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The Feast of Pentecost, 19 May 2024

A Sermon on Genesis 11:1-9 by Deacon Robert Alan Shivers

Genesis 11:1-9 English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

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.


Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Scattered yet together. Pastor Sam, being the quick-wit that he is, replied back to my submission of today’s sermon title. His response was, “Is that an autobiographical for the end of the semester?” While it would make a great title for a book about being a student, I had something else in mind. For those that are new to St. Matthew’s and have never been to a Pentecost service here, it is helpful to know that we usually confirm our Confirmands on this day (Pentecost Sunday). The day that the Holy Spirit entered into the disciples, causing them to speak in different tongues. That is why we use the gifts given to us at St. Matthew’s, and have readers speak in different languages. It gives all of us an idea of what it would have been like when the disciples spoke to all of those who were present on the day of Pentecost. When we confirm the young men and women who have gone through confirmation, the pastor places his hands on the child’s head and prays over them asking God to stir up in them the Holy Spirit, to confirm their faith, guide their life, empower them in their serving, to give them patience in suffering and to bring them to everlasting life. It is a powerful moment not just in the child’s life but also in the family’s as well. The child is confirming their faith. But sadly some see it as a rite of passage. After all is said and done they think there is no need to come to church, to proclaim their faith, to give thanks in God’s house, to receive Christ in Holy Communion, and to serve. My dear brothers and sister you know that confirmation is not a rite of passage, it is stepping stone in one’s faith. One would think that after learning so much through the three years of Confirmation that they would see a greater need to come to worship to hear the word of God and to receive Christ. But Satan’s words are too enticing to them, those words seem sweet as honey and it is easier to just stay at home, to go to the beach, or to go play golf. Living the Christian life is not easy in a world of sin and mockery. When we hear God’s word, when we receive Christ through Holy Communion, we are not only renewed in our faith, but we are also strengthened to take on the challenges that Satan throws our way.


Satan’s words and ways are enticing to everyone; no one is immune. We find in our first lesson that the people of the land later known as Babel were easily enticed by the words and ways of Satan. They wished to make a name for themselves by building a city and a tower which would reach the heavens, as they put it. They were prideful, and while one should have pride in themselves and in their work, it is another thing when it takes over one’s life and personality. But because of their pride, these people, through only a few generations, had forgotten the flood, forgotten the faithfulness of Noah, and the safety that God provided Noah and his family. How does God respond to this? He says to the other persons of the Trinity, “Come, let us go down there…”. We should take note that this is a figure of speech. God can see all without “coming down”. The purpose of how this reads is to make it clear that what man was doing was microscopic compared to the whole creation. Because these people had forgotten about God, they were more concerned with their ego and pride. And because of that, they turn to false gods. What does God do in response? He puts a stop to it, not because He fears that they will overpower him, but because they would be stepping over a threshold of which they could not return. Their hearts would be so corrupted that they could not be led back to God. In order to save them he confuses their language. Because they cannot understand one another they do what is only natural when people are different from one each other, they separate themselves spreading across the earth. Sin took over and as we find in the Old Testament, time and time again, God intervenes in order to save man from himself.


Mankind’s sinful nature creates the problems that we see. For all of history, after the fall of Adam and Eve, sin has been the factor which separates us from God. But it is through Jesus Christ that man is redeemed. We find salvation through him, through his sacrifice on the cross. Nowhere else can we find salvation. Most certainly not through our works. Because no matter how righteous we think our works are, they are laced with sin. We are justified through Christ our Lord. Through our baptism we become washed in the blood of the lamb. A new life begins. Let us not waste it with prideful acts. Rather let us live out the Christian life, living to serve others. We are called to give of our time, talents and resources. Do not let pride get in the way.

So come to the table and receive Christ through the bread and the wine and be renewed in body and spirit. Yes, Christ is with you always, but you can’t receive his body and blood on some nature hike. You receive him here at the table. Come with your empty hands and sinful heart, for that is all any of us have to offer. Remember, though we have been scattered because of sin, it is through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, through our baptism and through the sharing of the body and blood of Christ that we are together. We become one body. We are the church, let us come together and live the Christian life.

What should we take away from today’s sermon?

Though we are separated by sin, though mankind around the world speaks different languages, though we have become separated by oceans and landscapes, though we are of different cultures, we are together through Christ. We are children of God and we are called to live as such. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples spoke various languages to not only preach and teach on the day of Pentecost, but to prepare them to go out and spread the gospel. We are called to do the same. We are called to be servants. Will you answer that call?

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Deacon Robert A. Shivers

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina USA