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Pentecost: A time of refreshing

To help students to understand the meaning of the Christian festival of Pentecost (celebrated this year on Sunday 12 June).

by Tim and Vicky Scott

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4

Aims

To help students to understand the meaning of the Christian festival of Pentecost (celebrated this year on Sunday 12 June).

Preparation and materials

  • For the reflection, prepare a PowerPoint featuring fire, wind and a dove.
  • Project the reading, Acts 2:1–13, as students enter.

    The Coming of the Holy Spirit
    When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

    Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

Assembly

  1. Ask students: ‘What do you find most refreshing?’ A cold drink on a hot day? An afternoon nap? Listening to music? Playing on your X-Box?
  2. Ask: ‘What is Pentecost?’ (Take answers.)

    On Pentecost Sunday, many churches celebrate the Holy Spirit’s coming in power on the followers of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament (Acts 2:1–13). The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek word pentekoste, which means ‘fiftieth’. ‘Pentecost Sunday’ means ‘Fiftieth Sunday’, and it’s called this because it’s always the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday.

    Before Jesus ascended into heaven following the resurrection at Easter, he told his disciples to wait until the Spirit came to them. Ten days after the ascension and 50 days after the resurrection, during the Jewish festival called the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), the Spirit came and the Christian Church began. We are told that Peter then boldly preached a sermon which resulted in 3,000 people becoming believers.
  3. What can the event of Pentecost teach us about God? In Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit is described as being like fire and wind; elsewhere he is said to be like a dove. Fire emphasizes the holiness of God; wind, the power of God; and the dove, the peace of God.

    When the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they received a new sense of mission (to tell others about Jesus) but also a renewed sense of God’s presence with them to encourage, refresh and reassure them of his love for them and the whole world.

    The Spirit came as the Comforter promised by Jesus. On the night before he died, Jesus had said, ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever’ (John 14.16). Christians believe the Spirit lives within them, bringing the peace and joy of Christ.
  4. At Christmas, we celebrate God’s gift of his Son to the world. But on the Day of Pentecost, God the Father and his Son Jesus together gave another gift – the Holy Spirit (John 14.16; 16.7).

    Can you picture a child on Christmas Day morning opening just one present but leaving all the others tightly wrapped? Today the Holy Spirit lives inside us, yet despite this, we can fail to recognize all that he has given to us. Christians believe that if we ask, the Holy Spirit will give us the assurance of God’s care and transform us to be more like Jesus in our thoughts, attitudes and actions. That’s the promise of Pentecost!
  5. Pentecost is sometimes known as Whitsun (from ‘White Sunday’, which is the old name for this day. It was called ‘White Sunday’ because new Christians, who were often baptized on this day, wore white clothes for their baptism).
  6. Certain Christians who emphasize the role and gifts of the Holy Spirit call themselves Pentecostals. They stress the importance of spiritual renewal and revival for the Church and for individuals.

Time for reflection

(Light a candle and project the images of fire, wind and a dove.)

These are the images of God that Pentecost gives to us.
How do you think these different aspects work in our lives?
Which one is most like you?
Now think about working towards being a blend of all three . . .

Hymn

‘Spirit of God, as strong as the wind’ (Come and Praise, 63)

Publication date: June 2011   (Vol.13 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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