God always forgives

Aim:

To show the children that God loves us and forgives us when we say sorry.

Bible base:

Luke 15:11-32. The Lost Son

You will need:

Three paper plates – one with a happy face, one with a sad face, one with a face with a jealous expression.

Three flash cards with the following wording:

  1. Dig, dig Work, work, Sweat, sweat, Phew!
  2. Get, get, Money, money, Spend, spend, Gone!
  3. Love, love, Love, love, Love, love, Love!

Preparation

  • If possible read the story from a modern translation of the Bible.
  • Make the flash cards.

Presentation

Introduction

  1. Show the children the faces on the plates and talk about times they have felt happy, sad or jealous over something.
  2. Ask them to listen carefully to the story for times when people had these feelings.

Story

Choose three pairs of children to hold the flash cards.  The younger children will not be able to read these words, but they will remind the older children of what to say.  Practise the sayings, and teach the children the following actions for the last line of each: – Wipe the back of your hand over your forehead for ‘phew!’ – Hold out both hands, palms up, to signify ‘gone!’ – Hug yourself for ‘love!’

Some people were grumbling about the kind of people Jesus spent time with.  Jesus mixed with people that no one else would speak to!  So one day Jesus told them a story.

There was once a man who had two sons.  The older one stayed at home and worked very hard for his father.

Card 1

The younger one wanted to go off and to see the world, so one day he went to his dad and asked for his share of the money that one day would be his.

Card 2

The father thought for a while about how much he loved his son.

Card 3

And somewhat sadly he said, ‘Yes, son’ and gave the boy his share.

So when the money had been collected together for him, the boy left home and went off to a faraway country.  (Take the children with this card round to the back of the room, as if going on a journey.  Ask the children for ideas of how he might have spent his money.)

For a while he had lots of fun spending the money, buying whatever he wanted, spending the money on new clothes and eating the best food, on having parties and buying things for the new friends he had made.  Until one day, the money ran out.

Card 2

So the young man had to get a job, and he found one on a farm, feeding the pigs.  After a while in that country there wasn’t enough food for everyone, and the young man became very, very hungry.  He was so hungry that he felt like eating the pigs’ food!  You know when there are leftovers from dinners at school?  They get put in a bucket and given to feed pigs.  Just imagine it!  The boy was so hungry that he would have eaten leftover baked beans and chocolate pudding and chips and pizza and yoghurt all thrown in together!  Then he suddenly realised how stupid he had been.

‘Back home, even the servants on my dad’s farm have better food that this.  They have three good meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in.  I wonder if my father would ever take me back to be one of his servants if I went to him and said “sorry” for what I have done?’

So the young man decided to go back home.

When he was still some distance from the house, his father saw him and ran to meet him.  The young man knelt down at his father’s feet and began to speak.  ‘I’m sorry for what I have done wrong.  I’m not fit to be your son.  Will you let me come back as one of your servants?’

But before he had finished speaking, his dad hugged him.

Card 3

He shouted for people to bring his best clothes for his son to wear; to bring shoes for his feet and a ring for his finger, and to get food ready for a party!  The dad loved his son so much that he forgave him everything.

Card 3

When the older son heard this he was very cross.  ‘It’s not fair!’ he said.  ‘I’ve stayed at home and worked hard all this time.

Card 1

‘You never gave me a party!’

‘I know,’ said his father, “and you know that I love you very much.”

Card 3

‘But your brother was lost and he is found, so we had to have a party, because I love him very much too.’

Card 3

Application

  1. Talk about the happy, sad and jealous feelings in the story. a) To begin with the money made the younger son happy – the father was extremely happy when his son came hom. b) The younger son made his father sad by going away – the older son made him sad by being cross when his brother returned. c) The older brother was jealous at the way his father treated his younger brother.
  2. There are things that we do that hurt other people and hurt God.
  3. God is like the dad in the story.  He forgives us when we say ‘sorry’ and always keeps on loving us.

Prayer

Use the following prayer or similar:

Dear God, we are sorry for hurting other people and you by the wrong things that we do.  Please forgive us and help us to do the things that please you. Amen.

 

Parable of the lost son

Bible base:

Luke 15:11-32

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe that God’s forgiveness is available to anyone who is truly sorry for the wrong things they have done.

You will need:

  • Big storybook visual aid.
  • The following words written in sections on separate large pieces of paper or on acetate: IN TRO DUCT ION; CIR CUM STA NCES; UND ERST AND ING; MUL TIPLI CAT ION; SOR RY.
  • A newspaper.
  • A card with the following words written on it for a pupil to read out: ‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

Optional:

• Simple costumes for characters (two sons and father, eg a baseball cap for younger son, a woolly hat for older son and a flat cap for father).

