A time to remember – Remembrance Day

Bible base

1 Corinthians 11:23–26

Aim

To help students reflect on how memories are an important part of our lives.

Things you’ll need:

  • A song about remembering or memory, eg ‘Everything I do, I do it for you’ by Bryan Adams; ‘Memory’ from the musical Cats
  • PowerPoint equipment (optional) for presentation.
  • Objects, photos etc that you plan to use as examples in the assembly.
  • Remembrance Day poppies.

Preparation

  • Find the pictures or objects you plan to use in the assembly.
  • Find out some facts about wars by doing a web search.
  • If using PowerPoint or OHP for presentation of pictures (see below), prepare material as appropriate.
  • Wear a poppy.

Presentation

Start by talking about the different ways in which we remember things, pointing out that we have good memories and sad memories. Show some examples, beginning with some personal ones. You could show some of your ‘picture’ memories using PowerPoint or OHP and also some actual objects, holding them up for your audience to see. Choose things which you think this age group will enjoy. Examples might include:

Good memories

  • Photographs (eg a funny one of you on holiday as a child)
  • Your teddy bear
  • Your diary – includes important dates (eg your birthday, pay day, holidays, trip to the cinema)

Sad memories

  • Possessions (eg your grandma’s wedding ring)
  • Photographs (eg a picture of a relative who fought/died in a war)

2 Now comment that some students are wearing poppies (if they are). Show and talk about your ‘Remembrance Day’ poppy. Ask if anyone can tell you why we wear these at this time of year. Then talk about what the poppy is meant to help us remember. Include some facts about wars, for example:

First World War: On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, there were nearly 60,000 casualties, a third of whom were killed.

Some facts about a more recent war, eg the war in Iraq.

Talk about the fact that the people who were killed or injured were real people – someone’s father, brother, husband, and son. In the First World War, some of those fighting were very young – as young as 14.

3 Ask: Why is it important to remember?

  • Talk about a time you forgot something (eg your Mum’s birthday!). How did that make the person feel?
  • Talk about the importance of remembering friends and relatives who have died, including some personal examples. If we don’t remember people it’s as if we’re saying they weren’t important or that we don’t care about the contribution they’ve made to our lives.

In the same way, it’s important to remember the people who have died in wars, fighting for things that are important. How we live today is partly a result of their sacrifice. Remembrance Day is a time to remember.

Reflection

1 Say that remembering is important, because what happened in the past affects our lives now. It’s important because others (those we don’t know, like soldiers, and those we do know, like family) have done things for us which have an affect on our lives today and we need to remember them with thankfulness.

2 Now show the cross (an object, or picture on OHP or PowerPoint). Talk about, how for Christians it’s important to remember how Jesus died and in doing so took all the suffering and wrongs of the world. When we see a cross it reminds us of Jesus giving up his life for us, and challenges us about how we live for God and others now.

Response

1 Ask the young people to think about:

  • the soldiers who gave their lives for this country in wars;
  • their own good memories of people and what they mean to them;
  • Jesus giving up his life on the cross and why he did that.

Give a few moments of silence and encourage students to take the time to say thank you to God for what these memories mean and to think about what difference they might make to their lives now.

2 Show the prepared PowerPoint presentation (optional) with images of memories (family photos, war pictures), ending with one showing the cross, whilst listening to the song you have selected on the theme of remembering.

If PowerPoint isn’t available, use two or three OHP acetates with images and display these whilst the students are listening to the song.

3 End with a few moments silence, leaving the image of the cross on display.

 

 

Light and Dark – Hallowe’en

Bible base

Matthew 15:16–20; Luke 11:33–36; John 1:4,5

Aim

To help students reflect on what causes evil and Jesus’ reassurance that he is the light of the world.

Things you’ll need:

  • Appropriate pictures from newspapers etc to remind students of ‘evil’ events that are currently in the news (bombings, crimes which have hurt people, oppression) –these could be prepared for display on PowerPoint.
  • Flip chart and pens (optional)

Preparation

Search out and prepare for display pictures you plan to use.

Note: When you refer to Halloween, take care not to appear to trivialise it or associated topics, which may be frightening issues for some students (eg the occult and supernatural).

Presentation

1 Start by talking briefly about Halloween. Point out how, although most people don’t take Halloween seriously; there is real evil in the world which is very serious. Ask the students for some examples of ‘evil’ they’ve noticed recently in the news.

2 Show them some of the pictures you’ve selected as reminders of ‘evil’ that’s happened recently and talk about the kinds of ‘evil’ these represent.

3 Ask:

  • Why did these bad things happen?
  • Who was responsible?

4 Say that while we would probably never do some of the terrible things they’ve just looked at, all of us do sometimes do ‘evil’ things. Asking students for their ideas, make a list (on flip chart) of different ‘evil’ things they might do (eg bullying, telling lies, taking something which isn’t yours). Even though these aren’t big crimes, they are still small steps in the wrong direction and which often result in hurt for others.

