A Time of Refreshing
The meaning of Pentecost
by Tim and Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the meaning of the Christian festival of Pentecost (celebrated this year on 9 June).
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (A Time of Refreshing) and the means to display them.
- Optional: you may wish to arrange a student to read the Bible passage Acts 2.1–13.
- Read or ask a student to read the Bible passage Acts 2.1–13.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 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. 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? 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.’
- Ask the students what they find most refreshing. A cold drink on a hot day? An afternoon nap? Listening to music? Playing on Xbox?
You might like to take a vote to find the most popular way to feel refreshed.
- Ask the students, ‘What is Pentecost?’
If appropriate, listen to a range of responses.
- Show Slide 1.
Explain that on Pentecost Sunday, many churches celebrate the Holy Spirit coming on the followers of Jesus as we heard at the beginning of the assembly. The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek word pentekoste, which means ‘fiftieth’. ‘Pentecost Sunday’ means ‘fiftieth Sunday’, and it’s called this because it occurs 50 days after Easter Sunday.
- Before Jesus ascended into heaven following his 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, or Shavuot, the Spirit came and the Christian Church began. We are told that Peter then boldly preached a sermon that resulted in 3,000 people becoming believers.
- What can the event of Pentecost teach us about God? In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit is described as being like fire and wind.
Show Slides 2-3.
Elsewhere, the Holy Spirit is said to be like a dove.
Show Slide 4.
Fire emphasizes the holiness of God; wind, the power of God; and the dove, the peace of God.
Show Slide 5.
- When the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they received a new sense of mission to tell others about Jesus. They also received a renewed sense of God’s presence to encourage, refresh and reassure them of his love for them and for the whole world.
- The Holy Spirit came as the comforter that Jesus had promised. 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 forever.’ (John 14.16)
Christians believe that the Spirit lives within them, bringing the peace and joy of Christ.
Time for reflection
At Christmas, we celebrate God’s gift of his Son to the world. On the day of Pentecost, Christians believe that God the Father and his Son, Jesus, gave another gift: the Holy Spirit (John 14.16 and 16.7).
Can you picture a child on Christmas Day morning opening just one present, but leaving the rest tightly wrapped? Christians believe that 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!
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.
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.
Show Slides 1-5 again.
These are the images of God that Pentecost gives to us.
Ask the students the following questions.
- How do you think these different aspects work in our lives?
- Which aspect is most like you?
Ask the students to think about working towards being a blend of all three aspects.
‘Spirit of God’ (Come and Praise, 63)