I first heard the Lord’s Prayer in Mexico, during a family trip when I was 11 years old. I strayed from the Oaxaca market square, where my parents were bargaining over black pottery, and slipped into an old stone church, cool and dark. There were clusters of women in lace mantillas, and one or two solitary old men. Some were silent.
All the earth had one language and the same words. When they traveled toward the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar, and they settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and let us fire them.” The bricks were stones for them, and asphalt was mortar for them.
The unfinished Tower of Babel has stood for centuries in art, literature and biblical commentaries as an outrageous, heaven-reaching challenge to the God of Genesis, who responded by scrambling the common language of the citizens and dispersing them around the world.
George MacLeod, founder of the Iona Community, said that in order to form community, people must be engaged in a “demanding common task.” In his case the task was to rebuild the accommodation areas of Iona Abb