Reflection

1 Dark

Comment that most of the evil and suffering in the world is caused by human beings. The Bible talks about the wrong things we do coming from within us. It’s our own fault! Christians believe that God created human beings with the ability to choose right from wrong: a lot of the time evil is caused by people who deliberately choose wrong.

2 Light

Christians believe that the power of evil has been overcome through the death of Jesus on the cross. If we do wrong things, God will forgive us when we say sorry to him, and will help us to do what’s right.

Response

1 Light a candle, placed so that people can see it. Then read out Jesus words, saying:

‘Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.”’ John 9:5 (NIV)

2 Ask students to consider:

  • Have you contributed towards evil in any ways?
  • What good have you done recently?

3 Invite students, if they wish, to take a moment as everyone is quiet to ask God to forgive them for wrong things they’ve done and to find ways of bringing some ‘light’ into others’ lives today.

4 Conclude by reading John 1:4,5, explaining that these are some words from the Bible about Jesus.

Note: Check that the school’s Health and Safety rules will allow you to light a candle during assembly.

 

 

I remember when – Remembrance Day & Forgiveness

Bible base

Matthew 5:9,38–48

 Things you’ll need:

  • Items from the past, eg old vinyl records, Rubik’s Cube, large mobile phone, recordings of old songs to play.
  • Items from their lives today, eg current CDs, the latest games console, small mobile phone.
  • Equipment to play old songs, if using.
  • Remembrance day ‘poppies’.

Preparation

  • Set up equipment for playing music, if using.
  • Devise extra quiz questions, if needed.
  • If you have enough poppies to give the students one each, get some volunteers to give them out as the students enter.

Presentation

1 Show the students some of the items from the past you’ve brought in. You might like even to play an old song or two. Talk about how the items from the past have been surpassed by newer things.

2 Do this quiz, encouraging participation: ‘I remember when…’ The students have to tell you the year of the events. Below are some memorable events and their dates. Depending on time you have available, you might want to add some more notable dates.

You could do the quiz either by simply asking the audience, with hands up for answers; by dividing the audience in two, each section competing against each other; or having a competition between two teams of volunteers at the front.

Ask: In which year did the following events take place?

  • JF Kennedy shot (1963)
  • Man landed on the moon (1969)
  • The Falklands war (1982)
  • Bomb at the Atlanta Olympics (1996)
  • Princess Diana died (1997)
  • The World Trade Center destroyed by terrorist attack (2001)

3 Talk about the idea of history repeating itself, for example:

  • Old fashions come back in to fashion, eg mini-skirts, flares;
  • War re-occurs, eg Falklands War, Gulf War, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq.
  • Violence and terrorism, eg September 11, suicide bombs in Israel.

4 Show the students a Remembrance Day poppy. Explain that these were first sold and worn as reminders of the fields of France covered in red poppies during World War I and also reminders of the bloodshed in wars since.

After the two major world wars in Europe in the first half of the last century, the British Legion wanted future generations never to forget the atrocities of war and to remember those who had died for their country.

5 Say that they might have heard these words, often spoken at this time of year, in remembrance of people who have given their lives in wars:

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. They shall grow not old as we who are left grow old, age shall not weary them not the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. When you go home, tell them of us and say, “For your tomorrow we gave our today”.’ Kohima Memorial in Burma

6 Explain that some Christians, who were pacifists, did not fight in the two World Wars, believing that, whatever the reasons, it is always wrong to kill others and that other ways of making peace should be found. Other Christians believed it was right to go to war and gave their lives to preserve freedom and peace for others.

7 Explain that, whether we believe war is right or wrong, the Bible talks about the importance of being willing to forgive, and about reconciliation and seeking peace wherever possible. That applies to every day quarrels between people too.

8 Read out some of these verse from the Bible: Matthew 5:9,38–48.

Reflection

Ask the students:

  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • In what ways could you contribute to making peace (in school, your family, your community, the world)?
  • Can you forgive others, when you need to, and not seek revenge or retribution?

Response

1 Tell the students you are going to have a short time of quiet, when you want them to think honestly about the following:

• Are there people at home or school who they need to forgive?

Tell them they could ask God to help them forgive others.

• How could they help make peace between themselves and someone else, or even in the wider world?

Remind them they could ask God to help them do something about this today.

2 Finally, get them to look at their own poppy or the one you’re showing them. Encourage them, every time they see one of these at this time of year, to remember what it means and to let it challenge them to work for peace, in big and small ways.

 

 

Attitude to Work

Note

This assembly is for use in preparation for work experience and is intended for use with older pupils.

Aim

To help pupils examine the nature of work; and to think about Jesus’ attitude to work.

Bible base

Matthew 20:1-16 – the workers in the vineyard.

