24 May 2015
Text: John 14:23-31 (Gen 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Not long after receiving a second chance after the flood, mankind blew it again. When told to repopulate the earth and spread out, our ancestors decided to gather together, saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city yand a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves.”
Mankind had discovered “technology” – in this case, bricks. This enabled him to build a skyscraper. And instead of obeying God’s will to repopulate the globe, he decided to use technology and project management to glorify himself.
But the project would fail as God confused the languages. Reluctantly, man spread out and re-peopled the planet, but at a terrible price: the confusion of languages resulted in misunderstandings, divisions, wars and walls between races of people who were in fact all sons of Noah.
In the late 1800s AD, a son of Noah named Ludwig Zamenhof, a Polish Jew, felt the effects of the curse of Babel. His own small town had ethnic tensions, in part, because there were four languages being spoken. This boy grew up to be an eye doctor and a linguist. He created a new language to fix the Babel problem. He called it “Lingvo Internacia” – The International Language. It was intended to be a second language for everybody. It was easy to learn, and took off rapidly.
Being Jewish, Dr. Zamenhof knew about the curse of Babel. And though he knew about the Garden of Eden and the Fall, He did not confess Jesus nor the Holy Spirit. But he had hope that his language would be the secret to world peace, and would undo the damage of Babel. He published his language under a pen name: Dr. Esperanto. “Esperanto” means, in the International Language: “one who hopes.” The language itself became known as Esperanto. It is still spoken around the world.
Of course, Dr. Zamenhof’s dream of a worldwide language and world peace didn’t materialize.
But, dear friends, we are not without hope. In fact, we have a hope rooted in an ironclad promise. The hope for mankind and for true peace is not found in one more human language, nor in fallen human words. Rather, our hope is in the Word, the eternal Word, the Word of God, the Word made flesh: the same Word by whom all things were made; the same Word that creates us, breathes the Spirit of Life into us, redeems us from the effects of the fall into sin, cures us from death, liberates us from the devil, and gives us everlasting life – all as a free gift of love, given to us on the cross, received at the font, pulpit, and altar.
For even if Dr. Zamenhof’s dream were to be fulfilled, and the whole world learned to speak Esperanto, it would only bring us back to Babel. It would not cure the curse of sin that came to us at the Fall.
To be sure, understanding is a good thing. Learning one another’s languages is a good thing. Esperanto is a remarkable language and it is good to learn it for many reasons. But, dear friends, our hope is not to undo the curse of Babel, but rather to be cured from the curse of sin. Our hope is not to get on with human cooperation in order to pursue technology and make a name for ourselves, but rather our hope is to return to our state of innocence and blessedness of the Garden of Eden.
The world doesn’t need to fix a symptom, but rather to be rid of the problem. And on the Day of Pentecost, God did more than Esperanto could ever hope to do! For on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and bridged the gap, not with words, but with the Word, not with human hopes, but with a divine promise. On Pentecost, the Gospel was proclaimed across languages, cultures, and peoples. For the Church transcends all the divisions of Babel by a common hope, the hope that is eternal, sure, and given to us by grace through faith. It is the hope of eternal healing and transformation in Christ, through the Gospel, and by means of the Holy Spirit. We have this gift, dear friends, right here, in this place of hope and healing and peace, in the preaching of the Word, in your Holy Baptism, in the hearing of the divine words of forgiveness, and in the sharing of Holy Communion.
The languages that became our curse, have also become a blessing. For in these human languages, the Gospel is preached. And through words comes the Word. And in this sense, all human languages – even Dr. Zamenhof’s “Lingvo Internacia” – actually do deliver hope. Not in and of themselves, but in Christ through the Holy Spirit who came to the Church at Pentecost.
The Lord Jesus Christ has not left us as orphans, dear friends, ascending to the heavens to leave us as sitting ducks here in an increasingly hostile, violent, and satanic world, but rather He has given us “another Helper, to be with [us] forever, even the Spirit of Truth.” And according to the Lord’s word and promise: “He dwells with you and will be in you.”
For the ministry of the Holy Spirit empowers us, dear friends, for He is the “Lord and giver of life.” “You know Him,” says our Lord, “for He dwells with you and will be in you.” He dwells with you in faith from the moment of your baptism. And He will indeed be with you “forever” according to the Lord’s Spirit-bound Word and promise.
And the Work of the Spirit is so much more than undoing the curse of Babel. Indeed, He undoes the curse of Eden. He restores paradise by His divine means of delivering Christ to us, to the Church, the Holy Spirit’s creation. For He “has called me by the Gospel.” He has “enlightened me with His gifts.” He has “sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
Dear friends, “in the same way, He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
Moreover, the Holy Spirit “daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.” This is what happened that first Pentecost, and continues to happen in the life of every believer.
This, dear friends, is a hope that transcends human language, that reaches past Babel to Eden, that promises not just world peace, but eternal peace, divine peace, the peace that passes all understanding. For within every Christian is an Esperanto, “one who hopes,” hoping in Him who is the Word whose Word delivers peace. His Word is forgiveness. His Word is love. His Word is life. His Word is hope, the hope of Pentecost, the hope of eternity! Thanks be to the Word, to the Holy Spirit, and to the Father, now and even unto eternity! Amen.
En la nomon de la Patro kaj de la + Filo kaj de la Sankta Spirito. Amen.