The Coming of the Holy Spirit

This article is from Issue 43 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced with permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.

The coming of the Holy Spirit
— celebrating Pentecost with a play and a ‘party’
by Rosalie Hudson

The church was colourfully and warmly prepared with posters made in the preceding weeks by students in all classes of the Sunday school. Large, wide red streamers (of crepe paper) strung across the church symbolised the ‘tongues of fire’. As members of the congregation entered the church they were given name tags in the shape of a dove or flame. The service was followed by morning tea where cakes, decorated with red icing with a white cross, had been prepared by the students. Tables were decorated with red candles. Red and white balloons decorated the hall and were given to families as they left. Each balloon had printed on it the name of one of the ‘gifrs of the Spirit’.

The play was acted in church as part of worship on Pentecost Sunday.

Production notes

Disciples — John, James, Simon, Matthew,Andrew, Peter
Citizens        from Cyrene (Justus), Parthia, Media, Elam, Egypt, Mesopotamia

Onlookers – 1, 2, 3, 4
Jerusalem residents 1 and 2

The members of the Youth classes acted as the six disciples and six citizens. The Youth leader acted as reporter.

Onlookers 1, 2, 3 and 4 were chosen (in advance) from the congregation, as were the Jerusalem residents and the elder. All ofthese spoke from the body of the congregation with the reporter going to them when indicated. A roving microphone added to the concept of ‘reporters and eye witnesses’.

The play may be adapted easily to include more speaking parts — e.g. with more disciples and/or with more comments from onlookers and residents.

The play

(A play suitable for use in a service of worship, based on Acts 2:1-13)

Introduction (by the worship leader): Let us imagine ourselves in the first century AD. It is the day of Pentecost and we have all come to Jerusalem from many neighbouring cites, as we do each year, to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, commemorated on the fiftieth day after Passover…
We find our news reporter of the day – from 7JM Jerusalem – eager for a story.
(The disciples and other citizens are gathered in two groups at the front of the church, one group each side of the reporter).

Reporter:        Excuse me, sir, but do you mind telling me your name and where you come from? And perhaps you could tell our listeners your account of today’s events in Jerusalem
Justus:        My name is Justus and I’m from Cyrene. I must admit to some confusion. Someone said strange things were happening in that house over there. Apparently it is the house of Peter and there’s some sort of meeting going on. But I’ve heard so many different stories I’ve come to see for myself.
Reporter:        Well, it looks as though it’s all over now. Perhaps we should ask some of these people. Excuse me, aren’t you one of those disciples of Jesus?
John:        Yes, I’m John. And you must pardon our rather excited behaviour, but we really believe God has sent us the power of his Spirit today.
Reporter:        Power? Spirit? Would you mind explaining for our listeners’ benefit exactly what you mean?
James:        Well, we’d find it difficult to describe, but somehow today we know God’s promise is fulfilled. He has sent his Spirit and now we have the strength, new power to do our work.
Parthian: Excuse me butting in like this, but whatever was going on here today? I heard you were all talking different languages or something. You are all Galileans aren’t you?
Disciples (together): Yes, We’re all from Galilee.
Parthian:        Well, it seemed to me you were speaking my language — and I come from Parthia.
Median:        When I passed the house, all I heard was a strange commotion, and then it seemed to me you were talking like people from Media. Anyway, somehow I understood everything you said.
Elamite: Well, that’s very strange, because I’m from Elam and you were definitely spcaking my language.
Egyptian:        I’ve come all the way from Egypt to this feast today and I could have sworn you were talking Egyptian. I just had to stop and listen – and I’m sticking around to hear some more!
Reporter: (to congregation): This is all very puzzling. I can’t seem to get to the bottom of this at all. (Turns to the group of disciples.) Simon, will you tell us exactly what happened?
Simon: Well,we all decided to meet here, in Peter’s house — all the disciples and Mary and some or the other women. And we heard this rushing sound. It was just like a very strong wind, but it seemed to fill the whole house.
Matthew:        But it wasn’t just the sound of wind, Simon. There was something warm, almost like fire. Did you feel that, Andrew?
Andrew: I can’t describe it. I only know there was some power here and somehow I was able to speak in a new way. I feel I must go and tell everyone the Good News.
Mesopotamiain: I’m from Mesopotaniia and I’ve heard of you blokes before— but I thought all your power had gone when your leader died. Somehow you never seemed the same after that — even though I did hear reports that your leader was alive again. Anyway, something certainly has happened to you today and I’d like to know more about it.
John: I know what has happened. Remember when Jesus promised he would send his spirit to be with us?
(The disciples murmur amongst themselves: ‘Yes, I remember that.’ ‘didn’t know what he meant.’ ‘Yes, I remember him talking about the Spirit.’)
John: Well, this must be it! Remember when he rose from the dead, he came to us and talked about breathing has Spirit and leaving his Spirit with us?
(The disciples continue to murmur amongst themselves.)
Reporter: (to the citizens and congregation: Well, I’m not sure I’m any clearer now. What do you make of it all?
Onlooker 1: Fire.., wind.., strange babblings.. if you ask me they’re all drunk! Let’s go home!
Onlooker 2: I agree. They can’t seem to decide amongst themselves what has happened. They’re over-excited. They’ll calm down by tomorrow.
Onlooker 3: Just a minute! I listened to some of the things they were saying and it seems to me that it just might be the power of God. They do seem to be quite changed.Onlooker 4: I agree with Joseph there (indicates Onlooker 1). They’re all drunk. They don’t make any sense to me anyway’
Reporter: I can see one of them is getting quite stirred up about that remark. I think it’s – yes it is – it’s Peter, and I think he is about to make a speech.
Peter: Listen to me, all of you! I will tell you what this means. These people are not all drunk. After all, it is only nine o’clock in the morning!
You Jews know the writings of Joel the Prophet. He told of the day when God’s Spirit would come to us. Can’t you see what’s happening before your very eyes.? What it means for us disciples is that we now have the power to do the work our Lord called us to do. And for all of you (pointing to the congregation) it means that if you turn from your old life to a new life in Jesus Christ and are baptised in the name of Jesus Christ, then you too will receive the power of the Holy Spirit!
Reporter (approaching Jerusalem resident 1) Well, after that ‘sermon’ from Peter I will ask a few of these residents of Jerusalem what they make of it all. Excuse me, sir, do you believe what these disciples have to say?
Jerusalem resident 1: Yes, I do. And it’s just what we need. This place could do with some extra power right here and now!
Reporter: And you, madam— what difference would this new power make to this church in Jerusalem?
Jerusalem resident 2: I heard one of the disciples say that the Spirit brings people together. And that’s what we need—a stronger sense of unity.
Reporter: Here’s one of the elders of the church. Let’s hear what (s)he has to say.
Elder: Well, Benjamin, I’ve listened very carefully to everything these fellows have had to say, and I am convinced that they have the power of the Holy Spirit. I’m convinced, too, that this power can be ours. After all, they said it was a gift. What excites me about it is that if this power is ours, we can go forward from today with renewed strength — and who knows what we can do then?
Reporter: Listeners, our time has run out. I I can only say that what has happened here in Jerusalem today has been very strange and very exciting. These people say they will never be the same again. It will be interesting to see just what difference this day of Pentecost will make in this city of Jerusalem.
This is Benjamin, your 7JM News reporter signing off and returning you to the studio.

Rosalie Hudson is a Uniting Church lay person who has taught at the Youth level for a number of years. She is married to a U.C.A. minister and lives in an outer suburb of Melbourne.

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