Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the Day of Pentecost (May 20, 2018).
Season & Preparations
The Day of Pentecost is a feast day filled with surprise and wonder. The paraments are changed to red. In part, this reflects the tongues of fire that descended upon the heads of the disciples. Your red paraments may even have flames as part of the decoration.
One main feature of Pentecost is the Holy Spirit breaking down barriers of language, allowing people to hear the disciples’ preaching in their own languages. If your congregation has linguistic diversity, Pentecost is an excellent time to utilize such diversity. This can be done in several ways. You can have the readings for the day done in both English and another language that represents your congregation. If you have numerous languages represented, you can split one of the readings up by having it read in several languages. You may also choose to sing a hymn that is not in English. (There are a number of options for this in Lutheran Service Book—see page 1022.)
Readings & Theme
For Pentecost Sunday, the Pentecost story from Acts 2 replaces the typical Epistle. I recommend notating the readings in your bulletin or slideshow as “Old Testament Reading, New Testament Reading, Gospel” or as “First Reading, Second Reading, Gospel.”
The New Testament Reading, from Acts 2, is the story of Pentecost. A sound like a mighty, rushing wind fills the room where the disciples are gathered. Tongues of fire ignite above their heads and they are filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in other languages as the Spirit gives them utterance. Jewish people from every nation were gathered for Pentecost. Pentecost was an alternative name for the Jewish celebration of the Feast of Weeks, which occurred fifty days after Passover.
This reading also contains the beginning of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Another portion will be read the following week for Trinity Sunday. While the crowd that is gathered supposes the disciples to be drunk, Peter corrects them and points them to the prophet Joel. Peter says that Joel’s words about the last days are being fulfilled before their eyes. The reading for this week ends with the beautiful Gospel promise that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21).
The Old Testament Reading is from Ezekiel 37, which is the story of the valley of dry bones. There are several points of connection between Ezekiel 37 and Acts 2, including the presence of the Holy Spirit, the wind or breath, the power of the Word of God. But perhaps most profoundly there is the sense of repentance and resurrection. In Acts 2, Israel had killed its Messiah. The people had become nothing but dead, dry bones without faith and without hope, but God raises them out of their despair and their desperate situation, proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to them through Peter. In the Old Testament Reading, God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?” (v. 3). This is a question we are asked as we encounter those who are without faith in Christ. And our answer remains the same as Ezekiel’s: “O Lord God, you know” (v. 3). Or perhaps we answer, “Thy will be done.”
The Gospel is from John 15 and 16, and it records Jesus’ promise to the disciples about sending the Holy Spirit to them. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Helper, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the one who will guide the disciples after Jesus departs. Of course, we see Jesus’ promise fulfilled in the Acts 2 reading.
Hymns & Music
The Hymn of the Day for Pentecost Sunday is “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord” (LSB 497). Stanzas two and three are attributed to Martin Luther. Stanza three begins with these words:
Come, holy Fire, comfort true,
Grant us the will Your work to do
And in Your service to abide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
These are excellent words for the birth of the earthly church as we seek to do the will of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We abide in the service of the Spirit, not turned aside by trials and tribulations that we see the disciples of Christ face throughout their lifetimes. We continue to witness to Christ’s resurrection no matter the consequences.
Other music to consider includes “O Day Full of Grace” (LSB 503), “Holy Spirit, Light Divine” (LSB 496), and “Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling” (LSB 650).
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
The Arch Book The Coming of the Holy Spirit is a great resource for teaching the story of Pentecost to children. Also consider Ezekiel and the Dry Bones if you want to share the Old Testament story with children.
Looking for additional information on planning for the Day of Pentecost? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Quotations marked LSB are from Lutheran Service Book, copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.