Bible Text: Acts 2:1–21; John 14:25–28
Lesson Focus: The Spirit, who is poured out on us in Holy Baptism, equips Jesus’ followers to pass along the good news.
Big Question: God creates, Jesus redeems, but what does the Holy Spirit do?
Key Words: PENTECOST, POWER, HOLY SPIRIT, PROCLAIM
• The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost fulfills Joel’s prophecy, John the Baptist’s prophecy, and Jesus’ promise.
• The Holy Spirit is a prime actor in Luke and Acts, at work before, during, and after Jesus’ earthly life. According to Luke, the Spirit empowers believers for mission in Jesus’ name, helping them by continuing to give witness, guidance, and advice to believers.
• The Spirit fills believers with gifts, including wisdom, faith, vision, comfort, joy, and power.
• Pentecostalism is an important and fast-growing branch of Christianity in the United States and around the world.
• What ways do we have to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ? How does our use of modern media detract from or promote the gospel?
Pentecost is a day of fulfillment. John the Baptist’s proclamation of the coming Messiah (Luke 3:16–17) who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire is fulfilled. “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” With a fork, the farmer tosses up the wheat and chaff. The wind blows away the chaff; the wheat falls to the floor. The Spirit’s coming fulfills Jesus’ directions to the disciples to remain in Jerusalem “until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). A tongue of fire resting on each is a symbol of empowerment. Roman coins depicted Caesar with a tongue of fire above his head. The fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy signals Jesus’ inclusive and universal mission. The Spirit is poured out on women and men, young and old, slave and free (Joel 2:28–32; Acts 2:17–21). Devout Jews from every nation were in Jerusalem, including Jews and non-Jewish proselytes from varied places.
The Holy Spirit is a prime actor in Luke and Acts. Jesus’ coming was prophesied through the Spirit. The Spirit was at work preparing the way, in and with John, Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah. The Spirit led Simeon and Anna to their encounters with Jesus. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness and empowered and anointed Jesus for his mission. The Spirit empowers others for mission and ministry. The Spirit empowers people to speak, witness, and prophesy. Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the name of Jesus confers the Spirit. Baptism in the Spirit may precede water baptism. Jesus’ followers may confer the Spirit with the laying on of hands and through the Word. Jesus teaches through the Spirit. The Spirit is witness, guide, advocate, and advisor. The Spirit fills believers with the gifts of wisdom, faith, vision, comfort, joy, and power.
At Pentecost, the disciples communicated using languages they had not known before. What ways do we have to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ? To paraphrase “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 351; Lutheran Book of Worship 116), “What language shall we borrow?” What actions? What media? The printing press wrought a revolution in the church not only as the Bible was printed but also as, during the Reformation, religious tracts were distributed. Translations of the Bible into many spoken languages and dialects have made God’s Word more accessible. The widespread and growing use of television for proclamation has revolutionized the ways in which we communicate the gospel. Certainly this is good, but what does it mean that broadcasting the gospel via television requires vast amounts of money and investment? What does it mean that evangelists become wealthy from their television ministries? Compare this to the first community of Christians formed by the preaching of the disciples on Pentecost, The early Christians enjoyed a Spirit-led community in which people held all things in common and shared as any had need (Acts 2:37–45).
Today all Christian churches try to model themselves after this community, and one important and fast-growing branch of Christianity called Pentecostalism is especially keen on perpetuating the Pentecost experience. Originating in the nineteenth century in a revival called the Holiness Movement, which was rooted in Methodism and among poor and working-class people, Pentecostalism includes dozens of conservative Christian groups, including Assemblies of God (the largest), Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of the Nazarene, and others.
Pentecostal (also known as charismatic, from the Greek word charis, which gives rise to words like grace and gift) movements are also found in mainline denominations, such as Lutheranism, Catholicism, and Anglicanism. Pentecostals vary in their teaching. But as their name implies, they emphasize conversion and the gifts of the Spirit, particularly believing in and practicing speaking in tongues, which many believe is evidence of baptism by the Holy Spirit. Pentecostalism is growing, particularly in the southern hemisphere. Estimates number Pentecostals at more than a quarter of the world’s Christians. In the United States, Pentecostals are the fourth largest Protestant Christian group, after Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans.
God creates, Jesus redeems, but what does the Holy Spirit do?
The word Pentecost comes from a Greek root word that means “fifty.” Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, good Jews gathered for their traditional festival of harvest known as Shavuot. The Spirit whom Jesus had promised came upon them, and they were able to understand and communicate in a new way. The Holy Spirit is with us still and is available to any who wish to take time to be still and listen for the Spirit’s guidance. This may be news to some youth. Often youth feel they are alone and no one understands them. Reminding them of this promise that Jesus made in the Gospel of John (John 14:25–27) will help youth to know that they are never alone. The Holy Spirit is active today, bringing the assurance that the students will never be abandoned.
