PENTECOST 2020 ‘SOARING ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES’


I saw in the paper recently that the bloke who invented the TV remote control had died. Of course this prompted the wags to remark how if he could see his own obituary he would be turning over in his grave!


But these gadgets do save an awful lot of time and trouble. Nine years ago, I succumbed to an IPhone. I was very sceptical at first, but a year later I was astonished by how much it has empowered me and made my life easier. Communication is instant, whether phone calls, texts or e-mails. And getting home, gone is the dread of the answerphone or still worse the several hundred e-mails to wade through when getting back from holiday.


Now some of you will be wondering why I bother; but in professional life today that sort of contact is essential, whether this means my being called to Wycombe Hospital to give Last Rites at a moment’s notice, or as happened a while ago, being summoned to Aylesbury Town Hall to sign off a £30 million land deal for the Diocese. Turned out I was the only member of Bishop’s Council available to finalise the deal late on a Friday afternoon. Both pretty important things and my IPhone empowered me to help. I was able to soar above the chaos and swoop in to the rescue!


Enough of technology! In John 16: 7 Jesus said “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”


The point of the Pentecost readings today is straightforward enough: the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us and empowers us to do surprising things!


Many of you will have been over to Dunstable downs and stood on the ridge overlooking the airfield. Gliders are lined up on the ground, ungainly things, pencil thin with overlong wings. Moving them around on the ground is a nightmare; their pointy shape makes them useless. But towed into the sky it is another story. Once the air catches these strange shapes the wings flex and lift the glider up into the heavens. But without the thermals of warm air rising from the ground they will bump back to earth soon enough. The pilot has to go around and find where a thermal is rising. Once he does then he and the glider are lifted up in a rush, they soar with wings like eagles on the warm breath of the land.


The Bible tells us that it is the same with the Christian faith. It is all very well coming to church, believing there is a God, that Jesus is his Son and so on, all the ungainly apparatus of church life. But the Holy Spirit is the breath of God, “Breathe on me breath of God.” Yes indeed, since then my faith will take off in new directions. It too may soar with wings. As the Prophet Isaiah says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (40:30-31)


The image is in my mind since a few years ago I had a big community funeral of a man who had died in a glider crash. For some reason his glider had had lost lift and was too close to the ground to find another thermal. The glider stalled and he was killed instantly. What do you say to his assembled friends and relatives in such a situation, especially the other members of the gliding club?

Strangely enough, all this talk about soaring at Pentecost came in handy, and I was empowered to speak. I said something along these lines: “As I look out of my study window in Old Amersham, these days there are almost always Red Kites circling over the town. These enormous hawks hardly seem to move their wings; even on a cool day there is enough lift for them to soar effortlessly in their search for prey. They swoop and dive, then the lift carries them back up again for another circuit. Yet there comes a time when even these great birds must fall to earth. For men and women too, though we may have gone through life with ease there comes a time when we too must fall in death. But as the Bible tells us, God promises that “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”


Talking in pictures is quite helpful. This morning I want you to remember those Red Kites. If you allow the wind of the Spirit, the breath of God, to get under your spiritual wings you too will be empowered to live and serve in new ways. As one of those who hope in the Lord you will renew your strength, you will soar on wings like eagles; you will run and not grow weary, you will walk and not be faint.” And when the time comes you too will find that “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”