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Jonah: Having the courage to do the right thing

To think about the importance of being honest and trustworthy, even when it means doing something that we find disagreeable.

by Jenny Tuxford

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To think about the importance of being honest and trustworthy, even when it means doing something that we find disagreeable.

Preparation and materials

  • There is enough material here to make up about three assemblies – you could use it for a whole week. For example:
    Assembly 1: Rehearse the children and turn the story of Jonah into a drama. Actions accompanying the narrative might work the best, as the story is very dramatic. Lots of children could together form the whale.
    Assembly 2: Rehearse the poem as a group recital.
    Assembly 3: Rehearse the story of Jonah as a poem. You could have different voices playing God and Jonah, and other children could provide sound effects (but moderate being sick!).

  • Background to the story of Jonah. Sea travel nearly 800 years before the birth of Jesus was a very risky business. Storms were common in the Mediterranean. The ship Jonah travelled in would have been a large merchant ship, with several banks of oars.
    Jonah heard God calling him to go to Nineveh, which was 700 miles away. He didn’t like the prospect of trying to convert people who had probably never even heard of God and so he headed in the opposite direction, towards Spain. But it was not to be! The ship he was travelling in ran into a great tempest and began to sink. The sailors drew lots to find out whose god had been made so angry. Jonah drew the short straw and was thrown overboard as a peace offering.
    And so, having been swallowed and then belched out by a giant fish, Jonah finally made his way to Nineveh, where, much to his surprise, the people did listen to him and turned from their evil ways. Eventually Jonah came to realize that God is concerned for all people in danger.

Assembly 1

Read the story from the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. You want chapters 1 and 3 (chapter 4 is an interesting finale, but we don’t recommend you cover that part of the story within these assemblies).

Discuss with the children what they think the story means. It is generally thought to be a story about forgiveness and repentance/saying sorry; obedience and punishment and God’s mercy and compassion.

Perhaps there have been times in the children’s lives when they have needed to have courage when faced with a dilemma.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to think about times when they’ve found it hard to do what they knew was right. How did they deal with it?

Ask them to think about the times when they knew they were doing something wrong. Have they said ‘sorry’ to the other person, and perhaps to God too?

Now ask the children to think about the times when they did the ‘right thing’, and how proud they felt when they achieved it.

Prayer

Dear Father God,

Make me strong

to stand against what is wrong.

Give me the strength to stand up for

what I know to be right.  

Amen.

Song/music

‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Hymns Old and New, 328)

Assembly 2

Working together

The poems may be broken up and lines given to individual children, or groups of children.

Spend a few moments reviewing the story of Jonah before you begin this section.

Everyone wants to be thought of as honest and trustworthy. The best classes in a school are made up of reliable and responsible children. Sometimes we need to have the courage to use circle time or the school council to sort out matters that are giving us cause for concern.

Here is an example: We had a really happy, hard-working class. All the teachers said that they enjoyed teaching us and, as a result, lots of nice things happened to us in the form of treats.

But one day the head teacher brought a new boy to join us. He was called Peter and he was a nightmare right from the start. He fought with everyone, cheated at games and swore a lot. Our teacher had to spend a lot of her time sorting out the problems that he had caused.

The whole class suffered and our teacher became very cross. Other teachers were no longer so happy to teach us either. Our teacher said that there would be no more treats – no making clay chess pieces, candles for the school fair or cakes and sweets to take home. Everyone was feeling very miserable – apart from Peter.

Then one day in circle time, Esther gathered up her courage and spoke out loud what everyone was whispering. She told Peter that she had had enough of him – politely but firmly. Everyone agreed and told him that they would not fight him – they would just walk away. If he cheated at games then they wouldn’t let him play. If he swore they wouldn’t listen to him.

It was a group decision and everyone worked collectively. Once Peter realized that his bad conduct wouldn’t be tolerated, he slowly began to reform. He saw that it was far better for everyone, himself included, if he altered his behaviour and became part of a respected and well-liked team.

Members of a class can have a very good and positive influence on others.

Owning up

Sometimes you know that something is wrong

And you don’t really know what to do.

If you tell they will know there’s a snitch in the class

And they might find out that it’s you.

Sometimes belongings go missing,

You might know who the thief is, and so

Do you quietly tell the teacher?

Or simply pretend you don’t know?

When you do something stupid

And you’re feeling ashamed,

Don’t sit quietly by

And let others be blamed.

And when you’re confronted

It’s very unwise

To start making excuses

When you know they are lies.

Time for reflection

Ask the children to reflect on times when they’ve been faced with a difficult dilemma: do they carry on letting someone upset them, or do they ask the person to stop behaving in that way?

Think about the kindest way to say that to someone.

Think about how brave you’d have to be.

Think about how you could get your courage together, and do that.

Prayer

Dear Father God,

Make me strong

to stand against what is wrong.

Give me the strength to stand up for

what I know to be right.

Amen.

Song

‘Kum ba yah’ (Come and Praise, 68)

Assembly 3

Review the previous two assemblies before returning to the story of Jonah.

Here is the story of a very famous man in the Bible called Jonah. He was asked by God to do something that he really didn’t want to do at all. This is what happened to him.

Jonah

The Lord God spoke to Jonah

And issued a command,

‘I want you to go to Nineveh –

A very wicked land.’

But Jonah did not want to go

And argued, ‘Why must it be me?’

So he joined a ship and paid his fare

And set sail out to sea.

But the wind howled

And the sea tossed

And the sailors all felt sick!

And Jonah cried, ‘It’s all my fault.

Throw me overboard. Be quick!’

And the wind calmed,

And the storm stopped,

But poor old Jonah

He popped,

Scared and pale,

Into the jaws of a whale!

The boat he left

Now would not sink,

And Jonah he had time to think

About his wicked ways,

For three whole nights and days.

Then Jonah said, ‘I’m sorry.’

God said, ‘I understand.’

And he ordered the whale to cough Jonah up

And place him alive on dry land.

Now Jonah went to Nineveh,

Told the people to stop being bad.

They did, and said they were sorry.

God forgave them and stopped feeling mad.

Time for reflection

Ask the children what they think Jonah learned in this story. What do they think they could learn from the story of Jonah?

Prayer

Dear Father God,

Make me strong

to stand against what is wrong.

Give me the strength to stand up for

what I know to be right.  

Amen.

Song

‘The best gift’ (Come and Praise, 59)

Publication date: September 2009   (Vol.11 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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