Tongues of Fire: Highlighting the Pentecost scripture reading
Each year we try to include a fresh and biblical celebration of Pentecost in our worship. When one member of the planning team offered the idea of using clear glass cylinders with floating candles, our imagination shifted into active gear. These candles could help create the aura suggested by Acts 2, where “tongues of fire” seemed to float around the room.
We decided to find twelve candle carriers representing young and old, male and female, and people of diverse ethnic and racial groups. The accompanying litany for two readers could be read well with little rehearsal. We prepared a table covered with a red cloth equipped with discrete sticker dots to indicate where the candles should be placed. On Pentecost morning, just twenty minutes before the service, the fourteen participants did their first and only rehearsal of the reading and candle presentation.
As the two readers began the Scripture reading in front of the sanctuary, the candle carriers came down each of the three aisles, carrying their candle and placing it, in turn, on the table. By the time the reading was half finished, all the candles were in place, and the congregation could focus on the presentation of the Word. The passages selected for the reading blended the Acts 2 story with a variety of other New Testament passages that speak of the missionary work of the Spirit. Afterward, the pastor led the congregation in a time of prayer before continuing with the service.
Reader 1: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Reader 2: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread, and to prayer.
Reader 1: Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Reader 2: The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Reader 1: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
Reader 2: See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.
Reader 1: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
Reader 2: “You were slain, and with your blood you purchased saints for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Reader 1: Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
Reader 2: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.
Reader 1: Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, what does this mean?
Reader 2: How can they call on one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
Reader 1: This is what was spoken by the prophet, Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.”
Reader 2: And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
Reader 1: And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!
Reader 2: If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Reader 1: Acts 2:1-6, 16-17, 21.
Reader 2: Acts 2:42; John 3:8; Malachi 3:1; Revelation 5:9, 12; Romans 10:14, 15, 9, 11.