Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

A Sermon for Pentecost

Genesis 11 verses 1-9

Acts 2 verses 1-21


In days lost in the mists of time and myth, the people of the world got above themselves, overreached themselves, and attempted to scale the heights that, we’re told, were the domain of the Almighty.

Their God was angry with them; furious at their wicked ambitions, and raged against their Tower that attempted to pierce the very fabric of his heavenly dwelling.

So…. he brought them crashing to the ground and muddled and confused their language, so that they couldn’t communicate with each other.  Now, instead of unity, there was a Babel of confusing voices.


Pieter Bruegel – The Tower of Babel

We move on….. in the early years of the third decade (CE), many people from all over the known world, speaking in different tongues, were together in Jerusalem for a type of Harvest Festival.

Suddenly, something remarkable happened.  And they turned to each other, saying “…these Galileans. How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?……

…..They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”  (“The Message” paraphrase)

below: “Descent of the Holy Spirit” by El Greco



Come now to the middle of last Century…… and to the former East Berlin:

The Communist authorities – to “get one over” the West during the Cold War – built a giant television transmission tower, which rose magnificently above the skyline of that sector of the City.  Built to impress and to provoke envy.

Just below the summit of this tower was a revolving restaurant.

What a spectacular structure it was – intended to be a showcase to annoy the West.

However, a design fault turned it into a bit of an embarrassment; whenever the sun hit the structure at a certain angle, the tower had the appearance of a huge shimmering cross!

Frantic attempts were made to repaint the tower – to blot out the cross – but with little success.

In Jerusalem in 32/33 or thereabouts, those in authority thought that they could blot out the Christian movement which was being built up, following Christ’s crucifixion.

They didn’t, of course, succeed.

Instead it grew spectacularly…….

…..beginning on that day of wonder and amazement: Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had promised, “zapped” the Apostles gathered in the Holy City……and transformed them.

This rag-bag of rather disorganised human beings were touched by Heaven itself.  Changed from a disparate bunch into a single body of witnesses which we now know as the Church.

Today we celebrate a birthing – that of a new community – with one thing in common: a mutual love of Jesus Christ.

What a hodgepodge collection of odds and ends of folk they were.

Look at the roll call from the 1st chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles:  amongst them a “Rock” who crumbled under pressure, a so-called “Son of Thunder” such was his fiery temperament, a man who had doubted, a former tax collector, a freedom fighter….. members of Christ’s family who probably were still puzzled as to what this was all about, a clutch of women who were essentially viewed as second class citizens….. oh, and poor Matthaias, drafted in to replace Judas Iscariot, and who was probably wondering what he’d let himself into.

But they were a group, a fellowship, a new community of believers – and that transcended any barriers that might have separated each from the other.  Congregated through their love of Jesus, bound together by the Spirit.

Look around you today – look at the person in front of you, and behind, and across the aisle.  You’re all different.. with different backgrounds…of different ages…and so on.  But part of the same Body.

We, whoever we are or wherever we come from, are united, drawn together through our common love of Christ.




Note this too (@ verse 4)  “They were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit”


There’s nothing exclusive or discrimatory about that precious gift.

{it annoys me when looking at some of the Pentecostal, fundamentalist, literalist and independent congregations whose “pastors” – usually a married couple – have been especially “anointed” –  claiming to have been especially “touched” by God. This anointing allows them to hold a God-ordained authority amidst a group of believers and to give a greater blessing to their opinions.  And many of them make a lot of $$$$$ out of their divinely appointed and approved status. “Touched by and infused with the Spirit” – you know the kind of thing?!!}

Those gathered that momentous day in Jerusalem, were, each and every one of them, brought together, understanding what God had in store for them.  Now, theirs was a common language, the language of faith, trust, and belief in the might of God who knows no boundaries, and who has no favourites – no, not even the specially “anointed” leaders of some contemporary gullible flocks.

So…it’s an old story, overlaid with symbolism and metaphor.