The story in this outline is an improvised drama of the Bible story involving pupils acting out the parts. It is essential that you are very familiar with the story in advance to enable you to relax and help the pupils in their improvisation. It is great fun, however, and pupils generally enjoy it and perform well!

Introductory activity:

Show the assembly each of the difficult words in a mixed-up order. Can anyone work out what the word is? (If the school you are in has a long name, you could add it to the list.)

IN TRO DUCT ION

CIR CUM STA NCES

UND ERST AND ING

MUL TIPLI CAT ION

SOR RY

The last word was much easier, but actually, while ‘sorry’ is not a hard word to say, it is very hard to really mean it.

Jesus told a story about saying sorry and what happens when we say sorry to God. Open the storybook visual aid if you are using it for this section.

Once upon a time there was a man. (Choose a pupil to be the father and give him his costume.) This man had a farm (ask pupils to make animal noises) and on that farm he also had two sons (choose two other pupils, preferably one older and one younger pupil and give them costumes).

Now, the father loved his sons very much (if they will, get the ‘father’ to put his arm round his ‘sons’ shoulders) and enjoyed having them around the farm with him. The father had worked very hard to build up his farm (mime digging). The older son was a hard worker too (digging) and worked out in the fields from when he woke up in the morning until he went to bed at night. The younger son, however, preferred to stay inside. In fact, not only did he prefer to stay inside, he preferred to stay in bed all day. When he woke up (mime waking up), he liked to go straight back to sleep (snore). Meanwhile, his brother and his dad did all the work (digging).

One day, however, as he lay in bed, avoiding all work, he had an idea (ask the pupil to pretend to have an idea by looking suddenly very alert.) His father, he knew, was a very wealthy man, as he had worked so hard all his life (check that the older son and father are still digging). When he died, his two sons would get all his money. So, why didn’t he go to his father now and ask him for the money? There was no point waiting until his father died – he might be too old to enjoy it by then!

So, off he went to find his dad – who was digging – to ask him for his share of the money. The younger son should go to his dad, put out his hands and ask for his money. What do you think his father said? Ask the pupils what they think.

Perhaps it’s hard to believe, but his father said yes! He gave him the money and so, the next day, the younger son packed his bags and set off on an adventure! He had never had so much money in his life! He was very excited! Ask the pupil to look very excited.

Eventually he came to a country far from home where the weather was good and the people were friendly and life was cheap, so he settled down to some serious spending! Ask the pupil to mime throwing money around.

As you can imagine, the man found it very easy to find friends when he was throwing his money around. Choose some more pupils to come to the front as his friends. All they had to do was put out their hands (mime) and he would give them as much money as they wanted. He was very popular!

Meanwhile, back at home, while his older brother worked in the fields (mime digging) his father would sometimes stop and think about his younger son. He would look out along the road, hoping to see him coming home (ask the pupil to mime shielding his eyes to look out into the distance).

One day, when the younger son was out with all his new friends, not thinking about his old dad at all, he suddenly realised that he had no money left – his pockets were completely empty (mime). And now that he had no money left, his new friends were not so interested in him any more and off they went to find someone else to be their friend. Ask the other pupils to sit at the side for the rest of the story. They had only liked him because he gave them money. The younger son was very sad (mime.)

For the first time in his life he was going to have to do some work! So, he looked in the paper to see what job he could do (give the pupil a newspaper). He didn’t want to do anything too hard or messy, but the only thing that he could find, after much searching, was the most disgusting job he could think of: feeding pigs.

Yuck! It was such a smelly job that he had to hold his nose with one hand while feeding the pigs with the other (mime). He got paid almost nothing and gradually the younger son got weaker and weaker, and more and more hungry, until he sat down and cried (mime).

What was he doing? He started to think of home where, as we all know, his brother and his father were working (mime digging) and felt very sad. Why had he run away and wasted all his money? Even his dad’s servants had a better life than he had now.

But he was scared to go home. What would his dad say? Would he be cross? He didn’t deserve to be taken back by his father.

But then, he had an idea (mime having an idea again). What if he went back and asked his dad to take him on as a servant? Then he would be back at home, near his dad and his brother, and he wouldn’t be as hungry and miserable as he was now.

So, he picked himself up (mime), dusted himself down (mime) and set off on the long journey home (mime).

