Waiting for Pentecost
The Christian festival of Pentecost
by Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools
To explain the Christian festival of Pentecost and its relevance to us today.
Preparation and materials
You will need an item of interest that will be examined and described in Point 4. This could be an ornament, an item of clothing or something similar. You will also need some paper and pens.
You may wish to arrange readers for the poem in Point 2.
The term Pentecost means ‘fiftieth day’. Christians use this word because they celebrate this particular feast 50 days after Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. You may also have heard Pentecost described as Whitsun or Whit Sunday, meaning ‘White Sunday’.
Pentecost is an important event in the Christian calendar because it marks the time when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven to live in those who believed in Jesus. Christians believe that when Jesus returned to heaven, God sent the Holy Spirit to live permanently with his followers.
Read the poem below, which describes the feelings of the disciples (Jesus’ followers) on the first Pentecost.
'Fifty days of waiting' by Vicky Scott
Sitting, standing, pacing, waiting,
Talking, pausing, laughing, hating,
Doubting, hoping, gazing, frowning,
Frozen, silent, somehow drowning.
Captivated, hushed, stunned and dazed,
Transfixed, terrified and amazed.
A wind so strong my ears feel pain,
Tongues of fire lash down like rain.
What is happening to us here?
Language unknown is somehow clear.
What is this visit from on high?
New boldness, so no longer shy.
People staring and looking amused,
As if we’re drunk, misled, confused.
Suddenly one stood to explain,
That Jesus left and the Spirit came.
Christians believe that Jesus was fully God, but they believe that he was fully human, too. This means that he was limited by his human body to being only in one place at one time. However, the Holy Spirit is a spirit, able to be with innumerable human beings. He is not limited at all.
When Jesus was about to leave his followers at his Ascension, he assured them all that his leaving would actually be good for them. They didn’t understand this – they loved Jesus and wanted him to stay and help them spread his message of hope and forgiveness. Little did they realize that the coming of the Holy Spirit ten days later would change them forever.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit is described in Chapter 2 of the book of Acts.
Ask for three or four volunteers. Give them each a piece of paper and a pen and place an item of interest in front of them. Ask the volunteers to write down a description of the object. Allow them 30 seconds to do this. Read out each person’s description, highlighting the differences between them.
Point out that when different people view the same object, they each describe it slightly differently; this is due to their individual perspectives. The same idea can be applied to the day of Pentecost: Jesus’ disciples were waiting in an upper room when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and landed on each of them. Suddenly, they felt and sounded different, and they all went outside into the street to tell people about God. However, the people on the street witnessed this event differently – some saw a large group of men and women gathered together on their street, looking and acting as if they were drunk, because they were constantly babbling away in strange languages. Other people stood amazed and wanted to know more.
This arrival of the Holy Spirit had initially changed the disciples in a way that no one else seemed to understand. They had been transformed from despondent people, without direction, into a bold and confident group. Following this experience, the disciples travelled to many places, telling people about Jesus. Eventually, many of them were martyred for their faith. Their encounter at Pentecost motivated them to carry on without Jesus.
Time for reflection
Christians believe that God wanted his believers never to be alone again, so he sent the Holy Spirit to live with each of his followers. The followers of Jesus needed to be re-energized; they needed to know that they were not alone in their walk through life. They wanted help, guidance and assurance so that they could cope with whatever life threw at them.
Our lives are not guaranteed to be easy. We will all face loss, rejection and sadness at times. However, we are not alone in our journey. Whether you believe in a God or a higher being, or simply draw from your own inner strength, you will be able to cope with whatever life throws at you. We are surrounded by family, friends and teachers, and these people are all available to encourage us to persevere and succeed in life. There is no point hiding away in an upper room.
Just as the reaction to the Holy Spirit was mixed 2,000 years ago, with people choosing to interpret the events differently, people today can come to their own conclusions as to what really happened and how it could affect us now. What source of inspiration do you have to help you through your life?
Thank you for all that inspires us today: our families, our friends and people who care.
May we be an inspiration to those around us by caring and giving them hope, as together we walk through our lives.
‘Give me oil in my lamp’ (Come and Praise, 43)