Friday, May 05, 2006

Fire - Visions - Dreams

Today I'm continuing the series of lectionary-based Release Time lessons from long ago. As you peruse these, please remember I wrote them for inner-city youngsters who were in 4th and 5th grades.
Acts 2:1-4; 14-21

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'

Before Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, he promised the people the Holy Spirit of God would come and stay with them forever. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would come to us so we would be able to remember him and everything he taught us, so we would be able to share this with other people by speaking a word of life, and so we would be able to act in his name.
  • Why does Jesus want us to remember him?
  • Why does Jesus want us to tell other people about him?
We just read a Bible passage about the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to the world in the way promised by Jesus. Pentecost means "fiftieth." Pentecost was the name of a Jewish festival day celebrating God giving Moses' the Ten Commandments, sometimes called the Sinai Covenant. That first Pentecost was the 50th day after God raised Jesus from the dead, and the Church stills calendars the Day of Pentecost by counting from Easter onward! Pentecost also is the name for this time we're living in now. On Pentecost God kept an important promise. When the Holy Spirit filled the people and the entire world, God made us his special people, the Church. Having the Holy Spirit in our lives and world helps us remember Jesus' life and words and helps us live together in the way Jesus showed us.
  • What happened on the Day of Pentecost?
  • What happened to us when the Holy Spirit of God came to earth?
God is important to us. Did you ever think about how important we are to God? God sent the Holy Spirit into this world and into our lives so God could do a lot of his work through us! God relied on people to write down the words in his book, the Bible, and several hundred years before Jesus was born, God inspired the prophet Joel, who listened, heard and wrote. We just read an account of Peter quoting Joel's words. Peter knew the scriptures so he could recognize when God was acting as he had promised!
  • Why did God send the Holy Spirit?
  • What does it mean to rely on someone?
  • Why is it important for us to learn and know what's in the Bible?
God also relies on us to help him work. Just as Joel heard and understood God's words to him, everyone at the Pentecost event understood everything, too. God speaks to all of us in ways we can understand. In addition, God promises that with his Spirit we will be able to act as Jesus taught us. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Helper.

On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came into the whole world in a unique and visible way. A group of people meeting together heard the wind and saw the fire. This Pentecost event happened after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. Since that first day the Church still calls "Pentecost," the Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ still lives within and among us. Just like the wind and the fire in the story from Acts 2, the Holy Spirit continues acting today with the same range and reach of both wind and fire!
  • What does a sign do?
  • What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?
  • Why did Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as Helper?
  • What does having the Holy Spirit within us and among us mean to us?
  • What are some features of wind?
  • Describe some facets of fire.
Being a Christian always has to do with God, yourself, and other people. Being Christian means being the new and special people God makes us in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection and in God's gift to the world of the Holy Spirit. It means learning to live together without fighting or hurting each other or saying mean things. Being Christians, God's new people, means Jesus is our Lord. Being Christian means becoming part of a church community, reading God's word to us in the Bible and listening to what God is telling us through the Bible and through other people. Living as the people of God means remembering Jesus by living our lives the way he showed us. That's when we're really Pentecost people, claimed by the wind and the fire of the Holy Spirit!

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