Welcome and Review
Help kids dive into the Key Words by asking for definitions and/or providing these definitions:
HOLY SPIRIT: the third person of the Trinity. Among the jobs of the Holy Spirit are creating faith and equipping believers to proclaim the good news of Christ in word and deed.
PENTECOST: means “fifty.” In the Christian church, Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit gave the apostles power to communicate the good news.
POWER: the ability or capacity to perform or act effectively, or a specific capacity, talent, or aptitude.
PROCLAIM: to announce officially and publicly; to declare the news.
Choose one of the following three options to introduce the lesson. Then lead students in the Opening Prayer.
Option 1: Object Lesson Option: Happy Birthday, Dear Church
Have someone carry in a large birthday cake with lots of lit birthday candles. Explain that Pentecost is seen as the birth of the church. Blow out the candles and save the cake for your break time. Have one of your small groups deliver cake to anyone else who may be in the church building at the same time as you; be sure to tell them that the cake is celebrating the birth of the church at Pentecost.
Debrief the object lesson with these questions:
• Why is Pentecost seen as the birth of the church? Didn’t the disciples already meet together before this day, singing and praying? It is the birth of the church because it is when the disciples received power from the Holy Spirit to share the good news with others. It is in the sharing of the good news that a group of Christ’s followers became the church.
• What would be a good gift to give the church in celebration of its birth at Pentecost?
The hymn “Take My Life, That I May Be” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 583; Lutheran Book of Worship 406) provides a lyrical response to this question.
Option 2: Learning in Motion Option: Proclamation Stations
Prepare four or more stations within your meeting area. At each station provide a newspaper article that tells the story of people in need. Divide your large group into teams that will travel from station to station reading the stories and brainstorming ways to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed. For instance, response to news about a devastating earthquake may include hosting a fund-raiser and giving proceeds to a help agency or organizing a mission trip that will help with the cleanup. Have groups record their ideas and share their best ideas with the large group. Point out words and deeds that proclaim Christ.
Debrief the activity with these questions:
• Which station situations were easiest to respond to? Why?
• How do the deeds you suggested proclaim the good news to the people in need?
• In what ways is the Holy Spirit moving you in this moment? Are there other voices that compete with the Spirit’s influence?
Project this prayer, print it on the presentation board, or provide copies to the students. Encourage the students to respond with enthusiasm. Have them practice the response a few times if they do not respond with spirit the first time.
Leader: I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, says the Lord.
Group: Blaze, Spirit, set our hearts on fire!
Leader: Your sons and daughters shall prophesy.
Group: Blaze, Spirit, set our hearts on fire!
Leader: Your old shall dream dreams, and your young shall see visions.
Group: Blaze, Spirit, set our hearts on fire!
Leader: In those days, I will pour out my Spirit.
All: And we will be God’s people. Amen.
My Faith Story
Ask kids to respond to the Big Question: God creates, Jesus redeems, but what does the Holy Spirit do?
Then share a part of your own faith story using the suggestion below or another way to share about a time when you felt alone in the world and yet still knew that God was with you.
Tell the students about a time when you felt worried or as if you were alone in the world but still had a sense that God was with you. How did that sense come to you? Was it through your own prayer? Through a sermon or by reading scripture? Through the words and deeds of someone else? If so, who was it and what did he or she say or do? This may be more helpful if that person was not a pastor, since our culture expects pastors to talk about God. Try to make the point that the Holy Spirit uses all believers to proclaim Christ. How did the Holy Spirit assure you that God is with you all the time?
Open the Bible
Have students turn to Acts 2:1–21, and have volunteers read it aloud. Point out that this event is considered the birth of the Christian church. Certainly the disciples had gathered together before this time to pray, share personal stories of Jesus, and enjoy the fellowship of believers; but it wasn’t until the coming of the Holy Spirit that they were considered to be “the church.”
• What is the Holy Spirit’s job?
To create faith and to give believers the power to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed. Throughout this teaching time develop a “job description” for the Holy Spirit on a whiteboard or chart paper. Urge students to continue to add to this description as they learn something new about the Holy Spirit.
• Read Acts 2:37–47. What was different after they received the Holy Spirit?
Once they received the Holy Spirit, they became members of a new and different community, and they were equipped to tell others the good news of Jesus. On a whiteboard or chart paper, make two columns titled “THEN” and “NOW.” Invite students to identify as many unique aspects of Spirit-led living as they can in this passage. Write them in the “THEN” column. Then put checkmarks in the “NOW” column of aspects that should still be true of the church today.
Have students turn to 1 Corinthians 12:4–13 and mark the page.
• Ask students to name things that distinguish groups within their school and to make a list on the board.