You will need:

  • Items for task assignments: potatoes and peeler; dirty shoes, polish and brushes; pencils and sharpener; 26 cards showing the different letters of the alphabet.
  • A hat containing 4 cards showing assignments
  • 4 small prizes (eg chocolate bars)
  • 3 large pieces of paper showing:
  1. A ‘graffiti board’ style list of issues which are part of the world of work (see Content below)
  2. A picture of a famous person (eg well-known sports or music celebrity)
  3. A picture of Mother Teresa

• Some music for timing the work activity (see Content below)

Content

Introduction

1. Tell pupils that as it’s the time of year for ‘work experience’, you are going to give them some practice.

2. Ask for four volunteers and give them each one of the following tasks together with the necessary equipment:

  • Peel three potatoes;
  • Clean and polish a pair of shoes;
  • Sharpen a dozen pencils;
  • Sort the twenty-six cards into alphabetical order.

3. Having told everyone what the four jobs are, assign the four volunteers their tasks by asking them to pull a card out of a hat. (Comment that you are sure that more care was taken in their real work placements!)

4. Play some music (it could be on the theme of work, or some ‘busy’ music like The Flight of the Bumble-bee by Rimsky-Korsakov), while they do their jobs. After one minute, see how they’ve got on.

5. Give the volunteers a round of applause and a small reward. You could say something like, ‘Don’t expect anything like that on work experience!’

Why work?

1. Ask some rhetorical questions about the nature of work. For example:

  • Do we work only for what we can get out of it ourselves?
  • Does it matter whether we work willingly or begrudgingly, as long as the job gets done?
  • What is ‘work’, anyway? Is what we do in school ‘work’? or is ‘work’ only a ‘proper job’ for which you get paid? What about ‘working’ in the garden or the house all day? Is that work? Or leisure?

2. Say to your audience that as they are preparing for the world of work, it’s worth remembering some of the similarities, as well as the differences, between school and work. Display the first piece of card showing some of the different issues involved in work which may or may not be part of their working life at school or in ‘a job’. You could include: punctuality, hours, holidays, working day, rules, law, discipline, contract, clothing, illness, wages, pay.

You might talk about some of these or leave them on display whilst you make the general point that the wonderful stress-free, hassle-free, world of work out there doesn’t exist! And probably, the things you dislike about school will be present, in some form, at work.

3. Display the second card (e.g. a top sports person, a super-model or filmstar). Then display the third card – the picture of Mother Teresa. Ask some questions like:

  • Whose job is the most important?
  • Whose job is the best paid?
  • Are there other criteria we need to consider?

4. Talk about the fact that even though they won’t be paid for the work they do on work experience, that doesn’t mean they are not important, or that the work they do next week doesn’t count.

Say that some people on work experience have made a real difference to their place of work: because of the kind of person they are; the atmosphere they’ve helped to create. And, as a result, they’ve made a lasting impression on their workmates.

5. Tell this story: There was a man who had a big job which had to be done in one day. So, he hired some men to do it for a fixed daily rate. Half-way through the day, he realised that the job wasn’t going to be completed on time. So he took on some more men at the same rate. In the early evening, he took on some more to make sure everything was finished and packed away. All the men got the same pay. Some of them didn’t like it, but the boss told them that they’d all got what was agreed at the time they were taken on.

6. Explain that Jesus told this story (see Matthew 20:1-16) – not to make out a case for everyone to be paid the same – but to show that everyone was equally important in getting the job done on time. They all had a part to play – however small it seemed.

Application

  1. Say that you are sure they will all work very hard during work experience, and for no apparent reward.
  2. Tell pupils that Jesus was a worker for many years. He knew what it was like to get dirt in his fingernails and to trade and bargain for the best deals. But Jesus said something very ironic about his work. He said that the most important thing he had come to do was to serve others and eventually die for them, not to gain a reward for himself, but for the greatest free reward ever for others; the best ‘bonus’ any boss could give to anyone, no matter how deserving – the gift of eternal life…heaven.

 

Love – Valentines Day

Aim

To show pupils that there are different kinds of love; and to help them understand the extent of God’s love.

Bible base

Mark 12: 29-31; Luke 15:11-32; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – love.

You will need:

  • A selection of funny St Valentine’s day cards (but make sure you haven’t missed any ‘double meanings’ – teenagers won’t!)
  • Examples from newspapers of St Valentine’s day messages
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 copied onto large pieces of card (use a modern Bible version)
  • A jigsaw Jigsaw Picture made from large pieces of card which has been cut in four, each piece showing one of ‘the four loves’: storge, philia, eros and agape.

Preparation

  • Prepare display cards as described.
  • Find out in advance from a teacher at the school if there is a widely known boy/girl relationship which the parties involved wouldn’t mind being mentioned in the assembly.

