Note to the teacher:
Today’s scripture is the story of Pentecost. Celebrated fifty days after Easter, Pentecost is the event of the Spirit descending upon the disciples.
The activities and discussion center around witnessing and attempting to describe the unexplainable.
Ice Breaker: Say What?!
Assign the phrases below to student or leader volunteers. Each person receives only the “Phrases to Share.” Keep the “Correct Answers” to yourself until your group guesses the correct answer or you have mercy on them.
Each person takes turns sounding out the phrase aloud, while the individual and everyone else tries to guess the correct phrase.
Phrases to Share:
- My Teak Odd
- Whole League Host
- Bulk Huff Facts
- Thus Pier Tough Got
- Thief Otters Hun An Doe Leak Host
- Aisle Pore Rout Mice Spear Hit Tunnel Peep Hole
- Mighty God
- Holy Ghost
- Book of Acts
- The Spirit of God
- The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
- I will pour my Spirit on all People
Message volunteers individually with their phrases. Wait until one is solved to send out the next phrase.
Did anyone experience any frustration in trying to understand the phrases? How about in trying to communicate guesses?
Say something like: In our story today, we find the disciples in a very chaotic—and for some—a bewildering scene.
Draw your students’ attention to the similes and metaphors being used to describe the event, as well the various reactions of the crowd that gathered. As a reminder, a simile adds meaning in language by comparing two different things using the word “like” or “as ” (for example, creeping as quietly as a mouse or sleeping like a log). A metaphor adds meaning in language by applying characteristics of one thing to something else that is not literally applicable (for example, she is a shining star in my class, or his eyes became waterfalls when he heard the bad news).
What similes and metaphors were used in the passage?
- Possible examples could be: “like the howling of a fierce wind” (verse 2); “individual flames” (verse 3); “full of new wine” (verse 13); “pour out my spirit” (verse 18)
The story of Pentecost and the quotes from the prophet Joel both are so out of the ordinary that they may be hard to describe to someone who was not physically there to witness. Are there events that you have personally experienced or learned about that “defy description” or are difficult to describe accurately?
- Possible answers could include catastrophes, technological advances, wars, miraculous events, the pandemic, sport competitions.
- Why do you think everyone heard the disciples in their own language?
Just as the languages differed, so did the crowd’s reaction. What were some of the reactions?
- Possible answers could include amazed, mystified, confused/perplexed, skeptical; some sneered.
How might you have reacted if you were in the crowd on Pentecost?
- Encourage students to verbally share, draw, or even reference an appropriate gif, meme, or emoji. This exercise would work in person or virtually.
Say something like: Significant events can trigger different reactions in each of us; after all, we are individuals. Sometimes our inclination is to simply stand by; sometimes we might be caught up in the details, or perhaps we scoff and declare that there must be a simple explanation. We get to see all those reactions in this passage. Descriptions, metaphors, and similes may not be enough for an event that is so otherworldly, but what we read in this scripture can help us identify with the natural, human feelings and reactions that happen when we try and make sense of something miraculous. This strange event that begins with the disciples shut away ends with their loud exultations on the street, inviting others in their own native languages to a new and diverse family of believers.
No matter what our reaction to a holy experience may be, one thing is certain: everyone is invited to share in those holy moments. Everyone is welcome. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord can experience salvation.
Create five to ten boxes, each containing “weird” or “out of the ordinary” objects. (This is a modified version of “What’s in the Box?” played on various late-night comedy talk shows.)
Choose unique objects that you already have on hand, or create objects using materials you already have close by or that are cluttering up craft closets.
- Can of vegetables with googly eyes
- Plastic Easter eggs with artificial flowers glued to them
- A stuffed animal wearing gloves and sunglasses
- Back scratcher with pipe cleaner ‘arms’ twisted on
- A balloon wearing a hat with a face drawn on it
For each round, a volunteer sits with the box in such a way that only the volunteer can see what is inside. The volunteer either truthfully describes the item or tries to deceive everyone by describing something else entirely. The volunteer should try and be specific and detailed about the description of the item, without giving away if he or she is telling the truth or lying with tone of voice. Once the description is finished, everyone else guesses if the volunteer was telling the truth.
Reveal the item once everyone has made a prediction.
There are a few different options:
- Prepare boxes ahead of time to arrange a pick-up/drop-off.
- Either ahead of time or at the beginning of the meeting, let participants know they will need to grab/create a strange object to have at the ready for the activity.
- Use strange clipart/free stock photos of strange events that you send individually to each volunteer. The volunteers must describe the image instead of an object.
- What made it challenging to guess if the person with the object was telling the truth or not?
- Were there any “tells” that helped you correctly identify if the object described was correct?
- Did you notice when, if, or how you began to doubt the truthfulness of any volunteer?
- Compare your experience guessing about honesty in this game to the interaction between the crowd and the disciples at Pentecost. What were the similarities or differences?
As the game went on and you realized that there were indeed out-of-the-ordinary items in the boxes, did that change how you tried to discern truth from lies?
For those volunteers who were describing the objects:
- How did it feel to try to convince others that you were telling the truth?
- When and how did you make the decision to be truthful or deceitful?
Say something like: It sometimes can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially when we are faced with out-of-the-ordinary objects or events. While we may have far more sources of information than the crowd who interacted with the disciples at Pentecost, we still experience confusion, skepticism, and even real disbelief when we are faced with God’s work in the world. It can be helpful to understand our natural inclinations and immediate, reactionary tendencies when we encounter events that are out-of-the-ordinary from our day to day lives. In the midst of those “out-of-the-ordinary experiences,” we can catch a glimpse of God, be ready to see something or someone in a new way and prepare ourselves for transformation!
In the scripture, everyone heard the disciples speaking in their own language—not just those who already believed in Jesus’ message, or the faithful Jews, or even those who had become followers of the disciples themselves! Anyone present could hear the message, experience the good news, and find belief and hope through the Holy Spirit that moved and made a “sound like a mighty wind” that day. We still get an invitation to listen and believe today, and that invitation is for everyone.
Close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
- Boxes with random objects already on hand or easily crafted.
- Images of strange events or bizarre objects.