Answers may include sports, music, academic skills, social status, money, ethnic groups, farm kids, city kids, and so on.
• Although life is much different now than it was in the church in Corinth, some things never change. Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 12:4–13. What are some of the issues faced by the early Christians?
There were class and ethnic differences in the community at Corinth. There were also many different spiritual gifts in the church, and the people were using them to make a name for themselves. Paul encouraged the people in the church to see these different spiritual gifts as a sign of God’s presence. At the same time, he pointed out that all these different gifts were given by one Spirit for one reason—the good of others. The purpose of the gifts the Spirit gave the disciples on the first Pentecost was not simply a display of God’s power. There was a practical reason—to enable the disciples to spread the good news in word and deed.
• Ask the students to pair up and tell their partner a gift they have and how that gift can be used for the good of others. To conclude, if anyone wishes to talk about his or her gift with the rest of the class, encourage the conversation.
Have students turn to John 14:25–28.
• How does this passage continue to fill out our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s job description?
The Spirit is sent by the Father to be an advocate, teacher, and gentle reminder.
• What are the feelings Jesus wants his disciples of all times to have by the power of the Spirit?
Peace, love, assurance, rest from troubled hearts, and relief from fear are all part of the Spirit’s influence.
Open the Catechism
Here We Stand Student Book page 305: Have students turn to “The Sacrament of Holy Baptism.” If you are able, bring the students to the sanctuary and gather them around the baptismal font. If not, bring a large bowl into your educational space for this part of the lesson. In both cases, have a pitcher of water at hand. Choose four readers and assign parts to each of them.
• Have someone read the first part as you pour the water into the font or the bowl. Where did the water come from? (The tap—it’s ordinary water.) What makes it special? (The Spirit working through the word of God.)
• Have someone read the second part, and ask the students if they remember their baptism. If there are students who remember, have them describe the experience. What happens when someone is baptized? You can also invite your pastor to be present and show the youth what happens.
• Have someone read the third part, and ask the students to put the promise of the Holy Spirit in their own words, answering the question, “What happened when you were baptized?” (The Holy Spirit was poured out upon them; they were reborn as children of God; they were made righteous in God’s eyes.)
• Have someone read the fourth part, and invite the youth to dip their fingers in the water and trace a cross on their forehead as a reminder of their baptism. Tell them that each morning as they wash their faces, they can be reminded of their baptisms and the “daily drowning” of their sinful selves. If you have gathered in the sanctuary, return to your educational space—invite the students to “walk in newness of life” or walk in a new way as they return.
Host a quick quiz show to review what you’ve covered in the lesson so far. Project the PowerPoint slides where your contestants and other students can easily view the questions and answers. If practical, set up a quiz show environment with horns or buzzers for the contestants. Organize two or more teams. After you ask a question, the first team to answer the question correctly gets a point. If the answer is wrong, another team gets the chance to answer and win the point.
Multiple Choice Questions
1. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave the disciples power to . . .
a. get back at people who had picked on them.
b. share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone. (Correct)
c. get awesome air on their snowboards.
d. impress their friends and family with card tricks.
2. An effective way to tell people about God’s love is to . . .
a. list the reasons they are going to hell.
b. invite them to worship at your church.
c. forgive them when they wrong you (since Jesus forgives you).
d. both b and c. (Correct)
3. The best place to share the good news of God is . . .
a. wherever you are. (Correct)
b. standing on a box on a street corner.
c. at church.
d. nowhere. You should leave it to the professionals (pastors).
4. The church as we know it today was initiated at . . .
b. Jesus’ baptism.
d. Pentecost. (Correct)
5. Pentecost was a Jewish festival that took place _____ days after the Passover.
d. 50 (Correct)
6. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift for . . .
a. perfect church attendance.
b. reading the Bible.
c. every believer. (Correct)
d. every pastor.
7. The one unusual event that did not happen on the first Pentecost was . . .
a. speaking in tongues.
b. the ripping of the temple curtain. (Correct)
c. tongues of fire appearing.
d. the sound of a violent wind.
8. In Hebrew and Greek, the word for spirit means all of these things except . . .
d. fire. (Correct)
Take a Break
Serve the birthday cake mentioned earlier for your snack today—have it decorated with bright red, orange, and yellow flames as a reminder of Pentecost as the birth of the church. Invite students to discuss what it would have been like to be present at that first Pentecost and to hear the disciples speaking to them in English.
Select one of the options below to explore in your small group. Then finish with the Best/Worst activity and prayer.
Option 1: Guest Speaker Option: The Fire in My Life
Invite someone who shares the love of Christ in unique or subtle ways to speak to your group. One idea is to ask a foster or adoptive parent to relate her or his story in a way that indicates how the Holy Spirit leads and enables her or him to share the love of Christ in this way. Talk about how this is sharing Christ’s love. A teacher, nurse, or doctor may do the same. It would be great if you could invite someone in a less obvious profession to relate how his or her work helps proclaim the good news of God in Christ (perhaps a plumber, a police officer, or a store owner).
