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.

 

 

I matter – Jesus cares for everyone

Aim:

To show the children that each one of us matters as individuals.

Bible base:

The Gospels

You will need:

  • A selection of hats or costumes for different jobs, eg a white coat (doctor), police helmet, tweed hat (farmer), book (teacher), clock (for someone who does not have a job but has time to fill), teddy bear (child), dustbin liner (refuse collector), duster (cleaner or someone who does housework)
  • You may want to have some pictures for the story at the end

Preparation

Familiarise yourself with stories from the gospels which show that all sorts of people mattered to Jesus. (See example in Story.)

Presentation

Introduction

  1. Ask the children who they think is the most important person in the room. (They will probably name the head teacher.)
  2. Invite some children up to the front to wear or hold the costumes and props.
  3. Talk to the children about the different jobs these people do.
  4. Ask who they think is the most important, and why.
  5. We sometimes think that some people are more important than others because of the jobs they do. When Jesus lived on earth as a man he thought that everyone was important. He had time for rich people and poor, for people who were ill and those who were well, for the old and young, for those with jobs and those that begged on the streets. Everyone mattered to Jesus.

Story

Go on to tell short narratives from the gospels which illustrate this, for example:

Jesus had time for everyone. He had meals with rich people like Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who was rich because he cheated people. Jesus went to his house and, because Jesus became his friend, Zacchaeus gave away the money he had stolen.

But Jesus also saw a very poor lady put all the money that she had in an offering box at the temple, and he praised her for doing that. Jesus spent a lot of time making ill people better, like the man whose hand wouldn’t work, or people who were blind. But he also spent a lot of time listening and talking with people about God, like the 5,000 people who went to hear him one day.

Jesus helped an old lady who was his friend’s mother, when she was ill, and he did the same for a twelve-year-old girl who was dying, when her father came to ask for help.

Jesus talked to people as they were working, like Peter and Andrew the fishermen, and he stopped to talk to people who had no job, like Bartimaeus, who was blind and had to beg for money.

Everyone mattered to Jesus!

Application

Tell the children that today, everyone still matters to Jesus. Jesus cares about each and every one of us here, and about each and every person in the world.

Time to reflect

  1. Encourage the children to be still and close their eyes.
  2. Ask them to think about how each person is important to Jesus, no matter what age they are, how they look, what they can or can’t do.

Prayer

Invite the children to join in the following prayer or a similar one by saying ‘Amen’ at the end:

Dear Jesus, thank you that you had time for everyone, for poor and rich, for sick and well, for young and old alike. Thank you too that we all matter to you today and that you love each and every one of us. Amen.

Gladys Aylward

Going the extra mile – bringing God’s love to China

Other themes:

generosity, faith

The Problem

Listen to this. What advice would you give to the girl in this story?

The local free newspaper was on the mat when Vicky came in from school so she began to turn over the pages as she walked into the lounge. Dad, home early from work on a Friday, was asleep in the chair. Mum would be in soon with the shopping.

The paper was all ads, garden centres, restaurants, nothing that interested her. But – what was this? Suddenly she was absorbed in an article about an orphanage in a country in Eastern Europe, a country that seemed to lack every luxury and even a few necessities. A big truck was going to the orphanage from the town the next week. Readers were asked to make up packages of sweets or cheap toys to give to the children. It would be the first sweets the children would have had in a long time. Soap and toothpaste were also wanted.

“Look at this, Dad. Couldn’t we give something? I was thinking about the money I got from Uncle Bob for weeding his garden, I could get a lot of sweets with that. And you could –“

“Hey, wait a minute, Vicky,” said Dad, stretching. “Don’t get carried away. I’m not going out and buying stuff just like that. Anyway we all put money in that charity tin last week. And you had that day at school when you needn’t wear school uniform if you took 50p, and the money went to Africa, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, but those things weren’t my ideas, I sort of did it because it was expected. But this is my idea. I want to do it.”

“No, Vicky, just forget it. You’ve done your bit. Let others do theirs. And just think what you could buy yourself with the money. You worked hard. You deserve something nice.”

Vicky sighed. Yeah, she could think of lots of things she’d like to get for herself. But was it fair when she had so much and they had so little?

Now think:

Has Vicky done her bit? Shouldn’t she just enjoy her hard earned money and forget about the orphanage?

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

The Story

Keep Vicky’s idea in mind, that she wanted to do something that she’d thought of, not her parents or her school, while I read you this true story. It’s about feet – oh, and a bloodstained axe.

Am I bowing low enough? she wondered. After all, he was the High and Mighty Mandarin of Yangcheng, the ruler of that entire district of China.

And she was just Gladys Aylward, an ordinary girl who’d become a missionary, who ran an inn in the town so she could tell the travellers stories of Jesus after the evening meal. She hadn’t expected to be called into the presence of the Mandarin. What could he want? He began to speak. Gladys straightened up and listened intently.