Today, with the General Assembly starting in six days time, where is the fire, the zeal, the enthusiasm that drove the Church for centuries?

You know, when I was ordained in 1974, the Kirk had about 1 million members.  Looking at the latest statistics (31 December 2015), I see that we’re down to something like 363,500+. That’s some drop in numbers.

I remember – sometime in the late 1980s, a guest speaker at my then Presbytery (Lothian) charting the probable decline in membership numbers.  He said – to great guffawing – that Edinburgh Presbytery (adjacent to that of Lothian) would have no members by 2029, and would effectively disappear; a pause…..”And you’re next in 2030!”

Why are we in retreat?  I wish and pray that I knew (and I’ve pored over many church-sociology books). Are we being sidetracked by matters that, though important, will eventually sort themselves out, such as SSM, Biblical interpretation (very much tied in with the first), too manyv buildings (the C of S has £millions in its property portfolio.) and so on.

Instead of “being Church”, should we not be “doing” Church?  Feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, reaching out to the marginalised?

Only the Spirit will guide and draw us together in a common cause – whatever God decrees that to be.

We began this morning with a TV tower in the former East Germany.  It’s usually the tradition on this Pentecost Sunday to refer to another tower – that of the Tower of Babel

Genesis tells us that prior to the construction of this tower, all people could communicate, insofar as they spoke the same language.  God, we are told, “muddled” all this up, because of the people’s “pride”

Would it not have been better if all people who on earth do dwell understood each other, with a common tongue? Aye, but this is the interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures, to make sense – in their limited way – to describe why we all speak in different tongues.

Whatever, this interpretation of what happened on the day of Pentecost reverses the situation – quaint and metaphorical it may appear.

OK – what of us today?

We are people of the Spirit.  Big deal!  What do we do with it?

How do we put it into practice?

Here’s something that may sum it up…

Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War diary:

“of all the forms of charity and benevolence seen in the crowded wards of the hospitals, those of some Catholic Sisters were the most efficient

“I never knew whence they came or what was the name of their Order

“More  lovely than anything I have ever seen in art…are the pictures of those modest Sisters, going on their errands of mercy among the suffering and the dying

“Gently…yet with the courage of soldiers..they went from cot to cot….They were veritable angels of mercy”

Our kind of revived witness?  Pentecost calls us from separation into community; from selfish individualism into fellowship with everyone.

It’s this kind of witness that the Holy Spirit has called us……are we – together – hearing its call?





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The Clock

A man died and went to Heaven. As he stood in front of the Pearly
Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, ‘What are
all those clocks?’

St Peter answered, ‘Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone who has ever been
on earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie, the hands on your
clock move.’

… ‘Oh’, said the man. ‘Whose clock is that?’

‘That’s Mother Teresa’s’, replied St Peter. ‘The hands have never
moved, indicating that she never told a lie.’

‘Incredible’, said the man. ‘And whose clock is that one?’

St Peter responded, ‘That’s Abraham Lincoln’s clock. The hands have
moved twice, telling us that Abraham told only two lies in his
entire life.’

‘Where’s Tony Blair’s clock?’ asked the man.

St Peter replied, ‘We are using it as a ceiling fan.’

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Honest Abe

Honest Abe

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February 13, 2014 · 13:13

Synchronisity 2 – Lincoln/Kennedy

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 




Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.

John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.

John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.

Both wives lost a child while living in the White House.

Both Presidents were shot on a Friday.

Both Presidents were shot in the head.

Now it gets really weird.

Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy.

Kennedy’s Secretary was named Lincoln.

Both were assassinated by Southerners.

Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.

Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln, was born in 1839.

Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.

Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Now hang on to your seat.

Lincoln was shot at the theater named “Ford.”

Kennedy was shot in a car called “Lincoln” made by “Ford.”

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials.

And here’s the “kicker”:

A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland.

A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.


Lincoln was shot in a theater and the assassin ran to a warehouse…

Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and the assassin ran to a theater…


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Thorns and Roses


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October 18, 2012 · 18:41