Pathways Week 11: The Power of the Holy Spirit

Journey Forward is Mennonite Church USA’s churchwide renewal process of engaging in Scripture, storytelling and sharing how God is at work in the lives of people and congregations across MC USA. Its purpose is for us to renew our local and denominationwide identity and affirm our core beliefs as we live out the mission to which God calls us as the church. It is a process, not a conclusion. The process invites you to connect how you’re living God’s call to broader church mission and draws our attention to how the Living Word is moving in our midst.

The Renewed Commitments concisely name core values orienting MC USA toward a faithful future.

God invites us to experience and bear witness to the belovedness of all creation. We yearn to know and share in the mystery of God’s unending love. But we live in a broken world. The Holy Spirit beckons us toward the restoration of all things in Christ, and on this journey together, we commit to:

 

  • Follow Jesus

  • Witness to God’s peace

  • Experience transformation

The Pathways study guide is a resource for individuals and groups across MC USA to use in exploring how they might live out these values in their particular contexts. In preparation for MennoCon19, we invite you to use this study guide and consider how these commitments are at work in your life and community.

Session Summary

In this session, the leader will guide the group in exploring the power of the Holy Spirit as demonstrated before, on and after the day of Pentecost. Participants will discover together what happened on Pentecost in the first century, as well as how the Holy Spirit can transform us in this present age and in our journey forward. Specific passages to be discussed are Acts 1:1-8 and Acts 2:1-47. The leader will guide the group in discerning how these Scriptures can be applied within the context of professing and practicing MC USA’s renewed commitment to “experience transformation” both now and in the future.

Gather

Read the “Renewed Commitments” theme description:

“The Holy Spirit dwells in and among us, transforming us to reflect God’s love. Through worship the Spirit gathers the body of Christ, where our diversity reveals God’s beauty. The Spirit empowers our communities to embody the grace, joy and peace of the gospel.”

Share that the subtheme to be explored in this session of the study guide is “The Power of the Holy Spirit.”

Begin with an opening prayer:

“Dear God, we acknowledge that every good and perfect gift comes from you. Thank you for the gift of salvation that was wrought through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are grateful for the gift of the Holy Spirit who counsels, convicts, comforts and changes us. Holy Spirit, we invite you to dwell within and among us today as we seek to hear from you. Enlighten and empower us so that we may be witnesses of your love, grace, joy and peace. It is in Christ’s name that we pray. Amen.”

Invite the group to sing the hymn, “Come, thou fount” (#521 in Hymnal: A Worship Book”) or for variety and inclusion, you may also invite the group to listen to the contemporary song “Fresh Fire” by Don Moen (Each of these songs refers to the fire of Pentecost to be explored in this session).

Encounter

Pentecost is celebrated among many Christians on the seventh Sunday after Easter (Resurrection Sunday) to commemorate the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the apostles and other disciples of Jesus who were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Weeks was an Old Testament Jewish festival celebrated seven weeks after the first harvest of grain. (For the leader’s personal study if desired, refer to Exodus 23:26 & 34:22, Leviticus 23:16, Numbers 28:26 and Deuteronomy 16:9-10.)

Read Acts 1:1-8 and 2:1-47. You may read the passages aloud as the leader or choose people from the group to read selected scriptures. If time is limited, consider summarizing and emphasizing main ideas as you share the events of Pentecost.

In your own words, share the Pentecost narrative while adding details leading up to this event as told in chapter one of Acts. Light the candle to symbolize the Holy Spirit as fire (Acts 2:3).

Ask volunteers to share details from Pentecost that resonate with them. What feelings, images or personal stories are evoked?

Discern

Review the “Renewed Commitments” theme again with an emphasis on the subtheme, “The Power of the Holy Spirit.” On the day of Pentecost, 120 followers of Jesus were gathered in one accord in one place. They had been told by Jesus to expect to receive what God had promised them. Explore the scriptures by asking and answering these questions:

  • What was this promise (Acts 1:8 and 2:16-18)? For whom was the Spirit’s outpouring intended (Acts 1:2, 13-15, 24-26 and 2:39)?
  • Why did the apostles and other disciples of Jesus need to be filled with the Spirit (Acts 1:8 and 2:14, 40-47)?

Suddenly, a sound from heaven described as “a rushing mighty wind,” came and filled the upper room where the apostles and others were gathered. Then, cloven tongues of fire appeared above each of their heads as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Wind and fire were manifestations of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Talk about the characteristics of these two elements.

  • What comes to mind when we think of wind?
  • What does wind have the capacity to do?
  • What is significant about fire, and what does it have the power to do?

Wind, fire and water are powerful physical forces. We have witnessed the effect of each element in nature. These three elements are mentioned in chapters 1 and 2 of Acts to represent ways in which God moved among God’s people. While keeping this in mind, write the following questions on the board or project them onto the screen if available:

  • How might the Spirit’s power manifest among us as wind, fire and water?
  • What would a move of God look like to reflect the power of Pentecost in our context?
  • How can we as members of MC USA participate with the Spirit to experience transformation in our journey forward?

Pause silently for a few minutes and invite the Holy Spirit to speak to gathered participants.

Embody

Invite participants to share their responses to the questions that were shared above (in the “Discern” section) with each other.

Use the blue construction paper to represent the baptism of water as mentioned in Acts 1 and 2. Using markers, invite participants to write down words or phrases on the blue paper that reflect what needs to be repented of and cleansed from our individual and collective hearts as we are transformed by the power of the Spirit.

Use the yellow and orange construction paper to represent the Spirit as wind and fire. Invite participants to write down words or phrases to describe what Pentecost could possibly look like (outcomes of the Spirit’s power working amongst us) in MC USA’s present and future congregations and constituency groups. Challenge participants to think outside of the box and to dream of what is possible with the help of the Spirit together.

After the allotted time, collect the blue, yellow and orange sheets of construction paper from each table group to discuss with the entire group. What is the Spirit saying among us? Explore any connections that can be made from the events of Pentecost in the book of Acts and what Pentecost would look like in our context and churchwide. What actions are we willing to commit to so that we are transformed by the Spirit’s presence and power among us now and in the future?

Send

The leader should read this section aloud:

Before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples that the Comforter (the Spirit) would be sent to dwell among them. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples to remind them of this. As the apostles gathered in the upper room, that promise was fulfilled. Even now, the power of the Spirit is here to reprove us and the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-11). As we seek to experience transformation, may we be revived by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Invite participants to sing the hymn “Halleluiah! Thine the glory.”

Closing Prayer (adapted from Romans 6:4 and 15:13):

“Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Now may the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”