Activity time: 30 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Leader Resource 6, Acts 2
- Red construction paper
- Optional: Costumes and props
Preparation for Activity
- Construct the "tongues of flame": these are sometimes symbolized as red rose petals. Cut rose petal shapes from the red construction paper.
- Construct any other props you think will be useful.
Description of Activity
Invite the group to act out the scene of Pentecost. One leader or participant volunteer should narrate from Leader Resource 6, Acts 2. One or two on-actors can be stagehands and help with props. Possible roles are: Peter, other Apostles (up to 11), Jesus' family members, other disciples; crowd members to be converted. "Crowd members" can align themselves into tribes, if you have enough. They may choose to be from Egypt, Rome, Libya, or any of the other lands named in the text. If you have costume pieces, ask tribe members to dress alike. If you have youth who do not wish to act, invite them to help as stagehands. Do not distribute the rose petals.
Give copies of Leader Resource 6 to actors. Basic instructions might be helpful. Tell the group that the tongues of flame will be represented by red construction paper rose petals. They should wait until touched by them before being filled with the Holy Spirit. Mourners (Apostles, family, disciples) might gather together and look sad, moan, hug each other, cry, etc. The actors playing bystanders may want to get in groups of 2 or 3 and decide what business they are taking care of in the city. Give the actors 10 minutes to make decisions and rehearse.
Before beginning the play, invite everyone to sit quietly, close their eyes (if comfortable) and listen to as you set the mood, saying:
Remember that this is an important and serious event to billions of people all over the world. This is a story about two groups of people. One group is composed of people who are in town, just going about their daily business: cooking, shopping, or trading. Some of these people live in Jerusalem; some are from out of town. They dress differently and speak different languages.
The other group is a group of mourners. The Apostles, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Jesus' brothers, and other men and women are gathered to comfort each other. Someone they loved has been taken from them: a son, a brother, a friend, a wise and gentle teacher. He was murdered, rose from the dead, but then ascended into heaven, saying they would hear from him again. But it has been ten days and they feel lost and sad.
The stagehands (leaders or participants) can make wind noises and drop the rose petals over the actors to represent the tongues of flame.
After the reenactment, invite everyone to discuss the story.
How did it feel to reenact their part? Could participants understand the grief of the followers?
Could they understand how the amazement as people began to communicating with each other in languages they did not understand? What does this mean-why did the Holy Spirit enable people to speak to each other in native tongues?
Ask if anyone knows the story of the Tower of Babel from the Hebrew Scriptures. If not, tell them that in the beginning, everyone spoke the same language because they were all descendants from the first humans. But because people started to think too much of themselves, God struck them, and afterward people spoke in many different tongues and no longer understood each other. This caused fracture and separation into different tribes and nations. Here, the Holy Spirit-a gift from God-unites tribes by enabling people to hear members of different nations in their own native tongues. Through the Holy Spirit, people are reunited into one tribe-the followers of Jesus.
What was it about the Holy Spirit that enticed people to become baptized?
Though the Bible never explicitly professes a Trinity, the Holy Spirit, which is manifest here, is the third member of what Trinitarian Christians today believe is the Trinity. Explore how the three parts interact: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Acknowledge that the Holy Spirit can be confusing. Not all Christians even agree on its nature and much is still written about the way the Holy Spirit is manifest and what exactly it embodies. Also, note that though the vast majority of Christians believe in the Trinity, not all do. Unitarian Universalist Christians and other denominations, such as Jehovah Witnesses, believe in only one God.
Explain that this is considered the beginning of the Christian religion because those who experienced Pentecost became the core group of believers.