Time For Children:  “Beyond Words”

23 May 2010, Pentecost

The Rev. Bryn Smallwood-Garcia
Congregational Church of Brookfield (UCC)

May 23, 2010

Time For Children: “Beyond Words”

Today is a special day at church.  Does anyone know what special day it is?  It’s Pentecost, and it’s Confirmation Sunday.  Today’s the day we’ll confirm the faith of this year’s Confirmation Class of 9th graders.  We say prayers over them, and thank God for them, and we ask God to give them the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We do that on this day, because Pentecost is the day when the followers of Jesus, who were very sad and missing him after he went to heaven, first received the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible story that we’re about to listen to is from the Acts of the Apostles, which is the book that tells all about the adventures of the first Christians – the disciples of Jesus who went out from Jerusalem to visit towns all over that area of the world to tell people the Good News of God’s love for all of us.  And what inspired them, and gave them the courage to do that, this story says, was the Holy Spirit.

Have you heard of the Holy Spirit before?  We sing about it when we sing the Gloria Patri most Sundays – except in that song we sing, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.”  The Holy Ghost is another name for the Holy Spirit, which is a very special present from God that Jesus had promised to all who love him. 

How can a ghost or a spirit be a gift?  Doesn’t seem like a very good present, does it?  How could you see it or enjoy it – if it’s invisible like a ghost or a spirit?  It even maybe sounds kind of scary.  It is scary, I think, in the Bible story we’re about to hear, because it says that “suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”  I wouldn’t want wind to fill my house or for tongues of fire to rest on my head, would you?  But the miracle of the Holy Spirit was that the wind and fire didn’t hurt anyone.  It just made them able to understand the words of everyone else, even though they were all from different countries and speaking different languages.

That’s amazing, huh?  It’s hard to imagine what a room full of people, all speaking in different languages would sound like.  It’s hard to imagine how they could understand each other.  But the Bible says that the gift of the Holy Spirit made it possible.  You can see how that would be a real gift – like an instant translator.  How could that be? 

Well, some things we can understand without using words.  Even deaf people can communicate without words, using sign language.  I can remember some signs I learned when I was a kid.  My favorite was this one (makes a sign for elephant).  Can you guess what that is?  (Hint: makes elephant noise and raises the arm that is the “trunk.”) Yes, elephant! You guys who are in the children’s choirs know some sign language, don’t you?  What signs do you know?  (They sign “Jesus” and “sing,” among others.)

When Emily reads the scripture for us in a minute, Ms. Boughton is going to sign it for us in American Sign Language.  She can do that because it’s her job, to teach deaf kids.  There are a lot of words in sign language that kind of look like what they are, and she’ll show some of them to you.  (She shows ASL signs for “dreams,” “moon,” “spirit,” “morning,” and a few others.)  So let’s listen now to the story from the Bible about the coming of the Holy Spirit, and watch Ms. Boughton to see how much of the story you can understand.

Acts 2:1-21 is read aloud, with interpretation in ASL

Wow!  That was interesting, huh?  There’s a lot we can figure out about those signs, right?  Even ones she didn’t teach us.  Did you see “slaves”?  That was a good one.  Or “drunk.”  That was funny.  You can see a lot in facial expressions too, right?  What did we see?  Amazement. Fear.  Joy.  Even disgust. 

So there’s a lot we all can understand that is beyond words – especially emotions.  Think about a hug.  You can understand that, even if I don’t use words, right?  What does a hug mean?  Or if I smile, what does that mean?  Or when we share what we have with each other – like if we share food – what does that mean?  Have you ever known a baby who tried to shove some of their food in your mouth?  It’s usually kind of gross, to get a cookie shoved at you from some kid’s sticky fist, but you know it’s a gift of love, right?  I think the Holy Spirit is like that.  It is a gift of love, beyond words, planted in each person’s heart, so on that first Pentecost, they not only understood each other, they loved each other.  And you know we don’t need words to tell people we love them. 

So in your life, don’t forget to tell people you love that you love them – not just in words but in what you do.  Give smiles, give hugs.  Share what you have with other people.  Just think:  if the Holy Spirit could spread around the whole world, we could have peace, and that would make Jesus very happy. 

Let us pray: God, we thank you for the gift of love you gave to the world in the Holy Spirit.  Help us to share that spirit of love with everyone we meet, in the name of Jesus.  Amen.


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