Confirmation Circle Group Gathering
Subject: The Spirit
Objectives: Students will (a) understand that the English word “Spirit” is a translation
of a Hebrew and Greek word that means 3 different things; (b) reflect on ways they experience the Spirit in their own life; © resolve to look for the Spirit in particular situations during the coming week.
Play a quick game of Pneumatological (noom-eh-tuh-loj-eh-cal) Catchphrase.
Distribute the “One Word, Three Meanings” Handout. Read through it together, taking turns as you see fit.
Hand out the journals and writing tools now and, depending on how much time you have left, give students between 10 and 15 minutes with their journals to work on whatever they’d like to work on. This is pretty open ended. They can work in solitude if they like or together. They can stay there at the table or go find a spot somewhere else on the 5th floor. They can write, they can draw, or they can do nothing. The aim here is to give students unstructured time to respond to this content in their own way.
After the time you’ve given for this has elapsed, call the circle back together. See how that experience was for them. Invite any of them to share if they’d like.
Focus the group now on taking this “information” about the Holy Spirit out into the world: their families, school, gymnastics, friends, country, wherever. Ask them to suggest situations and places where they can look for the Spirit this week.
After a few moments of this, read the next lines from the section on the Holy Spirit from the Brief Statement of Faith:
In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Say a closing prayer asking for the Spirit’s courage to do all these things in the coming week. Then bless the students as they go.
ONE WORD, THREE MEANINGS
The English word “Spirit” is a translation of a Greek word, “Pneuma” (the “p” is silent). The branch of Christian theology that explores the Holy Spirit is called “Pneumatology.” The Hebrew word that English translates as “Spirit” is pronounced “Ruach” (the “ch” is hard, like a “k”). Say that out loud.
Wasn’t that fun?
Ruach is used in the Old Testament to refer to at least different things. How Christians think of God the Holy Spirit is influenced by all of them. Read the following excerpts from the Bible to see how many different ways the Spirit acts in the world and in people.
In the 14th chapter of the book of Exodus, we meet the people of Israel facing the Red Sea. They have been freed from generations of slavery in Egypt, and are making their way to the land God promised their ancestors. But the Egyptian king has changed his mind about freeing them, and the full force of the army is in pursuit. The Israelites are stuck between a massive sea in front of them and a deadly army behind them. This is what the story says happens next.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind (ruach) all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
The “wind” of God rescues people from danger.
Ezekiel was a prophet in the Old Testament. He lived during the time of the exile, when the Israelites had been taken captive by the conquering Babylonian army. Many of them had been forcibly removed from their homeland and made to live in Babylon. It was no kind of life, and the people felt, in fact, lifeless. In the 37th chapter of Ezekiel’s writings, he records a vision he had:
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.Thus
says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath (ruach) to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath* in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:* Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,* and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
The “breath” of God revives people who feel lifeless.
Ezekiel and most other prophets in the Bible (including Jesus) claimed to have the Spirit of God given to them or resting on them. The prophet Isaiah, for example, says, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.” Jesus spoke these very words himself in his first public sermon (Luke 4).
This use of the ruach means a “gift” given by God that enables the receiver to do something she would not have been otherwise able to do. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul told new Christian churches that this gift was given to ALL OF THEM, not simply prophets. Check it out:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit (pneuma); and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The “gift” of God is given to all of us and unites us. Wind. Breath. Gift.