Meanwhile, back at home, can you guess what was happening? His brother was digging (mime) and his dad was doing some digging (mime) while also looking out along the road (mime), in the hope that his younger son might eventually come back.

The younger son walked and walked and walked (mime) until he thought he could walk no more! Just as he was getting too tired and hungry and weak to go on, he suddenly spotted something on the horizon. It was his home! He was so excited that, even though he was so tired, he jumped for joy (mime)! He was nervous about seeing his dad, but he had his lines ready. He’d been practising it the whole way home! Give the pupil the card to read out. When he saw his dad he would say:

(Pupil reads) ‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

Back at the farm, his dad too had caught sight of something exciting. Father should be shielding his eyes and looking into the distance. As he looked down the road, he thought he saw his son in the distance! And as the person got closer, he knew for sure that it was his son! He too jumped for joy (mime) and ran out to meet his son (mime).

When they met, his father gave him a huge hug! (It is unlikely that the pupils will act this out!) The son told his father what he had been practising all the way home:

Pupil should repeat the words on the card:

‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

But his father loved him so much that he was delighted to have him back as his son! He ordered his servants to prepare a huge party and get the best clothes for his younger son and invited everyone to come and join the celebration. The father and younger son should start pretending to dance!

The older son, meanwhile, was still out in the fields, digging (mime), and when he heard the party, he was very cross. He had worked for his father for years and yet when his little brother came home, having wasted everything, he got a party! He was raging (mime)!

But his father went out to him and asked him to come in and join the party. Father should go over to the older son and invite him to the party.

The man had two sons, and he loved them both. One of them had always been there, and everything the father had was his, but he had to celebrate when the son he had lost came home again!

Thank the pupils for their help and ask them to take their seats again.

The younger son knew that he had been stupid and had given up all that he had at home to go off and do his own thing. He had to be ready to go back and say sorry. But the father loved him so much that he was just pleased to have him back. He didn’t want to punish him – he wanted to celebrate!

In the Bible Jesus said that this story was a picture of what God thinks about us. He said that God is like the father and loves us so much that he wants to forgive us when we come to him to say sorry for the things we do that are wrong.

As we said at the beginning, sorry is a very hard thing to say, both to God and to other people. But Christians believe that we don’t need to be scared of saying sorry to God because he loves us and will forgive us.

Optional prayer time:

Thank God that he will forgive us when we say sorry to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egg Race – Easter

Bible base:

John 11:25,26

Aim:

To help students learn more about the meaning of Easter.

Things you’ll need:

  • Three Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (or similar)
  • An advert for Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (or similar)
  • A stopwatch
  • Mini chocolate eggs – enough for one for everyone in the assembly (optional, depending on school and your finances!)

Preparation

Find out, if possible, the current ‘world-record’ for time taken to eat a Cadbury’s Creme Egg, or have a suitable other ‘record’ ready (eg from other schools, youth groups etc visited).

Presentation

1 Ask the students some questions about Easter eggs, for example:

  • Who likes chocolate?
  • How many Easter eggs did you get last year?

2 Show an advert for Creme eggs. Show them a Cadbury’s Creme Egg – hinting that someone in this assembly might get the egg!

3 Tell them the ‘record’ time taken to eat a Creme Egg. Ask if anyone thinks they could beat that.

4 Ask for two volunteers (who like Creme Eggs!). Give them both a Creme Egg and challenge them to see who can eat their egg in the shortest time. Will either of them beat the record?

Use a stop-watch for timing. Make sure that both competitors start at the same time, on your ‘Go!’. Encourage support for both (making sure that both volunteers have support!). You could ask half the audience to support one competitor, and one part the other one. Build up the atmosphere by commentating as the contest develops.

Cheer the winner. Announce the times. Is there a new record? Award the winner another egg as their prize.

Reflection

  1. Comment that it’s great getting – and eating – Easter eggs at Easter, but what’s the point of them? Ask the students to suggest some answers.
  2. Respond to answers given by students. These might include:
  • New life
  • Baby chicks being born
  • Spring/new life beginning
  • Jesus coming back to life.

3 Talk briefly about the answers you receive, making sure that the above are included. Then go on to explain that Christians believe Jesus’ death and resurrection – his coming back to life – mean that forgiveness, new life and the chance to start again are possible for everyone.

Response

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

  • What does Easter mean to me?
  • Are there any ways in which I need to make a new start?

2 Pray, if appropriate, then wish everyone ‘Happy Easter’!

Optional extra: Tell students that you’re going to give them each a mini-Easter egg as they leave. As they eat it, ask them to think about anything they need forgiveness for, or ways in which they need to make a fresh start. Say that they could even ask God to help them with that. (Make sure you encourage them to put the wrapping in a rubbish bin!)