Content

St Valentine’s Day

1. Explain that St Valentine’s day is named after Valentine, a priest, who fell in love with an executioner’s daughter. Sadly, the girl was blind, but the priest miraculously restored her sight. However the emperor was displeased with him. He ordered him to be clubbled to death and then his head was chopped off!

2. Over the years it became the tradition for people to remember St Valentine and his love. Gradually it became known as the day when birds choose their mates; and then people started sending the one they loved a card.

3. Show and read out some of the St Valentine’s day cards. Then say that you have somehow managed to intercept one, sent by a boy who is present in this assembly to a girl who is here too. Read the message, inserting the names of the boy and girl (who you found out about in advance) in the appropriate places.

4. Point out that simply by the law of averages, you are far more likely to fall for a person, that that person is to fall for you. So, some people play safe and send their messages anonymously, sometimes through a newspaper. Read out some of the messages from newspapers that you have brought with you.

5. Say that another thing people think about on St Valentine’s day is kissing! Comment that you need to be careful when kissing. Ask your audience if they know these interesting facts. When you kiss:

  • You are using twenty-nine facial muscles;
  • Your heartbeat increases from seventy-two to ninety-five beats per minute;
  • Consequently the blood in your body races around a lot faster, so you feel warmer and your face goes redder and your lips enlarge;
  • You may burn up three calories and…
  • Some experts say your lifespan could be reduced by up to three minutes!

St Valentine’s day could damage your health! Comment that perhaps it’s easier to describe a kiss simply as the shortest distance between two people!

Love

1. Comment that all this talk of romance and kissing could lead you to think that that’s all there is to love. Certainly the media seem to concentrate on these aspects of love. But there is more to love than just these things.

2. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself (see Mark 12:29-31). And St Paul (who wrote a lot of what we call the Bible) said this about love…(Display 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, written on an OHP acetate.) Ask pupils: Do you think that this is a good description of the way you love others?

3. Explain that the English language has only one word for something which the ancient Greeks had four words for! If you say in English that you ‘love’ someone, it immediately has certain implications that may not have been intended. But the Greeks could express themselves rather more freely. The words they could use were:

  • Storge. This word, storge (display on the appropriate piece of the jigsaw), meant ‘affection’. It’s the word you might use when you say ‘I love fish and chips’, or ‘I love Llandudno’, or even, ‘I love old Mrs Jenkins, next door’. ‘Love’ used in this way doesn’t mean that you want to elope with Mrs Jenkins; it means you have a deep affection for her.
  • Philia. The second word the Greeks had was philia (display this next piece of the jigsaw). This word would be used to describe the feelings you have in a close friendship. It could be brotherly or sisterly love, where you have things in common with that person or are able to confide in them. It’s the kind of love you might feel for a best friend. It’s important that we are able to recognise this kind of love for one another, without it having any romantic associations.
  • Eros. The third word is eros (display this piece of the jigsaw). It’s the same word as the name of the little character in Piccadilly Circus, London, who fires an arrow from his bow and which appears on lots of St Valentine’s day cards. From this word we get the English word, ‘erotic’. This kind of love means the physical attraction that St Valentine’s day is about. It’s to do with the kind of feeling that makes us blush or sends shivers down our spine. It’s the sort of love that is portrayed in so many films and songs. It’s the sort of love that may lead two people to say, ‘I can’t live without you. Let’s get married.’
  • Agape. The ancient Greek’s fourth word for love was agape (put the last piece of the jigsaw in place). The literal meaning of this word is ‘sacrificial love’. It’s the sort of love shown when someone gives their life to save another. It’s the sort of love shown when someone gives their life to save another. It’s the sort of ‘mad’ love that keeps on loving even when it gets nothing back in return. It’s the sort of love that welcomes back an undeserving prodigal son (explain as appropriate; see Luke 15: 11-32). And every time, in the New Testament, when the love of God or Jesus is mentioned, this word – agape – is used.

Explain that the greatest act of love, according to the Bible, is Jesus’ death on the cross for the sake of people who had rejected him. In response to the question, ‘How much does God love us?’ some people have stretched out their arms (demonstrate this as a reminder of the crucifixion) and said, ‘This much.’

Application

  1. Say that it’s the greatest thing in the world to know that you are loved. For many Christians the realisation that God loves them with this agape love – which meant Jesus dying on the cross for them – was the thing which made them want to get to know God themselves and to ‘love’ him in return.
  2. Comment that there is a lot being said about the subject of ‘love’ at the present time. Say that you are going to finish the assembly with a few moments of quiet. Ask pupils to use this time to think about all the people, places and things that they could say they ‘love’. If they would like to, they could take this opportunity, as they think about them, to say ‘thank you’ to God for them.

 

 

All you need is love – Valentines Day

Bible base:

Matthew 22:39; 1 Corinthians 13:4–13

Aim:

To help students think about the meaning of love and about treating others with kindness.