Debrief the presentation with these questions:
• What aspects surprised you about this person’s perspective on sharing the good news?
• How has this speaker helped you to see new ways that the Spirit is at work in your life?
Option 2: Song Option: “You Raise Me Up”
Play the song and lyrics to “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban from Closer (Reprise / WEA, 2003).
Invite students to underline lines in the lyrics that especially remind them of the work of the Holy Spirit as they listen to a recording of the song. Discuss their choices along with the following questions.
• Is there a goal in your life that seems difficult to reach? How does the belief that the Spirit can give you power to do anything change your view of the situation?
• Think about people you have encountered who seem filled with the Spirit. What qualities do they possess? What lessons could you learn from watching them go about their everyday lives?
• Read Luke 11:9–13. What does Jesus suggest we ought to be doing in regard to the Holy Spirit’s ability to deliver the power and love we need to reach out to others.
Best/Worst and Prayer
Go around the group and have each student share the best and worst thing from his or her week. Remind them to pay special attention to (for example) the person on their right, as they will be praying for that person in a moment. Alternate prayer partners from week to week.
Use the prayer below (or write your own) to begin a Circle of Prayer. After you have shared your best/worst moments, instruct students to stand in a circle, making sure that their prayer partner is to their right. Use a small cross or another object as a prayer token. When you are finished praying, pass it to another person in the circle, and continue to pass the prayer token until everyone in the circle has prayed. Have the token return to you and close the prayer.
Almighty God, we are mortal beings and cannot fully comprehend your nature or your power. Your Spirit is at work in our lives every day, yet we often fail to see how that is true. (Insert your prayer for your partner, then pass the prayer token. When the token returns to you, close the prayer.) Thank you for showing us the many ways you have blessed us with gifts of the Spirit. Help us to see our gifts more clearly and to use those gifts in service for your people. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Student Book Connection
Here We Stand Student Book page 191: “How to Share Your Faith with Someone.” Ask students what scares or intimidates them most about the call to “proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 236 or Lutheran Book of Worship, page 201). Ask for volunteers to read each of the points, then respond with the following activities.
For point 1, have students brainstorm daily conversations that may offer openings to talk about their faith. Our culture is full of stereotypes of bad evangelism.
For point 2, have the youth role-play “wrong” ways to share their faith. Remind everyone that point 2 reminds us that we should allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.
For point 4, ask whether anyone can relate a time when this point was true for him or her? How does being a friend or helping meet others’ needs demonstrate the good news of Jesus? Find out how many students have experienced point 6 by bringing someone to church, youth group, or other church activity. Brainstorm with the class if there are other ways beyond the seven listed in the book that they can share their faith with others. Write one idea at the bottom of that page in the Student Book.
Here We Stand Student Book page 203: Ask for volunteers to reach each of the five points in “How to Forgive Someone” and the Be Aware point at the end. Talk about times they have been forgiven and times when they forgave someone. Which was easier, to be forgiven or to give forgiveness? Does one feel better than the other? Remind students that when we give the sort of forgiveness Christ has offered us, we are sharing Christ and sharing our faith in God.
Kids this age have lots of questions about right and wrong, stories in the Bible, and faith and life. Provide time for them to ask questions. Remember, there isn’t always a right answer, but encouraging discussion is great! Questions help kids explore their faith. Help them explore on their path to confirmation.
After their questions, ask one or more of the following questions to connect your conversations with the Lesson Focus:
• True or false: The only way to share Jesus with other people is to preach sermons.
• In what ways do you share God’s love?
• Where have you seen the Holy Spirit in action in your church, community, or family?
Teach the class response to the following litany. Encourage the class to say the line a bit louder each time. Choose someone to read the leader’s part and pray the litany together.
Leader: The Holy Spirit gives the power to share God’s love in Jesus Christ through words and deeds. Who has this power?
Group: We’ve got the power!
Leader: People in our world are starving. Who will feed them?
Group: We’ve got the power!
Leader: Somebody in your life does not know that God loves him or her. Who will share God’s love with him or her?
Group: We’ve got the power!
Leader: Someone in your school is lonely. Who will befriend her or him?
Group: We’ve got the power!
Leader: Someone in your life needs forgiving. Who will forgive him or her?
Group: We’ve got the power! Amen.
Before students leave, be sure to give each of them the following blessing as you trace the cross on their foreheads.
(Insert name), child of God, you have been marked with the cross+ of Christ forever, and sealed by the Holy Spirit, you have the power to share God’s love with the rest of the world. Amen.