During my radio interview with Kim Hill a few weeks ago Kim asked me “in your idea of paradise would there be one big church accommodating everybody?” I said “no, I think diversity is paradise; different expressions of the ways we come to God.” 
I couldn’t imagine anything worse than one monochrome church where everything was agreed upon and everything the same.
Imagine the impossible process to get there! But you might say – didn’t the reading from John last week have Jesus praying that we might all be one? (Jn 17:20). Aren’t we supposed to be “one”.
Well, what do we mean by being “one.”
Cate said last week “When we speak of oneness do we imagine oneness as something unifying, drawn together, retracting into a tight ball - held together by some centralising power?
Or do we imagine oneness as an ever expanding energy, a network with power held in relational connectivity?” 
Pentecost shows us that the second is to be true. An ever-expanding energy, retaining connection to the source.
Pentecost was the Greek name for the Jewish festival, which fell 50 days after Passover, a kind of harvest festival.
Pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem for it.
And the followers of Jesus, we are told, “were all together in one place.” Earlier on in this account Luke writes that the believers numbered about 120 – so a few more than are here this morning but not many. A group about this size; all gathered in one place.
Feeling “one,” feeling unified by their grief that Jesus had died, feeling puzzled by the stories that Jesus had been seen, and then disappeared again. But they were together, they were in one place, they were one.
Then some pretty strange things happen – now, don’t get bogged down in wondering what actually happened – was there an actual wind and actual fire? The more important thing to ask is what are we being told in this story? This event is often seen as the beginning of the church – the moment when the followers of Jesus get their mission and identity.
So what are the components of this identity? First there is the noise like a violent wind – it is not gentle – it is loud and intrusive.
Wake up it seems to say. Then tongues of fire; again not gentle; but bright and urgent. Each person is touched, everyone is marked or chosen by the fire. No one gets to sit in the back row and hope they won’t be noticed. The followers of Jesus are on fire for their faith.
Then the followers speak. They do not speak the same language, they are not all on the same page; they are not all confined by doctrines and creeds. They speak and are understood.
What do they say? We do not know.
But they are understood by Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Lybia and Cyrene, even Romans, Cretans and Arabs. Being multicultural is nothing new – Jerusalem was an amazing city of many cultures, 2000 years ago. And this amazing mix of peoples and cultures; this diversity (which is such a clichéd word these days I know) this diversity was at the heart of the beginning of our church. The Holy Spirit made it so.
Peter tries to make sense of what is happening for people – he says the prophets spoke about this – you should recognise it – Joel said there would be wind and fire and young people and old people dreaming together. For the politically astute listeners in Peter’s audience they would have heard him quote the prophet Joel and would have noted that the same passage Peter was quoting, also says that God will remove the occupying army from the north of Israel. The Romans would not have got that clue but for the Jewish people of Jerusalem Peter was also making a political statement about the occupying army. This is not just a “spiritual” experience; this was the beginning of a revolution.
So will paradise be one big church accommodating everybody? – only if it is like the church on the day of Pentecost – one source of ever expanding energy. And a crazy diversity of languages and cultures and peoples and genders and orientations. People who have their eye on politics as well.
Markus from Edinburgh asked in his sermon 2 weeks ago – who trusts dreams anyhow these days? We do – because the Spirit came and threw open the doors and hearts and minds of our ancestors and said dream big, go wide, speak the truth to anyone, everywhere.
There are plenty of people within the wider church though who do not want to dream big and go wide but instead want to invite “outsiders” in only if they sign up to strict creeds and exclusive practices. And for too long we have let them hold our church to ransom. In recent weeks in our Anglican Church in NZ some clergy and lay people have left the Anglican church and set up a new “church” which they also want to label Anglican, affiliated with a worldwide movement called Gafcon, funded from the extremely reactionary Diocese of Sydney. These “no longer Anglicans” have elected someone they say will be a “bishop” to lead them. 
They have not said much about who is actually part of this new church nor who participated in the election of the new “bishop”.
Already our Maori colleagues have called them out over having no Treaty statement in their founding principles. Neither have they said publically what their position on women’s leadership is; their funder the Diocese of Sydney will be pressuring them to not have women priests, despite women being on their founding Board.
And then we have plenty of examples of non Anglican churches in the news who ascribe to the same principles of exclusion and inequality, with one of them trying recently to dress up a so called “apology” to the LGBT community for some better PR.
This Pentecost we can lay claim to our heritage, our biblical heritage of difference and oneness, all at the same time. And this Pentecost we reject the sinful forces in our church who would shut down difference and force everyone into a straightjacket of doctrine.
These people have left our wider church because we have had the courage to finally say yes to the Spirit and say yes to full inclusion of the LGBT community in our church. Yes to the leadership of women, yes to the dreams of the young and the prophesy of the old.
I fear that in all the handwringing and worrying about those who have chosen to leave that our bishops and dioceses will not be bold and move forward even more strongly now. We want to that say we are a Pentecostal church – a church of the Spirit who comes with a noisy wind and burning fire and gives us words to say and dreams to dream. We are ready to move forward into a new future and we will not be held back by those who have left or are threatening to leave our wider church. Like the followers in Jerusalem waiting for the Spirit we claim our place this Pentecost amongst the rainbow children of God.