 

 

What are you like? – Easter

Topic:

Easter

Aim

To teach children that Easter is a time when Christians think about the wrong things they’ve done and remember that God forgives sin.

Things you’ll need

  • Paper and pencil
  • The Body Quiz (see below)
  • 2 large body outlines drawn on paper (you could use wallpaper) cut up, with Blu-tack attached ready for children to stick on wall.

Bible Base

Luke 18:9-14

Content

1 Ask for a couple of volunteers who can draw. Give them pencils and paper and tell them they have about three minutes to draw a self-portrait. Whilst they are doing that divide the rest of the children into two teams and do the ‘Body Quiz’ using the questions provided. When a team gets a question right they get a body bit to stick up. The first team to make a body wins. Select questions appropriate for the school you’re in and the age level of the children (the questions in the quiz get progressively harder).

2 After the quiz, look at the self-portraits and see how accurate they are. Congratulate the artists on their efforts. Point out how hard it is to draw a self-portrait, especially without a mirror, as we often forget what we look like. In fact there are lots of things we don’t know about ourselves.

3 Tell the children that in the Bible there is a story Jesus told about two people. One thought he knew everything about himself. Ask the pupils to listen carefully as you read the story and see if they can spot which man knew most about himself. Tell the parable of the pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). Ask a couple of pupils to come out and act out the parts as you tell the story.

4 When you have finished, ask the pupils which of the men knew most about himself. Why? Explain that it was the tax collector, because he knew he was sinful (briefly explain ‘sinful’ if necessary). But the pharisee couldn’t see his own faults. Jesus went on to say that it was the tax collector who would be forgiven because he wasn’t proud, but was honest about what he was like.

Application

A Christian viewpoint

The Easter festival is a special time for Christians to think about the wrong things they’ve done and to ask God to forgive them. Easter is when Christians remember that Jesus died as a punishment for the wrong things people have done. It’s a time to be honest about what we’re really like and to ask God to forgive us. The Bible says it’s important for Christians to be honest and admit to God the wrong things they’ve done, and not pretend that they’re perfect.

For everyone

Everyone does things wrong, but often we don’t want to admit it. We know other people do things wrong, but don’t want to see faults in ourselves. Sometimes we don’t seem to know ourselves very well.

Response

In a short time of quiet ask the children to think about things they’ve done which they know are wrong. You could play some quiet music at this point. Encourage the pupils to think if there’s anyone they need to be honest with or say sorry to: themselves, other people, or perhaps, God. Finish with this prayer, offering them the chance to opt out by not saying ‘Amen’ but sitting quietly and thinking about the issue.

Dear Lord, we know that often we do things wrong. Please help us to know when we’ve done wrong, and to be brave enough to say sorry. We want to say sorry now for times when we’ve done things which have upset other people and you. Please forgive us and help us not to do those things again. Amen.

The Body Quiz

  1. How many hearts have you got? (Answer:1)
  2. Name the five senses. (Answer: hearing, sight, smell, taste, touch)
  3. Which teeth are used to grind up food? (Answer: molars)
  4. What does the heart do? (Answer: pumps blood round the body)
  5. Why do we need bones? (Answer: to provide a rigid structure for our bodies and to enable us to move)
  6. Which is the longest bone in the human body? (Answer: the thigh bone)
  7. What does the blood travel round the body in? (Answer: blood vessels – arteries, capillaries and veins)
  8. What are the lungs used for? (Answer: to supply the body with oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide from the body)
  9. Where would you find the cochlea? (Answer: in the ear)
  10. What makes someone short-sighted? (Answer: the eye is too long from front to back, so that it doesn’t focus properly)

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.

Forgiveness – Parable of the lost son

Bible base:

Luke 15:11-32

Teaching objectives:

To show that Christians believe that God’s forgiveness is available to anyone who is truly sorry for the wrong things they have done.

You will need:

  • Big storybook visual aid.
  • The following words written in sections on separate large pieces of paper or on acetate: IN TRO DUCT ION; CIR CUM STA NCES; UND ERST AND ING; MUL TIPLI CAT ION; SOR RY.
  • A newspaper.
  • A card with the following words written on it for a pupil to read out: ‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

Optional:

  • Simple costumes for characters (two sons and father, eg a baseball cap for younger son, a woolly hat for older son and a flat cap for father).

