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Speaking - and What Is Heard

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the mismatch between what we say we believe in and the actions that we take.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need to think of some examples where people have muddled things that they have said or done with a funny result. You may also wish to ask some students to prepare examples prior to the assembly.

  • The Bible reading is from Matthew 26.69-75.


  1. There was once a man called William Spooner (1844-1930) who was famous for unintentionally saying or doing things that confused people. In one instance, he left on a train journey, giving his wife a tip and kissing the porter goodbye!

    He was particularly known for making verbal slips, such as when he rebuked an undergraduate whom he was teaching at Oxford University by saying, ‘You have tasted two worms (wasted two terms), you have hissed my mystery lectures (missed my history lectures) and you must leave by the first town drain (the first down train).’ This type of verbal slip led to the word ‘spoonerism’ entering the dictionary. Its definition is ‘a verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect’.

  2. If possible, give some personal examples of when people have confused their words or actions. Ask the students if they have any examples of their own.

  3. We laugh about examples where people have muddled their words or have said one thing and done another. However, these situations can also be hurtful.

  4. We can probably all recall times when a promise has been made and not kept. The feelings of hurt and disappointment can go deep and can even scar people for the rest of their lives. In the Christian story, one of the most powerful incidents involves Peter, one of Jesus disciples. Here was a man who claimed to be a follower and a friend, but whose actions at a crucial moment didnt match his words.

  5. In Matthew 26.31-35, we read about the night when Jesus would be arrested by the authorities. At the evening meal (called the Last Supper), Jesus tells Peter that before the night is over, he will have denied three times that he knows Jesus. Peter is horrified by the idea and states that he would never deny Jesus and that he would actually die for him.

    However, within a few hours, Peter has done exactly what Jesus said he would do.

  6. Read Matthew 26.69-75 (New International Version).

    Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.
    But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.
    Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’
    He denied it again, with an oath, ‘I don’t know the man!’
    After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’
    Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!
    Immediately, a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Time for reflection

It is easy to criticize others for making mistakes, saying things they don’t mean and not doing the things that we think they ought to do. We may criticize those close to us, or the government or international organizations. It is easy to be critical people!

However, before we criticize others, maybe we need to have a good look at ourselves. We need to ask ourselves some questions.

- Are we living in a way that helps others, or simply thinking about ourselves?
- Do our beliefs and words match up with our actions?

Dear God,
It is easy to be critical and pick faults in other people.
Open our eyes to see our own faults.
Help our actions to match our beliefs.
Help us to think before we speak and make promises.
Help us to speak words of encouragement that help others.

Alternatively, use the following prayer for Gods guidance.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at my end, and at my departing.

Publication date: October 2023   (Vol.25 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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