Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 11:1-9; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10

The topic of the Children’s Sunday school lesson today is the Tower of Babel. We have returned to the narratives of the Old Testament and this particular vignette describes why everyone in the world doesn’t speak the same language. American tourists often wonder the same thing.

The people begin to build a city with a great tower climbing toward the heavens. They are doing a great job because everyone understands everyone else. The problem comes when the people decide that they should build their tower right up into heaven where they can be on an equal footing with God.

God immediately causes universal understanding to breakdown completely and the result is the city and tower are unfinished and left desolate like the Jerusalem of today’s reading from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. The people are scattered and the whole earth is populated.

Hebrew uses a lot of wordplay and here Babel which means Gateway to Heaven hints of the Jewish word balal to confuse.

Babel has become babble calling to mind a cacophony of sounds not really meaning much.

It seems to me that we Americans in this young 21st Century are so inundated with information and with noise that we long for a simpler way of life. Our TV screens are populated by talking heads. The list can go on.

We exacerbate our situation when we automatically turn on the radio in the car, the TV—often one in the majority of the rooms in the house and the result is distraction and the kind of loss of relationship that happens when communication breaks down.

When the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith, he comes back with some pretty sarcastic responses. I think Jesus was a little fed-up.

These guys have seen healings, heard parables and addresses, even the opportunity to experience Jesus in prayer and yet one wonders if they have done the hard work which can increase one’s faith.

In my experience faith is increased when people become truly conscious about what is going on around them and how God might be bringing about a particular outcome.

In my own life I find it difficult to be truly present in situations if my brain has been overstimulated by too much information—TMI (the texting term).

We begin by simplifying. Spend time without the distractions of TV, radio, the computer, and increasingly among many I observe texting and instant messaging. Gain some composure and take the time to think of the day’s events, what our reactions were and where God might have been in the situation.

Make regular times for prayer, write down in a journal what have been the subjects of prayer and reflect on the results.

Many practice meditation and it can certainly be done in a Christian manner substituting the Jesus Prayer (Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.) or a phrase in the place of the mantra.

Teach by example our children and grandchildren. Place value on just being quiet and attentive.

Use prayer to rekindle your faith much as Paul urges Timothy. Experience some personal renewal through Cursillo or other opportunities to be guided.

Prayer as well takes us beyond ourselves. Yes, it is appropriate to pray for oneself but pray about needs rather than wants. Pray for others and situations you may otherwise not be able to influence.

And remember the way Father Tim always finished his prayers in the Mitford series—Thy will be done.

We cannot change the world’s addiction to noise, to unrelenting efforts to intrude but we can change the way we go through our lives.

Heck, you might even turn the phone off every once in a while.