top of page


Two biblical stories of epoch proportion were written for the ages.  One could be viewed as a “problem story.”  The second we could simply call, “the alternative story.”  


“Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.’  So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”  Genesis 11:1-9 ESV


Here we have a story about how it is when we choose to empower or build up ourselves our consequence becomes not power but powerlessness, not understanding but misunderstanding, and not unity but division.  Bottom line: when we seek to be exclusive we will find ourselves excluded.


The Bible is famous for providing us with problem stories told ahead of more favorable alternatives, so let’s read now this “alternative story.”


“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?  Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,  both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’  And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’”  Acts 2:1-12


Great question.   What DOES it mean?


What is different about this second story?  


And why?


I mean that first story had people who migrated from the same place to the same place.   A homogenous people.   They were all insiders.  So much in common. Even a common mission or objective.  So what could possibly go wrong?


Second story featured people from all over the place……north, east, south, west.   Different skin colors, different languages, ethnicities, religious denominations.   A cosmopolitan collection of outsiders.  Strangers coming to visit.  The wind picks up; there was some kind of a fire.  Yet they all end up understanding each other and celebrating this new empowerment of that community of people we later came to call the Christian Church.


How so?


How did something like a Church get born of this collection of outsiders and foreigners?


And once we figure that out, maybe it’s time to then tackle an even bigger question on this day the Church calls Pentecost Sunday.   What happens when a Church becomes a collection of insiders and nativists, all with a common mission and objective, as if building a tower to heaven?


Is it possible for the Christian Church today to become a “problem story?”    Can the Church today possibly die even as, on Pentecost Sunday, it was truly born?    Can we get to a point where, by trying to empower and grow ourselves even bigger than before, we can’t even understand each other?   Where we don’t even speak the same language anymore?   Where we are powerless to get our points across to one another?  Can we make ourselves so exclusive that we become excluded in the grand scheme of things?


Go ahead and answer for yourself, but I believe such is not only possible but probable.   Already happened, at least happening.  


The cry of the world today is for a Christian Church that gets born again.   Born again of the same Spirit that, as promised, enters into the last not the first.   Enters into the least and not the most.  Into the outsiders and outcasts, not the “in crowd.” Into the foreigners and not the natives.


The cry of the world today is for a Christian Church that becomes an “alternative story.”   A story of people celebrating the reality that empowerment isn’t what we build for ourselves or those like ourselves.   It is what we build for the strangers in our midst, what we do to include the outsiders.   The power to understand others, to empathize, to feel with them in their own struggles, and in so doing to gain a new understanding of ourselves.   The power to make ourselves understood in that new way will birth an “alternative story” much like we see in the story of Acts 2.  A story of the God who empowered not self but others, not those who were the same but those who were different.  A new communion and communication where by becoming "them" we become the greater "us."

So long as the Christian Church is building a tower for “us vs. them,” the problem story will continue to be told as if from Genesis 11.   When will we finally come back to Acts 2 and realize we are all “them” and therefore all “us”?  When will we learn that making ourselves understood by other people only happens when we first understand other people?    


When the Christian Church gains empowerment by giving away our power to the powerless, which is the way of the Cross……the way of Jesus the Christ, then we will again have a good news “alternative story” to tell.   The world will come together to celebrate.  The dead Church will rise again.  And the winds and flames of Pentecost will again spring forth in abundance.    

42 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page