“You know, I presume, about our ancient custom of footbinding? Baby girls have their feet tightly bound in bandages to keep them small and dainty. Now the Government has given an order. This is to stop. I imagine you know of a number of foreign women with unbound feet. Please find one who will tour the villages, making sure the new rule is known. The pay is small, but I will provide guards and a mule.”

Gladys thought hard. A woman? To travel to lonely mountain villages on a mule? Who would want such a job?

But she did not speak these thoughts – the Mandarin would not listen to excuses or objections. He was the High and Mighty Mandarin of Yangcheng.

Several weeks later she was called into his presence again. He was not pleased with Gladys’s news. “What? You have found no one? Then,” said the Mandarin, gazing at Gladys, “you must do it. Start tomorrow.”

And that was it. Later Gladys began to see the funny side of it. How incredible! From being a simple maid in a London household to being the Mandarin’s personally appointed Inspector of Feet. What a grand title! She wiggled her toes inside her size threes and laughed and laughed.

And she really enjoyed the job. It wasn’t just the mountain scenery as the mule clambered up over the jagged ridges, the paths edged with wild roses, the wheat blowing in the terraced fields; it wasn’t just the welcome they received from the village women pleased that the law had been changed; it was also the delight on the faces of the babies and young girls as the crippling bandages came off. Gladys would straighten the toes which were bent right back under the foot and massage them.

Then she would gather the villagers together in the square and tell them the same stories she told in the inn – Jesus stopping for water at a village well, the parable of the Sower, stories of a hard country life like their own.

One day between mule tours, she had a message from the prison governor in Yangcheng. “Come at once. A riot has broken out.” So why call on me? was the question in her mind as she hurried through the streets.

The governor met her outside the entrance. “It is too dangerous for me to go in there,” he said, “but you have a God who protects you. You keep telling us that. So you will be all right.”

The gate was unlocked and Gladys was pushed in. She gaped at the awful sight. There were large cages round a paved courtyard. The prisoners had broken out of the cages and were attacking each other like wild animals. One was running around with a bloodstained axe, swinging it wildly.

Then they noticed her. The man with the axe started towards her. “Give me the axe!” Gladys cried out. She didn’t know what to say, there’d hardly been time to think or pray. The man stopped, gazed at her, then…calmly handed her the axe.

It was as if the prisoners all came to their senses at that moment. They stood still, their heads hung in horror and same. She saw how thin and uncared for they were. They had been treated like animals for so long, that they’d started acting like them. She talked to them. They told her they had nothing to do but sit in the cages.

The governor was thrilled she’d stopped the riot, not so thrilled when she told him sternly, “You must change the way you run the prison. You are being unfair. These men may be prisoners but they are human beings. They need things to do. They need to rebuild their lives.” And she arranged for some of the prisoners to learn weaving, some to grind grain, some to breed rabbits.

Twice now Gladys had been pushed into making life better, fairer for people, first the young girls, then the prisoners.

So, later, when war broke out with Japan, and Yangcheng was bombed, and people began fleeing, she could have said, “I’ve done my bit. I must think of myself now.” But she didn’t. She collected up all the homeless children she could find and led them to safety over the mountains. There was no Mandarin or prison governor to push her into doing it. She wanted to do it. It was a long, long journey, most of the time on foot, through dangerous territory. But they made it.

Gladys carried on caring for those who hadn’t got a fair deal in life, right up till she died in 1970. For her it was just following Jesus – hadn’t he cared for those who hadn’t had a fair deal – the lepers, the widows, the sick, the disabled? It wasn’t easy for Gladys, in fact as you’ve heard, it was often dangerous, but when her Lord had gone all the way to the cross out of love, how could she ever say, “I’ve done my bit now”?

Time of Reflection

Think now: do you know anyone who’s not had a fair deal in life? It may be someone you know personally, or you may have read about people in need, or seen them on TV. Is there anything you can do to make their lives better?

Just a moment of silence while we think about this.

Bible Bits

Listen to what the Bible says:

Jesus said “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

“Help to carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

“The Lord Jesus himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’” (Acts 20:35)

Prayer

Father God, I have so much to eat and drink, I have so much fun and enjoyment. Give me eyes to see people in need so I can make things a bit fairer by sharing what I have. Help me to do it because I want to, not because I have to. Amen

Variations on a theme

Pupils could bring in stories cut from newspapers and magazines to show the variety of needs in the world. Contrasts could be made with the abundance we have. The assembly could lead into a charity support idea, but to fit in with the stories here, the initiative should come from the children.

Or pupils could perform the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), or invent short plays based on the “more happiness in giving” verse above.

Quiz Questions

  1. What had been Gladys’s job back in England?
  2. Why had the Mandarin called Gladys into his presence?
  3. What size shoe did she take?
  4. What sort of Bible story did she tell the village people?
  5. Why did the Governor ask her to stop the riot?
  6. One of the prisoners handed her something – what?
  7. What was wrong with the way the prison was being run?
  8. How did Gladys help the prisoners rebuild their lives?
  9. Why was it necessary to take the children away from Yangcheng?
  10. Why did she do so much for needy people?