Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An Interpretation of the Tower of Babel

This strange story in Genesis 11 tells of human beings gathering together to "make a name for themselves on earth," lest they be forgotten. It is said that all humans spoke the same language in that day, and that the Divine was so threatened by the human plan to build a tower to the heavens that it was necessary to confuse humans by giving them all different languages so they couldn't communicate with each other and plan such great things anymore.

On one hand, this can simply be seen as an explanation of why there are so many languages on earth. On the other hand, we ought to remember that this sacred story didn't drop out of the sky from heaven, but was written in Hebrew by some crusty old Jews who had been through a struggle in history to maintain their identity as the people of God in a world that questioned their right to exist as a people. Deep in Israel's history was the experience of being oppressed by the great empires of the ancient world: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon (later Greek and Roman empires). And, if we realize that this 'Tower of Babel' tale was written by Hebrew people of faith in the shadow of the oppressive empires of the world, we will realize that this story is a warning against EMPIRES AND THE UNIFORMITY IMPOSED BY EMPIRES. Empires assume a high level of cooperation and require uniformity among its citizens: one language, one culture as Alexander the Great imposed.

So, sit down and read the Tower of Babel story again, and think of it being told from the perspective of a small nation whose experience in the world had to be affirmed and asserted overagainst the empires of the ancient world. See if this doesn't sound like a warning against uniformity and empire, and an encouragement of a distinctive people. Right after this chapter in Genesis, we find that God begins to rebuild the world, not by some great cooperative project between nations, not by choosing a great group of people, but by choosing one man, Abraham who believed in God. With this one man, God made a covenant, and out of this trusting relationship began to rebuild humanity.

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