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Expect The Unexpected

Pentecost and the Holy Spirit

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to consider the nature and work of the Holy Spirit both in Christianity and throughout humanity as a whole (SEAL theme: self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • Choose readers.
  • The account of the coming of the Holy Spirit can be found in Acts 2.1–13.


  1. Leader: Have you ever found yourself moping around, wondering what to do with yourself? You can't really settle to anything. Nothing excites you enough to put in the effort of getting started. Maybe it's towards the end of a holiday from school. Maybe it's a Saturday or Sunday. You turn on the TV or start the computer but nothing catches your attention. You're in danger of getting bored.

    This is how it was for the followers of Jesus immediately after he finally left them.

    Reader 1: They'd stuck together as a group, meeting together frequently.

    Reader 2: They'd done a lot of praying.

    Reader 1: They'd recognized that the death of Judas left them short of a team member.

    Reader 2: So they'd drawn lots and chosen Matthias to make the numbers up to 12 again.

    Reader 1: And they gathered together as a group.

    Reader 2: And they prayed a bit more.

  2. Leader: Until one day the unexpected happened.

    First there was a terrific noise, like a tornado, but it was inside the room where they were gathered. Then there were what looked like flames, moving around the room and flickering above the heads of each person. Finally, everyone began to speak out loud, but not in Aramaic, their native language. They were talking in Greek and Latin, Arabian and other Middle Eastern and Asian languages. They were speaking words of worship to God in the dialects of every person present in Jerusalem that day. And none of them had ever been taught these languages.

    Christians understand that this was the Holy Spirit coming in a special way into the lives of the members of the first church. It's celebrated in the Church calendar as the festival of Pentecost on the last Sunday in the month of May.

  3. Leader: Christians believe that God shows himself to us in three ways: God the Father and Creator, Jesus who is God in human form and, finally, the Holy Spirit, the power of God active in the life of every human being. What came as a shock to the early Church was the fact that the Holy Spirit was so utterly unpredictable: a deafening noise, a fire that didn't burn and a compulsion to speak out loud in words that they'd never been taught. They were overwhelmed by the experience. It defied all their expectations. It didn't conform to anything they'd ever met before. And this experience was the driving force that resulted in the creation of a religious movement that spread throughout the Roman Empire and exists worldwide today.

  4. Do you ever get moments of inspiration? Maybe it's an idea for a story or a piece of artwork. Maybe it's the solution to a problem that's been puzzling you for ages. It could be a wild and wacky idea for a project or a vision of what might happen in an ideal world. Both Jews and Christians believe that it's the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes us human. The Spirit is right there in the Creation story, powering all that comes into being. Jews and Christians believe the Spirit is the driving force that encourages us to explore and learn in every aspect of life: sport, art, science, education, relationships, whatever we're involved in. The Spirit is the source of our inspiration.

Time for reflection

So what might this mean to us? First, it encourages us to expect the unexpected, to live our lives as if the next moment will be of enormous significance. Boredom doesn't come into it. We don't know when the hurricane will arrive and we can't predict the direction it might come from.

Second, it encourages us to take notice of the unconventional ideas that pop into our minds. A tiny flame can create a roaring blaze. Why should we always do the same? Why can't we be non-conformists some of the time?

But finally, the Holy Spirit might make us stand out in the crowd, and we need to be prepared to face some opposition, some mocking from those who are rather less adventurous or a little more conventional. That certainly happened to the followers of Jesus when the Holy Spirit came to them. They were actually accused of being drunk at 10 o'clock in the morning!

What are your expectations for today? Is it going to be a normal, humdrum, unchallenging time in school, at home and with your friends? I hope instead that a hurricane might hit, that a flame might be ignited, that you get so excited you can't stop yourself talking about it.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, the spark of life and creativity in us.
May we respond when the ideas hit us, when the opportunity arrives.
May our community be vibrant and inspiring because we've responded and got involved.


‘Got to get you into my life’ by Earth, Wind and Fire

Publication date: May 2015   (Vol.17 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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