Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bible Babble and the Babel Fish

Pentecost is here again and this year I was inspired by Douglas Adams. Remember the moment when Ford Prefect shoves the Babel fish in Arthur Dent's ear? Arthur, like he usually is, is confused because he has just arrived on a Vogon vessel and only moments before had no idea that Vogons existed. But then all of a sudden he can understand everything that's going on around him - or at least everything that's being said; he's still pretty confused much of the time. That moment of understanding, that is what happened on Pentecost.

In Acts 2, there are people from all over the known world gathered to celebrate one of the high Jewish holidays. All of these people who were just minding their own business tuning each other out because they couldn't understand what the person next to them was saying, now they can understand every word. And not only understand but realize that God was working through this miracle of understanding.

No doubt Douglas Adams named the Babel fish for the story in the Bible often associated with Pentecost as the anti-Pentecost, the place where all the trouble started. At Babel, in Genesis 11, the language are all mixed up and no one can hear or understand each other any longer. But Pentecost and the Holy Spirit gives that all back. In understanding they are suddenly able to create a community, because the barrier of language has been broken down. And that's not all, Peter quotes Joel as he interprets this event: even upon slaves, on men and women, on young and old. The Spirit is for everyone. This is the birth of the church.

Radical new community all because of a little fish...I mean the Holy Spirit.

Affirmation of Faith for Pentecost

We believe in God, creator of all,
whose love is more than mind can measure or time contain.

We believe that God's desire is fullness of life for all,
and from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell,
nothing and no one has fallen beyond the reach of God's mercy.

We believe in Jesus Christ,
who unveiled the divinity of human flesh
and revealed to us the nature of God;
who embodied God's holy wisdom
and brought forth fruits of love, joy, peace,
goodness, faithfulness and humility.

We believe in the way of the cross,
for when Christ embraced the outcasts
and unmasked the arrogant,
he stirred into deadly confrontation
the power of love and the love of power.
The enemies of life had their way with him,
tearing spirit from flesh,
but God's saving power raised him to life,
so that we and every person on earth
might follow him into the fullness of life which death cannot overcome.

We believe in the Holy Spirit
God's ceaseless and mysterious Go-between,
who kindles the fires of passion and integrity.
Elusive and uncontrollable,
comforting and disturbing,
she purges our delusions with fire
and whispers grace with a lover's breath,
empowering us to refuse what is evil,
and be taken up with praise.

Though sometimes fearful, in God we trust.
We lay ourselves open to the Spirit's touch
that we might be the body of Christ,
offering our life for the life of the world,
and being drawn into the mysterious dance of the Trinity,
through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory and praise forever.

- Nathan Nettleton, Laughing Bird Liturgical Resources