bible's very intentional. It's not about the Miraculous Me. It's the miraculous y'all. The we. The us together. God did not speak to the Presbyterians alone. God spoke to the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Asians, Egyptians, Libyans, Pontans and Pamphilians – and all the other places no one can pronounce or find on a map.  

Maybe that's the most confusing part of all. This good news of Jesus Christ breaks all the boundaries of civic and national order. It's for everybody. Everywhere. Even if they look different and talk different and think and smell different. The Holy Spirit came to all y'all. Surprise. That's kinda confusing. And amazing. And exciting. 

May the Lord bless you. And keep you. And keep you just ever so slightly confused. 



For more reading: