Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore what is involved in saying 'no' when faced with a choice between right and wrong.
Preparation and materials
- It can be helpful for this to follow assemblies on Pancake Day and Ash Wednesday because this emphasizes that Lent is a demanding time requiring preparation. Older children would appreciate the idea that, in sharing a festival, people can support each other.
- You will need a leader and two helpers – a child who is able to express feelings visually to an audience to stand in the middle as Jesus and the other, who can be an adult or a child, to take on the role of the devil.
- You will need large cue cards with phrases on them relating to the temptation of Christ in the desert to hold up for the children to follow in Step 2 (see Matthew 4.1–11).
- Leader Begin by explaining that Lent is when Christians remember the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for the difficult period ahead. Emphasize that he was:
– in an unfriendly environment
– gathering strength for what would happen next.
- Leader Choose one of the temptations mentioned in the passage from Matthew’s Gospel (see ‘Preparation and materials’ section above) and act it out using whispered voices.
– Ask the child playing Jesus to stand in the middle.
– Ask the adult or a child playing the devil to join Jesus, telling him to turn the stones to bread, throw himself from the top of the great temple or be ruler of all the countries he can see.
– Ask half the children to begin to whisper the phrases on the large cue cards to support the devil, such as 'The bread smells so good'. Hold the cards up so everyone can see.
– Ask the remaining half of the children to begin to whisper the phrases on the large cue cards rejecting the devil, such as 'God will feed you when you need it' or 'Trust God'.
If you can orchestrate it, the voices of the group supporting the devil can gradually become softer and then fade away. This would leave the quiet, firm voice of right. (The children may know the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19.12.)
- Leader Ask the children to devise a situation that could happen in school in which they might feel like Jesus. It could be a playground situation in which they are being pressured to take sides against one other child or to copy the answers to some difficult work rather than admitting they need help, for example. Focus on parallels with the factors identified in the situation Jesus experienced:
– no friends to support you
– an unfriendly environment
– it's difficult to refer to school rules when a teacher is not involved in the discussion
– gathering strength for what may be difficult tasks
– having strategies for coping in these situations.
Work out what the different voices would be saying and act out this situation.
- Return to the idea of Lent being a time each year when Christians think about how they can say 'no' to what they know is wrong.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to cup their hands together as if they were looking into a small television screen. Tell them that the screen will show a moment they remember when they had to make a choice between right and wrong.
What were the different voices saying at that moment? What made it hard to do the right thing?
‘African Sanctus’, David Fanshawe (Silva Classics: SILKD 6003) or a version of the Lord’s prayer familiar to the children in your school
'Father, hear the prayer we offer' (Come and Praise, 48)
'Father, I place into your hands' (Mission Praise, 133)
- Build some more assemblies, basing each on one of Jesus' responses to the devil. For example, one could be titled ‘What helps us to feel strong?’ Make a list – food, prayer, support of friends and so on. Should we expect life to be easy just because we follow Jesus' teaching? What should rule our lives? Being as rich as possible, being in charge of lots of people, winning everything or the way we live our lives?
- Use the titles of the assemblies you devised above as the basis for class or group discussions.