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Pentecost: The beginning of the Christian Church

To consider the coming of the Holy Spirit from Peterís point of view and relate this to the beginning of the Christian Church.

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)

Aims

To consider the coming of the Holy Spirit from Peter’s point of view and relate this to the beginning of the Christian Church.

Preparation and materials

  • The Christian Church celebrates Pentecost seven weeks after Easter Sunday. It denotes the time when the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus, came to the apostles who were waiting in Jerusalem. It marks the beginning of the Christian Church, for it was after this time that Jesus’ followers began to preach the gospel, or, good news, of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of forgiveness and eternal life for his followers.
  • Gather and display some images of the symbols associated with the Holy Spirit – fire, wind, water, a dove, light and so on. When showing these, explain that sometimes we find it hard to put into ordinary words an experience that is extraordinary and these symbols have been used to represent just that sort of experience, to get the message across.

Assembly

  1. Peter stood in the middle of the room and wept. Everything came flooding back to him. This was the room where he had shared the last meal with Jesus and his friends. He had sat on that very chair and Jesus had washed his feet. How could their leader act like a servant and wash their hot, dusty feet? Peter thought about what Jesus had said and done on that night and realized he was only now beginning to understand.
  2. He recalled how he had told Jesus that he was prepared to die protecting him – then had let him down when Jesus was arrested. He had been so scared that he, too, might be arrested, he had followed Jesus and his captors, but kept well out of sight. He remembered how he had denied that he was one of Jesus’ friends – not once, but three times. Peter blushed with shame just thinking about it. How could he have talked so bravely, yet acted like a coward?
  3. Things had changed since and now he knew he had a fresh start. Jesus had risen from the dead and made it clear that he had forgiven Peter for letting him down. He had even told Peter that there was important work for him to do. Jesus had gone back to his father in heaven, but, before he went, told his disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. So here he was, just days later, back in the room that held so many memories for him.
  4. Hearing the footsteps of the other disciples on the stairs, Peter drew his sleeve across his face, hoping no one would notice that he had been crying. They joined Peter, who was thankful no one did notice and soon the conversation turned to what they should do now that they were together again.
  5. Although Peter could be a bit headstrong, saying or doing things without thinking first, the disciples looked up to him and soon they were following his lead. Peter was impatient to begin the work that Jesus had set him to do, but the problem was that he knew he had to wait until the Holy Spirit came – he wasn’t going to let Jesus down again by not doing as he had asked. 
  6. Peter wondered how the Holy Spirit would come, but he didn’t have to wait long before he found out . . .

    It started with a sound like the wind. It grew louder and louder until he could hardly bear it. The other disciples heard it, too – you could see that from the looks on their faces! The whole house seemed to be filled with the sound. Then – and he could hardly believe what he was seeing – flames of fire appeared in the room, separating out and touching, but not burning, the tops of the heads of each one of them.
  7. That’s what Peter saw – or, at least, that’s the only way he could describe what he saw – but how he felt was even more amazing. It was as if Jesus had come to him again, but not just into the room – it was as if he was right inside him.
  8. So this was the Holy Spirit! Jesus in another form and he would never leave him now. Peter realized that, while Jesus could only be in one place at one time, his Holy Spirit could be with him wherever he went.
  9. Everyone in the room with Peter had exactly the same experience and they just had to go outside to tell everyone! There were plenty of people to tell. As it was Pentecost, a harvest celebration, Jerusalem was full of visitors from all around the world. It wasn’t only Peter who wanted to tell people – all the disciples wanted to join in and the people in the street couldn’t help but listen, so a crowd quickly gathered.

    The disciples were so excited and filled with the Holy Spirit that they all started speaking at once! To some people they just seemed to be gabbling and talking nonsense, but it soon became clear that they were speaking in different languages so even the foreign visitors to Jerusalem could understand them. With the disciples all talking at the same time – some getting excited, raising their voices and waving their arms about – it was hardly surprising that someone in the crowd said, ‘They must be drunk!’
  10. It was then that Peter took control and quietened the disciples so he could speak to the crowds himself. First of all, he told them it was too early in the day for them to be drunk, then he told them about the good news – that Jesus had risen from the dead to demonstrate God’s love and power. Peter explained how they could join with them and experience God’s Holy Spirit for themselves and, by the end of that day, around 3,000 people had become followers of Jesus.
  11. This dramatic event was the start of the Christian Church, which grew and spread throughout the whole world.

Time for reflection

Although Peter had let Jesus down, Jesus forgave him and gave him a second chance. Are we prepared to give people a second chance if they have said they are sorry for hurting or upsetting us?

Think of the best or most exciting experience you have had. What would you draw to show how you felt right inside you at the time?

Prayer
Father God,
help us to remember that you have promised to be with us, wherever we are.
Give us the strength to stand up for what is right, help those who are in need and, by our actions, follow the example of Jesus.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Spirit of God’ (Come and Praise, 63)

Publication date: January 2013   (Vol.15 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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