We had a great feast day at St Mary’s today. This year we focussed on the part of the Pentecost story where everyone heard the great deeds of God in their own language. So, we included four different languages in the first reading and asked everyone to pray in their own language when it came to the Lord’s prayer. As I stood there I could hear Welsh, Swedish and Russian being prayed close to me and I know that there were languages from the far East and Africa in other parts of the building. The Doric also, was to the fore.

In preaching this morning, I went a little off piste from what I had intended to say, but it was something not unlike this:

One of the characteristics of heaven is the gathering of all of God’s creatures around the throne. There is something deep in the guts of most Christians which tells them that ultimately, however we feel about one another in this life, we will all be together at the last, praising God. That we will be united in praising God and that our differences will melt away.

That seems to have been the experience on the streets of Jerusalem. A glimpse of heaven in normal time.

On my way to church, I noticed that there was a water main burst in Great Western Road. As every car went past there was a great sploosh and a rainbow was formed. Sploosh! Rainbow! Sploosh! Rainbow! Sploosh! Rainbow!

I stood there for so long watching that it is a wonder that no-one came to help me over the road.

It reminded me of the way the Spirit works in us helping us each to catch those moments of beauty, those moments when we work out what is right and true, those moments of justice, those moments of creativity, those moments when we realise that God is with us. The Holy Spirit is that part of God that is within us helping us to see the unexpected – heaven in normal time.

The great hope for heaven that we have 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.

At Pentecost we celebrate the 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.

That each would hear the works of God in their own language. That God’s is already active in every culture under the sun.

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 can tangle even the most experienced reader’s tongue if they are not careful. 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 Avenue. Whether its spark is kindled in the hills of Galilee or the landscape 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.

For Christ has died. Christ is risen.

Christ will come again. Alleluia.


  1. Sploosh…….

    I recently bought a book of “101 things to do during dull sermons”, and with your usual high standard my attention was kept for the whole homily.

    I hope I never get to number 35 which was to ask the organist is he does requests. 😉

  2. Sploosh…….

    I recently bought a book of “101 things to do during dull sermons”. This homily was definitely not dull.

    I was taken by item #35 in the book – Ask the Organist if he does requests.

  3. holly says

    you said sploosh more times than that surely?!


  4. I certainly said sploosh more times than I’ve ever done in a sermon before.

  5. Hi! I lost you a while ago in a new-computer-dead-old-computer mess but I found you again! (Not that you noticed I’d gone…. but I’m back.)


Speak Your Mind