The story in this outline is an improvised drama of the Bible story involving pupils acting out the parts. It is essential that you are very familiar with the story in advance to enable you to relax and help the pupils in their improvisation. It is great fun, however, and pupils generally enjoy it and perform well!

Introductory activity:

Show the assembly each of the difficult words in a mixed-up order. Can anyone work out what the word is? (If the school you are in has a long name, you could add it to the list.)

  • IN TRO DUCT ION
  • CIR CUM STA NCES
  • UND ERST AND ING
  • MUL TIPLI CAT ION
  • SOR RY

The last word was much easier, but actually, while ‘sorry’ is not a hard word to say, it is very hard to really mean it.

Jesus told a story about saying sorry and what happens when we say sorry to God. Open the storybook visual aid if you are using it for this section.

Once upon a time there was a man. (Choose a pupil to be the father and give him his costume.) This man had a farm (ask pupils to make animal noises) and on that farm he also had two sons (choose two other pupils, preferably one older and one younger pupil and give them costumes).

Now, the father loved his sons very much (if they will, get the ‘father’ to put his arm round his ‘sons’ shoulders) and enjoyed having them around the farm with him. The father had worked very hard to build up his farm (mime digging). The older son was a hard worker too (digging) and worked out in the fields from when he woke up in the morning until he went to bed at night. The younger son, however, preferred to stay inside. In fact, not only did he prefer to stay inside, he preferred to stay in bed all day. When he woke up (mime waking up), he liked to go straight back to sleep (snore). Meanwhile, his brother and his dad did all the work (digging).

One day, however, as he lay in bed, avoiding all work, he had an idea (ask the pupil to pretend to have an idea by looking suddenly very alert.) His father, he knew, was a very wealthy man, as he had worked so hard all his life (check that the older son and father are still digging). When he died, his two sons would get all his money. So, why didn’t he go to his father now and ask him for the money? There was no point waiting until his father died – he might be too old to enjoy it by then!

So, off he went to find his dad – who was digging – to ask him for his share of the money. The younger son should go to his dad, put out his hands and ask for his money. What do you think his father said? Ask the pupils what they think.

Perhaps it’s hard to believe, but his father said yes! He gave him the money and so, the next day, the younger son packed his bags and set off on an adventure! He had never had so much money in his life! He was very excited! Ask the pupil to look very excited.

Eventually he came to a country far from home where the weather was good and the people were friendly and life was cheap, so he settled down to some serious spending! Ask the pupil to mime throwing money around.

As you can imagine, the man found it very easy to find friends when he was throwing his money around. Choose some more pupils to come to the front as his friends. All they had to do was put out their hands (mime) and he would give them as much money as they wanted. He was very popular!

Meanwhile, back at home, while his older brother worked in the fields (mime digging) his father would sometimes stop and think about his younger son. He would look out along the road, hoping to see him coming home (ask the pupil to mime shielding his eyes to look out into the distance).

One day, when the younger son was out with all his new friends, not thinking about his old dad at all, he suddenly realised that he had no money left – his pockets were completely empty (mime). And now that he had no money left, his new friends were not so interested in him any more and off they went to find someone else to be their friend. Ask the other pupils to sit at the side for the rest of the story. They had only liked him because he gave them money. The younger son was very sad (mime.)

For the first time in his life he was going to have to do some work! So, he looked in the paper to see what job he could do (give the pupil a newspaper). He didn’t want to do anything too hard or messy, but the only thing that he could find, after much searching, was the most disgusting job he could think of: feeding pigs.

Yuck! It was such a smelly job that he had to hold his nose with one hand while feeding the pigs with the other (mime). He got paid almost nothing and gradually the younger son got weaker and weaker, and more and more hungry, until he sat down and cried (mime).

What was he doing? He started to think of home where, as we all know, his brother and his father were working (mime digging) and felt very sad. Why had he run away and wasted all his money? Even his dad’s servants had a better life than he had now.

But he was scared to go home. What would his dad say? Would he be cross? He didn’t deserve to be taken back by his father.

But then, he had an idea (mime having an idea again). What if he went back and asked his dad to take him on as a servant? Then he would be back at home, near his dad and his brother, and he wouldn’t be as hungry and miserable as he was now.

So, he picked himself up (mime), dusted himself down (mime) and set off on the long journey home (mime).

Meanwhile, back at home, can you guess what was happening? His brother was digging (mime) and his dad was doing some digging (mime) while also looking out along the road (mime), in the hope that his younger son might eventually come back.

