Sermon – 30 May 2004 – Pentecost

One of the characteristics of heaven is the unity of all of God?s creatures around the throne. There is something deep in the guts of most Christians which tells them that ultimately we will all be together at the last, praising God. And knowledge and language will have passed away.

The great hope is that all that divides us will have been annihilated ? difference will have been overcome ? no more will God?s people be divided but at the last, we will all come together to sing God?s praises.

This has been dominant theme in many of the readings that we have had, especially those from the Apocalypse in the last few weeks. At Pentecost we celebrate that coming together of God?s people.
When that coming together happens ? God?s Spirit is at work. Indeed, God?s Spirit is that aspect of God which draws us, no impels us towards one another, that aspect of God which is no respecter of individuality, who sets us ablaze when we are at one with one another and celebrate God?s power in that unity.

Fine words of course. In this world, we have not yet reached that ultimate day ? that heaven on earth. However, dreams are there to keep visions alive and that is one of the visions which we celebrate today.

To be honest, these are hard times for the work of unity. Relations between Christians in Scotland seem more difficult than ever. And you do not need me to tell you that there are those in this world who are exploiting the supposed differences between religions for political gain.

Such wickedness has no part to play in God?s sphere of activity.

The story of Pentecost which we heard read from the Acts of the Apostles is the story of a heaven on earth moment. In Jerusalem there are gathered people from all over the known world. From that long list of places which so tangles my tongue at the 8 am service every year. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans and Cretans and so on.

When this book was written ? how exciting it must have been for those to whom it was copied. It is often said that people who are famous never read Biographies about people they know ? they just look in the index for mentions of themselves.

In the Acts of the Apostles, those reading it would scan down the first lines of the scrolls looking for recognition. And they would have found it. Proof that at this ?heaven on earth? event ? people were there from their own community.

And they were there. And they were together. And each understood. Each understood in their own tongue that the word on the streets was true. That he whom they had loved and lost was indeed with them no for ever and ever.

And they were set on fire.

Ablaze with the news that Christ was risen and that hope was restored to the world. This mob of people got on with the job of sharing that news with whoever they found ? no longer strangers, but friends in Christ.

I don?t know how you see heaven ? we have been exploring several recently. The one we see today is not of a heaven far off ? there are no clouds or angels or heavenly mansions.

But Jerusalem is buzzing with the news that heaven is here ? on the streets. And the news is shocking. God walked these very streets. God will fulfil our wildest dreams of putting things right. God will set free those who are bound and who need setting free. What news! What chatter! What noise.

And amidst the hubbub, Peter raises his voice and preaches the first sermon, the proto-sermon if you like, of the new church community. And his sermon is really no different to the proclamation that the church has preached ever since.

It is this faith which I proclaim to you today and every time I climb into the pulpit to preach?.

? God can be known, supremely through Jesus Christ his son who came to this earth and walked amongst us. An incarnate God.
? That it is worth dreaming dreams. For God is a dreamer too and that God?s will for us is entirely that which is good. A dreaming God.
? That God will join us in liberating those who are imprisoned. Even the very slaves in the streets of Jerusalem were ablaze with the signs of the Spirit in their lives. In other words, our God is a liberator.
A God who is incarnate then. A God who dreams dreams with the people of faith. A God who sets those who are imprisoned free.

This is the God who was proclaimed on the streets of Jerusalem. This is the God whom I proclaim to you today.

A God who opens his arms wide and draws all people to himself. Young men who are visionaries. Young women who prophesy. Old men who dream dreams. Women and men of faith in every time and generation are part of this. And they are drawn closer to one another and closer to the God who made them.

It is this hope. It is this vision of the heavenly realm. It is this dream of togetherness that we preach and proclaim.

Whether it breaks out in a Jerusalem street or a Scottish Village. Whether its spark is kindled in the hills of Galilee or the wasteland of the inner city. Whether it burns in the heart of friend or stranger. The Spirit is at work. And heaven is on its way.


Speak Your Mind