‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8 NRSV).
Have you ever tried to ‘fix’ something, only to end up having more problems than you started with? It can happen to anyone, whatever we are trying to ‘fix’ – machinery, computers, antiques, cars and even organisations and relationships.
In Genesis 1:28 and 9:1, we read how God told the people he had just created to go out and fill the earth. They soon discovered, however, that doing what God wanted would mean being scattered all over the place. Since they would rather stay together, they settled down to build a city. It was the first time anyone had done such a thing and it was a remarkable technological achievement. They invented fired bricks and stuck them together with tar. This was a brilliant fix for their problem, but it didn’t get them what they wanted. Instead, God confused their language and scattered them anyway (see Genesis 11:1–9).
What happened at Babel is synonymous with present-day human defiance of God and pride in our own solutions. When we devise fixes for our problems, we so often fail to consider the small things that bring us undone. It might be something that we take for granted or have not noticed before. The people who built Babel probably hadn’t realised that they could lose their common language, but that was all it took to bring them unstuck.
Our modern society, with its economic, manufacturing, societal and legal systems, can be just as fragile. Who of us factored in an outbreak of coronavirus when we made our plans for 2020? So much is coming unstuck because of a microscopic germ. Businesses are cutting back, people are not being paid, supply chains are threatened, stock markets are falling, recession looms, and the income and security of so many people are at risk. And that doesn’t include the many people who get sick and those who could die of a disease against which we have no immunity and, so far, no vaccine. If we who live in developed countries are affected, what of those who have far less protection than we have?
We know this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, and probably it’s not the worst disaster ever. History has plenty of examples. If it’s not a disease, it could be an earthquake, a bushfire, a flood, an unexpected shift in the climate, a war, an act of terrorism, or something else people had not considered when making their plans. Over the centuries we have learned a great deal, and maybe we might think we know how things work and how to fix them. But there is still so much we do not know. Life, our planet, society and our own nature are complex and interdependent in ways we can barely begin to grasp.
The only thing I know that is secure and immovable, which cuts through all this uncertainty, is the love of God in Jesus Christ. No matter where we might be scattered, in Jesus God our creator is in direct personal contact with us (see Isaiah 43:1). That brings us security, peace and certainty of life. We confess that Christ is our only firm foundation and that he comes to us in his word, his church, and his gifts of baptism and holy communion. Even when our fragile human fixes and plans come unstuck, this truth does not change. Praise God for that!