The younger son walked and walked and walked (mime) until he thought he could walk no more! Just as he was getting too tired and hungry and weak to go on, he suddenly spotted something on the horizon. It was his home! He was so excited that, even though he was so tired, he jumped for joy (mime)! He was nervous about seeing his dad, but he had his lines ready. He’d been practising it the whole way home! Give the pupil the card to read out. When he saw his dad he would say:

(Pupil reads) ‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

Back at the farm, his dad too had caught sight of something exciting. Father should be shielding his eyes and looking into the distance. As he looked down the road, he thought he saw his son in the distance! And as the person got closer, he knew for sure that it was his son! He too jumped for joy (mime) and ran out to meet his son (mime).

When they met, his father gave him a huge hug! (It is unlikely that the pupils will act this out!) The son told his father what he had been practising all the way home:

Pupil should repeat the words on the card:

‘I was wrong to leave you and spend all my money. I don’t deserve to be your son any more. Can I be your servant?’

But his father loved him so much that he was delighted to have him back as his son! He ordered his servants to prepare a huge party and get the best clothes for his younger son and invited everyone to come and join the celebration. The father and younger son should start pretending to dance!

The older son, meanwhile, was still out in the fields, digging (mime), and when he heard the party, he was very cross. He had worked for his father for years and yet when his little brother came home, having wasted everything, he got a party! He was raging (mime)!

But his father went out to him and asked him to come in and join the party. Father should go over to the older son and invite him to the party.

The man had two sons, and he loved them both. One of them had always been there, and everything the father had was his, but he had to celebrate when the son he had lost came home again!

Thank the pupils for their help and ask them to take their seats again.

The younger son knew that he had been stupid and had given up all that he had at home to go off and do his own thing. He had to be ready to go back and say sorry. But the father loved him so much that he was just pleased to have him back. He didn’t want to punish him – he wanted to celebrate!

In the Bible Jesus said that this story was a picture of what God thinks about us. He said that God is like the father and loves us so much that he wants to forgive us when we come to him to say sorry for the things we do that are wrong.

As we said at the beginning, sorry is a very hard thing to say, both to God and to other people. But Christians believe that we don’t need to be scared of saying sorry to God because he loves us and will forgive us.

Optional prayer time:

Thank God that he will forgive us when we say sorry to him.

Power over sin – healing the paralysed man

Bible base:

Luke 5:17-26

Teaching objectives:

To show that the Bible says Jesus had exceptional power to forgive the things that we do wrong. This backed up His claim to be the Son of God.

You will need:

  • A stereo that does not work (if that is hard to find, detach the wiring in the plug, but leave the plug attached to the flex.
  • A jacket with the words ‘I can’t walk’ attached with safety pins to the outside and ‘I have done things that are wrong’, ‘I have bad attitudes’ and ‘I am not perfect’ safety-pinned to the inside.

Introductory activity:

Show the stereo to the pupils and tell them that you are going to play some great music to them (you could get quite excited about this!). Make sure that the stereo is not plugged in and that this is visible to the assembly. Also, make sure that there is no CD in the player. Make a big show of pressing play and then pretend to be confused because nothing happens. Can they spot what is wrong?

Once they have spotted that it is not plugged in and you have fixed this, press play again and wait for the music. Can anyone guess what’s wrong this time? Open the CD player to check that the CD is in correctly, but of course, the CD is not there.

Put a CD in the player and again build up to pressing ‘play’ and waiting for the music. What is wrong this time? The CD player is plugged in, the CD is in, but it still will not play.

The CD player is broken inside. Although it looks fine on the outside, and although all the obvious problems are now fixed, there is still a bigger problem inside.

Today’s story from the Bible is about a man who had two problems, one obvious and one hidden inside.

Choose a volunteer to come to the front and dress them in the jacket with the words ‘I can’t walk’ visible to the assembly. Ask them to sit on a seat at the front.

Everyone who walked past this man as he sat in the street knew what the problem was, because it was obvious. Everyone could see that he couldn’t walk. This problem was on the outside.

But, just like the stereo, this man also had problem inside, although he may not have realised exactly what this problem was. Actually, this is a problem that we all have.

Although this man could not walk and run about with his friends, he did have some very special friends who cared for him and spent time with him. These friends wanted to do anything they could to help their friend to walk again. They knew that Jesus had helped lots of people, and so they took their friend to him.

They had to try really hard to get to Jesus. He was so popular that the house where He was staying was packed with people. They actually had to go up on the roof and lower their friend down on his mat to Jesus. I wonder what they thought Jesus would say? He had healed lots of people simply by saying something. Would he just say ‘Get up’, or would he touch the man’s feet and say ‘be healed’?

