Pentecost is on Sunday 31 May 2020
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To draw on our experiences to understand the nature of the Holy Spirit and the meaning of Pentecost.
Preparation and materials
- Have available some recordings of the sound of fire and wind and the means to play them at the beginning of the assembly. Examples include:
- fire, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwhmS-L7Rm8
- wind, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sT5f1jBJHng
- If possible, prearrange for some students to say hello in different languages for the ‘Assembly’, Step 4. Alternatively, have a list of greetings in different languages ready to read out.
- Optional: you may wish to ask a student to read the Bible passage found in Acts 2.1–4.
- Play the recordings of the sound of fire and wind in that order.
Shortly after the wind recording has started, read (or ask a student to read) the following passage from Acts 2.1–4.
When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, there was a noise from the sky, which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then, they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
- Wind, fire, speaking in other languages: these are strange and vivid pictures. Let’s explore them more closely.
From our experience, we know at least the first two. Wind and fire: what pictures formed in your mind when you listened to the sounds we heard earlier?
Here, you could listen to the students’ responses. Alternatively, you (or some students) could read from the prepared lists below, pausing between each statement to allow time for an image of each to form in everyone’s minds.
– A howling gale bending the trees.
– A breeze bringing relief on a stiflingly hot day.
– Sailing boats or windsurfers twisting and turning skilfully to harness the wind.
– Wind turbines.
– Flying a kite.
– Raging fire sweeping through a building, a forest or moorland, destructive and terrifying.
– A bonfire, either in the garden or as part of a celebration.
– A fire in a fireplace, giving warmth and cheer.
– A blowtorch, scorching off old paint.
– A candle flame, quiet, steady and providing a surprising amount of light.
- Now we turn to the even stranger part of what we heard. When it comes to speaking in other languages, it is harder for us to imagine what was going on.
There are many theories about what speaking in other languages, or tongues, means in the context of the Holy Spirit’s arrival. Perhaps we should think of it not as a miraculous translation of what the apostles were saying, but as a sudden outburst of praise in a multitude of languages, so that listeners each heard a snatch of the language of their own home country.
As with most Bible stories, if we find it hard to imagine what actually happened, we may learn much more if we ask what the meaning or message of the story is. In fact, that is what we are encouraged to do further on in the story, in Acts 2.12, where it says, ‘Amazed and confused, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”’
- Ask the prearranged students to say hello in different languages or read out the list of alternative greetings. Make sure that they smile and shake hands or wave as they do so.
We may be divided by language, but we often still understand what is being said if it is communicating something universal, such as ‘hello’. Everyone also smiles in the same language!
Time for reflection
Today, we have been exploring the meaning of the festival of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. There are many questions about what actually happened that day, but, if we consider those ideas of wind, fire and speaking in tongues, in each case, there is power, a power greater than ours. However, that power is available to us if we recognize how it works and work with it.
It’s a power that can energize. A power that can make things happen. It’s invisible, yet very real in its effects. It’s a source of comfort, a life-giving force.
Perhaps the most important message of Pentecost is that the Spirit can bring fresh, new life into situations and, through these, bring healing to a divided world.
Play the recording of the sound of wind again as the prayer is spoken.
We thank you for the Holy Spirit coming into the world.
Thank you that the Spirit brings hope, comfort and peace.
Please help us to remember that the Holy Spirit brings a power that can energize,
Brings power that can make things happen,
Is invisible, yet has very real effects
And is a source of comfort and a life-giving force.