Free to get it wrong
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To use spoonerisms to illustrate how we all make mistakes and are free to do so, but also God forgives.
Preparation and materials
- Ahead of the assembly, ask some children to help you by drawing illustrations for some of spoonerisms that the Reverend Spooner is reputed to have said to display, such as:
– 'Yes indeed; the Lord is a shoving leopard' (Yes indeed; the Lord is a loving shepherd)
– 'You have hissed all my mystery lectures. You have tasted a whole worm. Please leave Oxford on the next town drain.' (You have missed all my history lectures. You have wasted a whole term. Please leave Oxford on the next down train)
– 'We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish within us' (We all know what it is to have a half-formed wish within us)
– ‘A well-boiled icicle’ (A well-oiled bicycle).
- If you want, and if there is time, you could also get some children to compose their own spoonerisms and illustrate them so that they can be displayed, too.
- You will need a leader and one reader to read Matthew 27.27–31, 41–42.
- Have available a sung version of the Lord’s Prayer, preferably one the children are familiar with, and the means to play it at the end of the assembly. Sing it all the way through to the end without a break.
- Leader How many of you have heard of Alice In Wonderland?
In her journeys in that strange land, Alice met many peculiar people, including the Mock Turtle and the Griffin, who talked about how they had been at an underwater school where the teacher was a tortoise, 'because he taught us', and the young sea creatures studied 'reeling and writhing and fainting in coils', just like the lessons Alice studied, or so they said. It took her a minute or two to realize what they were talking about. Can you work it out for her? You learn ‘reeling and writhing’ every day.
- Leader We all laugh when words are not quite right or back to front or just one letter is changed but the meanings are completely different.
There was once a man who became famous mostly because he got his words muddled up all the time and so people thought he was funny. He was Warden of New College at Oxford University and very intelligent, but all his life he suffered from weak eyesight because he was an albino (born with no natural colouring). He was also rather nervous and this caused him to mix up his words – sometimes with humorous results.
- Show the pictures and texts of the spoonerisms that the children drew.
You could ask the children to try to work out what is really meant in each sentence, but do so as a cheerful activity with pace – there's no need to dwell on any saying for a long time.
Leader The Reverend William Archibald Spooner may have mixed up his words and so given us the term ‘spoonerisms’ for such phrases, but he was a good person and what he said was funny. Sometimes we mix up our words, too, but in a way that is not funny and hurts people. The Reverend Spooner didn't mean to mix up his words, but, sadly, there are times when we do mean to say something unkind or hurtful about someone else.
You might want to use an example here, if appropriate.
Sadly, too, once the hurtful thing has been said, we can't 'unsay' it; there's no way in which we can take those words back.
Jesus knew exactly what it was like to have people say unpleasant things about him, and to treat him in the most unfair ways.
Reader Reads Matthew 27.27–31, 41–42.
Leader Jesus’ reaction was not to say hateful things but 'reply' with goodness and love.
Jesus knew that saying unkind things is not God's way. When we make a mistake and say something that hurts, we have to be ready to say sorry and try hard not to make the same mistake again. That's when we do what God wants and he forgives us – and there's a good chance that the person we hurt may forgive us, too.
Time for reflection
Sing the Lord's Prayer together, but, when you get to 'forgive us our sins', stop and encourage everyone to think about a time when he or she said something hurtful.
Start again, but, when you get to 'as we forgive those who sin against us', stop and encourage everyone to think about a time when they felt something unfair or hurtful was said about them and how much they have really forgiven the person who said it.
Sung version of the Lord's Prayer.
- Ask the children to make up their own spoonerisms.
- Ask the children to, in groups, compose the beginning of a story about a situation in which someone says something hurtful on purpose, then stop there. Next, have the groups swap stories so that the next group can write the ending of the story. They are to show how things worked out, such as whether anyone said sorry or not and how.
- Have a discussion with the children about whether or not and why it is hard to say sorry.