Jesus actually said a very strange thing! He said:

‘My friend, your sins are forgiven.’

Sin means anything we have done or said or thought that makes us less than perfect. Ask the members of staff in the assembly if anyone in the room is perfect. No one is perfect. We have all done some of the wrong things the Bible calls ‘sin’.

So, when Jesus said that the man’s sins were forgiven, he meant that all the things he had done or said or thought in the past that were less than perfect were forgotten about by God!

Some people were very cross! Who did Jesus think he was? How could he say that he forgave him for everything he had ever done wrong? They believed only God could do that.

The answer is in the hidden problem that this man had inside. Just like the stereo which was not plugged in, there was something very obvious wrong with the man – he could not walk. But what was wrong inside was more serious. Ask the volunteer to open the jacket to reveal the words written inside – ‘I have done things that are wrong’, ‘I have bad attitudes’, ‘I am not perfect’.

These were the problems that Jesus was dealing with first, because they were more serious than the problem which everyone else could see.

Once Jesus had forgiven the man, he did tell him to pick up his mat and walk home. And that is exactly what the man did! The man went home healed, not just on the outside, but on the inside too.

As you are saying this, take the jacket from the pupil and ask them to return to their seat.Put the jacket on yourself. Take the sign from the outside.

As a Christian, I believe that the problems that I have on the outside may be different to those of the man in the story, but the problem on the inside is the same for everyone. Christians believe that Jesus can deal with all the other problems in our life too, but the main thing he wants to deal with first is the problem on the inside. What is that problem? It’s the fact that we aren’t perfect and have done and said things that are wrong – what the Bible calls ‘sin’. Christians believe that God wants to forgive us, just as Jesus forgave the man in today’s story.

Optional prayer time:

Give thanks that God wants to deal with the wrong things in our life and to forgive us.

Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiving those who hurt me – WW2 prison camp

Other themes:

fear, prayer, the Bible, heaven

The Problem

Listen to this and think what you’d do if you were in Emma’s situation.

It was the first day of secondary school – but already Emma knew she was going to like it. Her parents had asked if she could be put in the same group as her two best friends. And it had worked out. She’d met up with them outside the school a few minutes before and they’d been directed to a classroom to wait for their group tutor.

The last year in the old school had been a miserable one for Emma, and all because of Lisa Jo, who’d bullied her – she’d poked fun at her, got her into trouble, it had just gone on and on. Emma’s only friends had been in another class. But now it would be OK.

Late ones were still coming in. Suddenly Emma felt a shudder run through her. Lisa Jo had entered the room. She looked different though – lonely, unsure, gone were the swagger and the smirks.

She came right up to Emma whose heart had begun thumping.

“Looks like we’re together again,” Lisa Jo said. “Look, Emma, we didn’t get on last year, but what about making up, being friends from now on?”

Emma’s fear turned to anger. Friends? With Lisa Jo? No way. She hadn’t even said sorry, she only wanted to be friends because she’d been split from her old mates. So – just forgive and forget? As if last year never happened? No way!

Now think:

Is Emma right or wrong to think this way? What would you do in her situation?

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

The Story

Now here’s a true story.

When the guards slid open the door, Corrie Ten Boom could see only darkness inside. Outside was bright sunlight. In there it was as dark as death.

“Quick! Get in! In!” one of the guards yelled.

Corrie and the other women hauled themselves up into the darkness. There was no choice – the guards had guns. It was the carriage of a goods train, but now it was being used to transport people. In seconds the carriage was so full that Corrie was pushed up against the back wall. Many of the women were crying, some were screaming. How glad Corrie was to have her sister Betsie with her. And how glad she was that God was with her. She was not afraid, not deep down. For what was the worst thing these German soldiers could do to her? Kill her? But then she would be with Jesus for ever.

There were eighty women in the carriage now. They were just able to sit down with their legs wrapped round the person in front. It grew unbearably hot. The train began moving but it didn’t help much.

As Corrie stroked her sister’s feverish forehead, she thought back through the last years, back to when the German army had invaded their country, Holland, soon after the start of World War 2. It was a terrible time for everyone, but the Jewish people suffered the most. Corrie saw them being pushed into trucks to be taken to the prison camps.

As they prayed for them, Corrie’s family had the idea of building a secret room in their house where Jewish people could hide from the patrols until an escape route could be found for them. But someone betrayed them and the family was arrested, to be taken to Germany. Corrie and Betsie had been able to stick together, but they didn’t know how long they would be allowed to live.