Things you’ll need:

  • Flip chart and pens to write up suggestions from students.
  • A CD player and CDs with current songs including the word ‘love’.
  • Bible verses from 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 printed onto card or on PowerPoint (optional).

Preparation

Think of four or five current songs which you think students will know which include the word ‘love’ in the titles or lyrics.

Presentation

1 If possible, play a selection of current songs including the word ‘love’ as students enter the room where you’re meeting for the assembly.

2 Ask students to see how many songs they can come up with which include the word ‘love’. You could show them some CD covers as clues. Write the song titles up on a flipchart if you have one. How many can they think of?

3 Talk about the fact that love is mentioned a lot in music, in magazines, on TV etc. But what is it? For example, what does it mean to love someone? Ask for some suggestions.

4 Point out that it can mean different things at different times, depending on who you are talking about. Get the students to suggest different people we ‘love’ (eg boyfriend/girlfriend, Mum, Dad, brother, friends). Comment that the way we love these people is different depending on the kind of relationship we have with them.

5 Say that you’re going to read one description of love. Read this passage from the Bible, slowly and thoughtfully: 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Explain that this is from the Bible and is a description of how Christians believe people should act towards others. These principles can be applied to any of our friendships and relationships. Display the verses now if you wish.

6 Talk through each element of the Bible passage, asking for practical examples of what it might mean to behave like this towards friends, parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, teacher etc.

Reflection

  1. Invite the students to consider this commandment from the Bible about how we should care for others: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 (NCV)
  2. Comment that this means we should treat people the way we would like to be treated.

Response

Ask the students to think about their own behaviour and actions. Are there times when they don’t ‘love’ others in the way you’ve just been talking about? Ask them to think about how they might need to change. Encourage them to ask God to help them to be ‘loving’ towards others today.

If you wish, you could play a quiet Christian song on the theme of love as students go out from the assembly.

 

 

New Year Resolutions

Bible base:

Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:8

Aim:

To help students reflect on the opportunity the new year brings for a fresh start.

Things you’ll need:

Flip chart.

Preparation

  • Think of a personal – and if possible, amusing and/or entertaining – New Year’s resolution anecdote.
  • Set up flip chart before assembly begins.

Presentation

1 Begin by talking about a New Year’s resolution you once made – choose one that’s not very serious.

2 Ask the students if they have made any New Year’s resolutions? If so, what are they? Encourage them to say their serious and not-so-serious ones. As they do, write some up on the flip chart (eg stop biting finger nails, be nice to their little sister).

3 After you have gathered a few, ask:

  • Why do people make resolutions?
  • What would help you keep your resolutions?
  • What makes it difficult?

Talk about the reasons why people find it hard to keep their resolutions.

4 Ask students to think back to last term. What was good about it? What didn’t go so well? Now ask them to think about this term. What are they looking forward to? What are they determined to do better?

5 Now ask them to think about the world. If they could make some New Year resolutions for the world what would they be? From all their suggestions, what would be their top three for the world. Write these up on the flip chart. Then ask if they think these ‘resolutions’ are likely to be kept.

Reflection

1 In a time of quiet, ask students to think about the coming year:

  • How they would like their own lives to be this year?
  • What would they wish for the world?

2 Comment that, whether or not they keep their resolutions, and whatever happens in the world, there are probably going to be some problems and times when they will find things difficult.

3 Say that you are going to read some words from the Bible. Read Hebrews 13:8:

‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever.’ Hebrews 13:8 (CEV)

Then read the second half of Matthew 28:20, explaining that these are words Jesus said to his followers when he was on earth:

‘… I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.’ Matthew 28:20 (CEV)

4 Remind the students that God is with them always. In the coming year, he will be with them through all the bad times, and the good ones too.

Response

Encourage the students to reflect on the following (the Millennium Resolution written by Churches Together in England) and to make it their own prayer if they wish:

Let there be

respect for the earth,

peace for its people,

love in our lives,

delight in the good,

forgiveness for past wrongs

and from now on, a new start.

 

 

Gordon Wilson

Forgiving those who take away what I love – peacemaking in N.Ireland

Other themes: death, God’s comfort

The Problem

Listen carefully to this story and think what you’d do.

It was the best thing he’d ever done – everyone said so. Even Mr James, the art teacher, who was hard to impress, said: “Martin, this is just terrific.” All this praise was a bit new for Martin – he wasn’t very good at school work generally – but it made all the hours of hard work worth it.

Perhaps it was Martin’s love of the sport that had enabled him to do it so well – but this little clay figure of a footballer dribbling a ball up the field was perfect, no denying it. Even the Man United colours had come out just right after the varnishing and firing.

Now it had pride of place in the craft display for open day. The next day! – Martin was excited.

When he arrived at school the following morning, the whole place was in uproar. He overheard two teachers talking. “They got in through the craft room. Damaged everything they could get their hands on. The police are on their way.”

Then he saw Mr James coming towards him, his hands cupped round something he was carrying. Martin’s heart began thumping hard.

