Friday, May 21, 2010

50 Days Later

Pentecost (A study using the year C readings.)

Some people consider Christmas to be the Birthday of the Christian church.  Some might say Easter.  But it’s really Pentecost.  Pentecost is from the Greek for “Fiftieth Day” as in the Acts of the Apostles it came 10 days after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, which was 40 days after Easter.  It has strong connections with the Jewish Pentecost, called the Festival of Shavout, which was when God gave Moses the 10 Commandments 50 days after the Exodus.

1)    Jot down what you know about the Holy Spirit and what you think you know.

John 14:15-27
[Jesus said,] “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!  I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.  The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”
“Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.  I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft.  So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”

1)    What are the different names for the Holy Spirit being used here.  Underline them.

2)    What does or will the Holy Spirit do?

Acts 2:1-21;38-42

When the Feast of Pentecost [Shavout – the receiving of the 10 Commandments] came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

3)    What do you think really happened there?  Is this imagery or observation?  Why do you think?

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?”

4)    How could that happen?  Why doesn’t that happen today?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs!  “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”  Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”  Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning.  This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit on those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.”

5)    That’s from Joel 2:28-32 in the Bible.  How is what’s happening in Acts Chapter 2 like what was prophesied 800 years before?

…  Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”  He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!”  That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

6)    What would a Pentecost moment look like now?  Can you imagine it in our church?

7)    What do you know about the Holy Spirit now?

Bonus Scripture: Romans 8:9-17
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!
So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

8)  How have you experienced this paradox Paul shares?  "Even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms."

Resources:  while preparing this study, I cam across a couple neat sites.
Insight - an English youth group leader's blog with activities and lessons.  Not currently active, but had posted a lot before that.
Rethinking Youth Ministry - a blog with some good resources, lessons and ideas for youth ministry.  Current and topical.

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