On the fourth day the train clanked to a halt.

“Out! Get out!” shouted the guards. “You walk now!”

The women were so weak but what choice was there? Finally they saw their destination: Ravensbruck prison camp. As Corrie and Betsie entered the massive gates, they knew there was almost no chance of coming out alive.

All the women were taken to the shower room. Corrie’s heart started thumping when she saw that everyone had to undress in front of the guards. For under her dress she had hidden her precious Bible and some medicine for Betsie. They’d be discovered and taken away! No, it mustn’t happen!

“Dear god, please…” she murmured.

Just then Betsie, even sicker now, needed to be taken to the toilet. “Use the drains in the shower room,” said the guard harshly. The sisters moved ahead of the queue of women undressing and went in.

“Dear God, please…”

Yes! There in the corner was a pile of old benches. She could hide the Bibles and medicine behind them, together with Betsie’s warm sweater.

Later, after their shower, Corrie slipped over to the benches and pushed the things under the prison dress she’d been given. “Thank you, God, thank you,” she prayed.

But – wait – what was this? A guard was searching the women on the way out of the shower room. Corrie prayed again – she knew that the God who had answered one prayer could answer another. She stood in the line. She came nearer and nearer to the guard. The bulge under the thin prison dress was so obvious.

Now the woman ahead of Corrie was being searched. She was searched three times before being allowed to move off.

Then something strange happened. The guard didn’t seem to notice Corrie. He went straight to Betsie, next in line.

There was another search as they left the building. Same thing. The guard came to Corrie, but instead of searching her, just told her to hurry up, and then pushed her out – with her precious possessions undiscovered.

That Bible was certainly well used. Corrie would hold services in their dormitory, Barracks 28 – with softly sung hymns, whispered prayers and Bible verses telling of God’s comfort and love.

More and more women came to the services. Corrie knew if a guard came in, the Bible would be taken, and they would all be punished. But no guard came near. Only later did she find out why. Barracks 28 was famous amongst the guards for its fleas, and the guards did not want their smart uniforms crawling with fleas. Corrie reckoned each flea was a tiny miracle from God.

Long hours of heavy work and very little food weakened Corrie and Betsie, and pain, cruelty and death were all around them. But they could see beyond these things to heaven – a place of no pain or sadness, waiting for them.

And one day Betsie died. Her face was full of peace and happiness.

Two days later, Corrie was ordered to go to the prison office. She feared they’d found out about the Bible. But she was just handed a piece of paper. It said: “Released”. She was free.

But – how…why…?

She found out later it had been a mistake. But she was well away by then.

A week after Corrie’s release all the women in the camp of Corrie’s age were killed.

When the war was over, Corrie asked God, “What do you want me to do?”

And she knew that she should open homes for those who had survived the prison camps. And she should travel, all over the world, telling how much she had known God’s help and love even in Ravensbruck.

One evening, in a church in Germany, after she had spoken, a man came up to her wanting to shake hands. Many people did of course, nothing unusual in that. But then her blood turned cold. For she recognised the man. He was the guard at the shower room door in Ravensbruck. And she remembered his cruelty, his total lack of pity. It was because of him, and the many like him, that millions had suffered and died.

“I am a Christian now,” he said. “God has forgiven me.”

Corrie’s thoughts screamed out, But I cannot forgive. I will not forgive. And then she thought of Jesus. Jesus, who’d been nailed to a cross and who’d prayed for his executioners, “Father, forgive them.”

“Jesus,” Corrie whispered in her heart, “give me your forgiveness for this man.”

And Jesus did. She was able to take the man’s hand and forgive him from her heart. Just as Jesus forgave.

She went on spreading the message of forgiveness and love until she died, in 1983, on her 91st birthday.

Time of Reflection

Think now: are you holding a grudge against someone, unwilling to forgive them? Is the wrong they’ve done greater than what those camp guards did to Corrie? Is it greater than what those Roman soldiers did to Jesus? Yet they forgave.

Just take a moment to think about this.

Bible Bits

This is what the Bible says:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

“You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)

(Jesus’s words to Peter about forgiving again and again – Matthew 18:21,22 – are appropriate too.)

Prayer

Father, help us to be ready to forgive, never to hold on to a grudge. This won’t be easy. Like Corrie, we need your help. Amen

Variations on a Theme

The pupils could be reminded of the section of Joseph’s story which shows his forgiveness for the brothers who had put him in a pit and sold him into slavery (Genesis chapters 37 and 45).