Mr James opened his hands. There was the little clay figure. Shattered. Impossible to mend.

Martin began to cry, his whole body shaking.

“You could make another one,” said Mr James softly.

Martin stopped sobbing and shouted, “What’s the point? I’m not bothering again. Ever.” And he grabbed the pieces from the teacher’s hands, threw them on the ground and stormed off.

Now think:

What would you say to Martin if you were his friend? Would you say, “Never mind, it was only a model”? Would that help? What about, “When we know who did it, we’ll go and break that stuff”? Is that any better?

(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)

The Story

Listen now to the true story of someone who lost much, much more than a clay model.

The eighth of November 1987, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

Remembrance Day.

The father and daughter stood close together for the open air service at the War Memorial, for it was cold and windy. But the weather hadn’t put them off coming. They both wanted to pay their respects to those who had died, not just in the wars, but in the more recent troubles in their own land. There’d been so much bloodshed, so much suffering.

The father, Gordon Wilson, a shopkeeper in the town, knew there was no easy solution to the differences between Catholics and Protestants, but why, oh why, did innocent people have to die? Bombs in buildings, bombs in cars, you never knew where the terrorists would plant one next. And what for?

He looked round. He hoped the police had searched the area properly. But no, surely at a service honouring the dead, surely they would have the decency not to strike here.

He always stood in this spot for the service, by the wall of an old building. He was pleased his youngest daughter Marie could be with him this year. She was twenty, a nurse at a hospital in Belfast, home for the weekend. He was so proud of her, so proud.

Then it happened. The world seemed to explode around them. The wall shuddered, then fell on top of them. The unthinkable had come true. The provisional IRA had planted a bomb, just by where they were standing. Gordon was thrown forward, then felt a pounding on his back as the rubble piled on top of him.

He was aware of screaming all around him, but he could do nothing about it. Then he felt a hand coming through the rubble, grabbing his. Marie’s hand. They were together and they were alive. He heard her shout out that she loved him before her hand seemed to lose its grip.

Father and daughter were pulled out from under the broken wall and rushed to hospital. Gordon had injured his shoulder. But Marie’s injuries were far worse, and later that day, she died.

The family members – Gordon, his wife Joan, and two other children – comforted each other, gave each other strength to go on. But they were aware of someone else comforting them too, someone with his arms wrapped right round them. God was there, suffering with them.

Catholics and Protestants were able to come together and comfort the families of the eleven people who had died in the blast. They knew that true Christians, whatever church they went to, hated the violence, and were sad that people might blame God for it.

But Gordon didn’t blame God – he knew that God is love. And he didn’t need to take revenge either, for he knew that god himself would judge the terrorists in his own time. And he believed he would see Marie again in heaven.

Over the next days Gordon was interviewed on radio and TV. People were astonished at his lack of hatred and bitterness.

More and more invitations to speak poured in, not only from Ireland, but from other countries too. People listened who had lost loved ones, who were finding it difficult to go on, who felt God had forsaken them, who were full of bitterness. And Gordon, this shopkeeper from a little town, showed them they could go on, that god had not forsaken them and never would, and that being bitter wouldn’t help. He brought them comfort and hope.

But he wanted to do more. He wanted to help bring peace to his country. He accepted an invitation to join the Irish parliament so he could plead with the country’s leaders for a united, peaceful Ireland.

Little by little things did change. As Gordon and others spoke, people began to see they had to put the hurts and hatred of the past behind them and think about the future. And eventually, on Good Friday 1998, a peace treaty was signed.

But Gordon Wilson was not there to see it. He had died peacefully three years before.

After his death people from all over the world wrote to his widow saying how much Gordon had meant to them. He had not just told them the best way to cope with loss, but shown them as well. God had helped him, and he had passed on that help to others.

So Marie’s death had not been in vain.

Time of Reflection

Life is not always easy. When something bad happens it can really hurt. But later on these bad times make it possible for us to help someone else, to say to that person, “I know what you’re feeling.” And that can really help.

Is there anyone you know who’s hurting today? Can you do anything to help?

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

David in the Bible knew God’s comfort:

“The Lord is my shepherd…

Even if I go through the deepest darkness,

I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me.

I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life.” (Psalm 23)

But the apostle Paul knew that he should pass that comfort on:

“He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Prayer

Lord, you know what it’s like to feel hurt inside. You had really bad things happen to you. So you understand, even if no one else does. Thank you that you never turn away. Help us to accept your comfort and then be ready to comfort others. Amen

Variations on a Theme

The most valuable addition here would be to think in more detail about what Jesus did suffer (betrayal, desertion by friends, mocking, physical pain) and how he always reacted in love. Every bad feeling children have, Jesus has been there. They need to see that he understands.

If the atmosphere is not right for this, then children could read their own stories (fictional or true) about a friend being there at a bad time.

