In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The tower of Babel was built to reach into the heavens.
To invade, so to speak, that place where man imagines God Himself dwells,
or at least, that place, where man thinks he can journey to God on his own,
climb to with his own hands, and step foot in by his own will.
The tower’s destination was certainly the heavenly places,
But it’s goal was never communion with the Lord,
It was not to meet Him face to face, it was not to enter into fellowship with Him, or to sit at His table.
Those things are the very definition of true communion, but they were not the goals of the Tower of Babel.
Rather, the goal of the tower was to pass the Lord up, to climb over His throne, and so declare that man had no need for his Creator, that he had outgrown the Lord’s name and family.
Man’s fallen version of communion, is to always look to himself, the works of his hands, and imagine that by what he does, and how he builds, he would achieve by these things, equality with God, acceptance, respect, and in his own way, redemption.
“Come, let us make a name for ourselves” chant the people of Babel, come let us throw off the shackles of creation, come let us take what our parents in the garden failed to reach, let us be gods ourselves.
It’s the same lie, the same attraction, the same temptation, and it is the same heart that was not only found in the Garden, but is still found in us.
Like the people of Babel, our fallen flesh doesn’t really want true communion, it doesn’t really love that communion found in the Garden, where Adam and Eve took their place at table and received all that the Lord had to give, where He kept them in His Word, made His home with them, and gave them His peace, all so that having given them everything of Himself, they might in turn give themselves to one another.
This communion, true communion, we reject, and instead we reach for that far more glamourous and glitzy picture of those who need no help, those who have a made a name for themselves.
We reject the Creator, and we refuse to live as those feeding from His table, for this offends our pride and the well-crafted image of ourselves that we’ve spent years creating; instead we’ll fix our own meal, make our own name, and build our own tower. We’ll join the heavens to the earth on our own terms.
We see this every day in the world around us.
Our strange addiction to a sense of community anywhere we can find it, even when the very things it achieves are in fact the very opposite of real community.
We want so desperately to revel in the works of our hands, to see some kind of impact that we’ve made on the world around us, that we’re willing to even build the very things that destroy our neighbors and ourselves, we want so desperately to make an impact, that we’ll settle for impacts of violence and hatred, to tear each other down, all in the name of doing something, changing the world, indeed, reaching up into the heavens.
And yet, we don’t have to flip on the news for this, the heart of Babel lives in our own fallen flesh, and we see its cheap imitations of communion in our own lives that are so full of gossip and slander, of gathering with one another, not as a family, but a gang of bullies and cynics.
We perversely enjoy picking sides in our own families simply for the pure sport of it. We exchange the most intimate of communions found in husband and wife with the off-color jokes we share with our friends.
We say that we want real communion, but we really just want ourselves, a worship of self, praise without sacrifice, privilege without duty.
Yet far more subtle than our own towers at home, is the secret Christianity of our works. This is the real tower of Babel, and it lives in all of us. It is the lifelong struggle of the Christian.
After all, it is far more appealing to be praised for your good works among brothers and sisters in the faith, than to silently receive the whole host of heaven, the very kingdom of God in the Holy Communion.
Indeed, if this is the heart of man, even if only to degree, then Christ’s words to us in John 14, are rather frightening.
For here He says, ““If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (Luke 14:23-24)
If we are left to ourselves, then we have no hope. We do not keep the word, and we jump ship for our own works more often than not.
But our Lord does not end here. He promises to send the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the Paraclete, the name which literally means, one who has been called to stand alongside you.
The Spirit is sent, He is not simply offered, He is not placed upon the table for you to pick and choose, rather, as St. Paul writes, the Lord Himself has sent His spirit into our hearts, crying out back to Him, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15)
Our Lord’s communion is not about work that you must do, it is not about a tower that you must build, you do not have to reach him, He does not need you to invade His heavenly courts.
Indeed, His communion is not about building anything at all. That has already been done.
The dust of the earth, the sin of the world, and the curse of mankind has already been joined and reconciled to the holiness of heaven through the tower of His Son lifted up from the earth.
All that was needed to join man to God in Holy Communion has already been done.
And in this, the tower of Christ crucified, its glorious name is not Babel, for it is not a senseless word or a proclamation that bears no meaning, it is in fact the very Word made flesh, joining Heaven to Earth, God to Man, across all tribes, nations and tongues, found in but one Word, Peace.
Everything is finished. This communion is not about building something. It is about being brought into something, indeed the body and blood of Christ Himself.
That is the Holy Spirit’s work, and thanks be to God, it is His work alone.
We confess in the catechism that, “I believe, that I cannot by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit, has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Small Catechism: The Creed – The Third Article)
On our own, we do not desire the good things of God. We live a cowardly life of sin, running from the very communion and peace that will make us whole again.
And yet, thanks be to God, that this is not our work to do. The Holy Spirit who calls us by the Gospel, forgives our sins, and keeps us in the Word, also works without end that He might teach us to desire the very communion that we so often flee from.
No child in all of creation, naturally desires that which is truly good.
Children are by nature selfish and self-centered, they are impulsive, and often reach for the very things which would work against good health and life.
This isn’t a bad thing. It’s not something to feel bad about as a child. Instead, it reveals the very vocation of parents, those who don’t simply sit idly by letting their children determine what is good or to be desired, but take up that difficult and costly task, to teach their children precisely what to desire, what things are good and worthy of praise, what things true and truly life-giving. Indeed for the Baptized, this is ultimately to teach our children the work of the Holy Spirit, the blessing of Christ’s communion and gifts.
So it is with us, the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit is that He would teach us and form us in Christ’s Word to actually desire and see as good and life-giving that which Christ gives.
In this, we see in our own hearts the truth of the catechism, no one else could teach this, no human being, left to their own, could imagine this kind of good.
Our Lord’s communion, is absurd in the eyes of the world.
For here, you learn to receive in peace, to stop worrying about getting what’s yours, and instead live in the simple and true faith that the Lord who places into your homes daily bread, also places into your mouths the bread of eternity.
Here, desire is transformed, the family is reconciled, husband and wife learn to love the absurd notion that sacrifice and selflessness is the true gift of Holy Marriage, that forgiveness, humility and the drowning of pride is the true peace of the Christian family.
In this, the Spirit Himself fills you with the love of God, and for God, it is not easy, it is not simple, but it is His Work, He promises to do it, and not cease in that grace until it is finished.
In many ways, the Divine Service is the most absurd communication event in all reality. For it takes sinners who by nature want nothing to do with the Lord’s good gifts, who do not rightly love and fear Him, nor believe as much as they should about His power to save and heal them.
And yet, to these who feel that that they do not need Him, the Lord gives His peace, He calms their hearts, He teaches and makes it so that they would receive from Him not only His grace, but learn to see His work as gracious, merciful, good and that to be desired.
It is unlike anything else. You go to a concert because you want to hear the band, you attend a lecture because you’re interested in the speaker, and you are found in the Divine Service, sins, guilt, and cowardly heart in tow, for the Lord has sent you His Spirit, He has brought you into His communion, He has planted His love in your heart, and through this His Spirit, He keeps His Word, His work does not end, He makes His home with you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.