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.

1 comment:

Peace Mennonite Church said...

Amy, I love the connection between Pentecost and the Douglas Adams novels. Too bad Pentecost is over for the year.

Thanks for your note on our church blog. It's great to hear from other Mennonite pastors--especially other feminist Mennonite pastors. Peace, Joanna