End of school year – the holiday starts here!

Aim:

To help the children to grasp that God, who is greater than we can ever imagine, knows all about us and watches over us wherever we go.

Bible base:

Psalm 139:9-10

You will need:

  • An outline of Britain – on an acetate, or drawn large if an OHP is not available
  • A globe
  • Marker pens
  • A road map of Britain (with index!) in case you need to look up any destinations
  • A suitcase containing some of the things you would take on holiday
  • A large sign, which will fit in the case, saying ‘God’

Preparation

Know your geography!

Presentation

Introduction

  1. Who is excited about finishing school for the summer? (Be sure to let the staff say so too!) Who is going away on holiday? What will they take with them? Show the things you’ve packed.
  2. Ask for the names of some of the places people are going to and mark them on the map with that person’s name. Be sure also to mark on those who are having their holiday at home. Point out foreign destinations on the globe. How will they get to where they are going?

Story

  1. Talk about some of the people in the Bible who went on long journeys – Abraham going to a new country; Joseph going as a slave into Egypt; Moses leading the people to God’s special land; Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to safety in Egypt when he was a baby; Paul going on long journeys to tell people about Jesus. Each one knew that wherever they went, God was with them.
  2. Read the verses from Psalm 139. ‘If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me’. (Psalm 139:9-10, Good News Bible)

Application

Show the ‘God’ sign from your suitcase. We can’t see God with our eyes or hear him with our ears or feel him with our hands – but he will be with us always if we ask him to be, just as he was with these people.

It doesn’t matter where we go in the world: God is so great that he can be everywhere with anyone.

When we come back to school next year from summer holidays, when we go to new classes – or even new schools – God will still watch over and care for each one.

Prayer

Say a short prayer thanking God for holidays at home and away, and, if appropriate, asking him to be close to children who are going to a new school.

Song suggestions

Gavin Peacock / Bernhard Langer / Jonathan Edwards

The hope that life is more than failure or success – football, golf, athletics

Other themes:

coping with disappointment, taking sport too seriously

The Problem

Listen to this and see what you think at the end.

Karen could hear part of the crowd changing her name: “Ka-ren! Ka-ren!” They knew it all depended on her – she knew it too. If she won this final race in the Inter-School Swimming Gala, Compton, her school, would carry away the trophy. It would be tight though: Compton and one of the rival schools, The Laurels, had equal points. It was up to her.

But she was confident. The swimmer for The Laurels looked nervous. Winning shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

And the gun went off. She dived. Good, long, clean strokes, come on!

But on the second lap, she began to feel tired for some reason. Push, Karen told herself, push! She was vaguely aware of the roaring crowd, vaguely aware too that she was not in the lead. Push! Push!

Then it was over. And there was the girl from The Laurels jumping about in the water. She’d won. Karen was, what, fourth, maybe even fifth. She pulled herself out of the pool, trying to keep from crying until she was alone. Behind her as she ran, she heard a teacher saying, “Bad luck, Karen, but stay around, we’re about to take team photos.”

But Karen didn’t stop. Not until she reached the changing room where she buried her head in the towel and let the sobs come. She felt so ashamed. She’d done her best, but she’d let everyone down.

Then she heard a voice, “Karen, the photo, come on…”

Now think:

What should she do? Is she right to be ashamed? What would you say to her?

(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)

The Story

Picture the scene. Wembley Stadium. You’re there in the crowd – and it’s the FA Cup Final, 1994, Chelsea versus Manchester United. The teams haven’t come onto the pitch yet, but you can feel the excitement all around you. The atmosphere’s electric.

Ah, here they come, striding onto the turf, Chelsea in blue, Man United in red. They look tiny in the vast stadium, but you know they’re giants of the game. Even so, this is one of the biggest days of their lives, they’ve worked so hard to get here. If you’re excited, how must they feel?

The game begins. The minutes tick by. No score yet. They’re playing their hearts out but the break hasn’t come to either side.

Then it happens. A chance. Gavin Peacock for Chelsea has the ball, outside the box, but there’s not much between him and the goal. He shifts the ball from the right foot to the left, not much time now before the Reds pour down. He kicks. Yes – it looks dead on line for the goal, the ball flying through the air, unstoppable surely. The crowd holds its breath. It’s nearly there…

Oh no! It’s hit the crossbar, bounced out!

If it had gone in, Chelsea would have been in the lead, they’d have been able to put ten men in defence and just hold on to win. Ah, if only…

But how does Gavin Peacock himself feel about it? We’ll hear later.

Let’s change the scene. 1991, a golf course in the United States. Two teams, Europe and the States, playing for the Ryder Cup. A big, big match. And now the result hangs on one short putt. If the German Bernhard Langer knocks it in, Europe wins. If he misses, it’s a win for the States.

The ball’s only lying about two metres from the hole and Langer is very experienced, very cool. He takes a couple of practice strokes and moves to the correct position. He looks at the ball, the hole, back to the ball again. The spectators are like statues.

