The Christian theology of the Trinity--God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit--is complex. Young people who understand the concepts of the Father and the Son sometimes think the Holy Spirit occupies a more mysterious realm. The love between the Father and the Son is of such scope that it created a third person, the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit communicates and comforts human beings with divine love. Teaching young people to study the Bible for clues about the Holy Spirit draws them deeper into the mystery of the triune godhead.
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In the Beginning
The author(s) of Genesis and the Creation narratives knew nothing about Jesus Christ and Pentecost. Christianity reads the Hebrew Scriptures as a collection of events foreshadowing the Incarnation and all later Christian theology. In Genesis 1:2 and 2:7, the author wrote that a spirit, also translated as "wind," hovered over the water and that God blew God's own breath into the man, giving him life. The word, "spirit" derives from the Latin "spiritus." The Holy Spirit is life-giving power and love, which means students have an opportunity to reflect on what it means that life is divinely inspired.
Gifts of the Spirit
Christians believe that God give gifts of the Spirit, called charisms, in acts of pure grace. St. Paul listed gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians. Many evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic churches or branches of Christian churches emphasise the gifts St. Paul described. Ask students to list the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 and to pay particular attention to verse 31. Students can discuss what types of prophecies and mighty deeds, for example, might qualify as signs of gifts of the Spirit. Ask students to consider what might be the "greatest spiritual gifts" to which Paul referred in verse 31. As they read and reflect on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, ask them to think of ways in which lack of love hinders the gift of tongues or teaching.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
In the Gospel of John's Discourse in the Upper Room, Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for the approaching trouble while soothing them with the promise of the coming Paraclete or Advocate, which is the Holy Spirit. The discourse takes place with an air of sorrow and impending loss on the parts of the disciples, and an air of hope and promise in Jesus' assurances. Jesus asked the disciples to continue forward in faith that the Father will send the Holy Spirit, and the Advocate will teach and reinforce the peace Christ leaves in his departure. Ask students to write one-page reflections in which they summarise John 14, reflect on why it is part of what is included in the "Book of Glory," and how students think they can show faith that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, with them as an Advocate or Comforter.
In Acts 2, Jesus' promise in the Upper Room Discourse comes true on Pentecost. A strong wind blows and the Holy Spirit descends, bringing the gift of tongues on the gathered crowd (Acts 2:1-11). Instruct students to read Genesis 1:2 and to discuss the similarities and differences between the Creation and the Pentecost narratives. Introduce the idea of a "New Creation" and ask students to reflect on how the Pentecost experience might be a renewal or a "strong wind," blowing Jesus' new ideas through the spiritual lives of the people assembled at Pentecost and through the lives of followers today.
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