And, click, the ball begins to roll towards the hole, closer, closer, it’s right at the edge now. But – it doesn’t go in, it just slides round the rim of the hole and comes to rest a short distance away. He’s missed.

The US team jump and dance about. And Bernhard Langer – do you think he does the same?

Yes, how did these sportsmen feel? After that kick did Gavin Peacock mentally give up? After that shot did Langer throw his putter on the ground in rage?

In a word, no. Gavin Peacock knows that was just one kick. He did his best at that moment. All right, it didn’t’ work out. But he can live with it, he can carry on with the game, continue doing his best.

For he knows that one of the most valuable assets in professional football is a level head, whatever comes. He knows that one moment the crowd could be roaring out his name, the next he could be out of the team. Being a Christian helps him cope with failure and success and not get too worked up about either. He knows God’s given him a terrific talent as a striker, but he knows too that God hasn’t promised he’ll get every ball in. He’s just promised to be with him in the good moments and the bad, with him always.

Gavin comes from a footballing family. When he was small, his dad, who was a Charlton player for seventeen years, used to place balls round the garden so Gavin would get in the habit of kicking them. Eventually he went in for the England schoolboy trials, got in the team and played at Wembley when he was fifteen – in fact he played at Wembley on the Saturday and took his Maths GCSE on theMonday.

He became a professional as soon as he left school, playing for Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle before Chelsea. Then he moved back to Queens Park Rangers.

Gavin always prays about which club to join and he feels God guiding him. And he prays for strength too – both in his legs and in his mind when things aren’t going so well. But he knows there’s more to life than football, much more.

Bernhard Langer, the golfer, says the same. Knowing that his talent comes from God, and knowing Jesus as a friend standing by him, even when he misses, helps him a lot. Of course, he was sad to let his team down in that Ryder Cup, but his responsibility is to do his best, not to make every shot, win every tournament. What he says is, “There has only ever been one perfect human being, and we crucified him – I only missed a putt.”

Anyway winning has its problems too. In the World Athletics Championships in Sweden in 1995, Jonathan Edwards broke the world record for the triple jump – 18 metres 16, a fantastic distance. But then he jumped again – and broke the record again – 18 metres 29 this time. He knew he’d done well, but when he realised just how well, he gave one of the biggest grins ever seen on a human face. Then to top that he won the BBC Sports Personality Award for that year.

It must be hard to be modest after that. In fact it must be easy to think you’re the king of the world. But Jonathan doesn’t think that way. He says he’s no more important than the person who measured those jumps. They just have different jobs, different talents.

For, like the others, Jonathan is a Christian and he knows his ability comes from God. But he knows too the danger of making sport the only thing in your life – you can overtrain, get boastful or tense – you can stop enjoying sport if you take it too seriously. In the end he knows there’s got to be something more important than jumping into a sandpit.

So – you won, you’re the champion? You ‘re not the king of the world – don’t act like it.

You lost? So? It’s not the end of the world. God loves you, winner or loser. Doesn’t that have to be the most important thing?

Time of Reflection

Yes, we know winning’s best , but – what do you think? – perhaps we need to experience a bit of both, winning and losing. And I’m not just talking about sport here, but about any competition we go in for. Now we know what we can gain by winning, a medal, a feeling of achievement and so on, but I want you to think what you can gain by losing. Just a moment to think about that…

Well, what did you think of? Perhaps that losing can make you try harder, make you more determined. Perhaps that it can make you more sympathetic, so you can encourage others when they lose.

So perhaps losing can be winning too. We need to learn how to do both.

Bible Bits

Be careful if you win a lot. The Bible says:

“Too much honey is bad for you.” (Proverbs 25:27)

and “Do not think of yourself more highly than you should.” (Romans 12:3)

And if you keep on losing, there’s this verse:

“If we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” (Galatians 6:9)

Prayer

Lord, help us to be good losers and good winners, to do our best and leave it there whatever the result. You know we’re not Superman or Superwoman, but thank you for the abilities that you have given us. Amen.

Variations on a Theme

Pupils could speak about sports events or other competitions they entered, and, even though they didn’t win, how much they enjoyed them anyway. This would show that the result is not the be-all and end-all and that losing is nothing to be ashamed of.

Quiz Questions

  1. Which teams played in the 1994 FA Cup Final?
  2. What stopped the ball Gavin Peacock kicked from going in?
  3. What was Gavin’s reaction?
  4. How did Gavin’s dad get him in the habit of kicking balls?
  5. What did Gavin do on the Saturday before his Maths GCSE?
  6. Tell me one thing Gavin always prays about?
  7. Which country is Bernhard Langer from?
  8. Name the golfing cup the teams were playing for.
  9. Which event is Jonathan Edwards famous for?
  10. What did he do in Sweden that was so special?