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Having a Moan!

The 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the difference between moaning and constructive complaining.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Having a Moan!) and the means to display them.

  • Have available the YouTube video, ‘Martin Luther (“Manic Monday” by the Bangles)’, and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.13 minutes long and is available at:


  1. Show Slide 1.

    Ask the students, Hands up who likes to moan?

    If you feel that its appropriate, ask the students to name one thing they don’t like about the school. Then, ask them to turn to the person sitting next to them and, for 10 seconds, have a bit of a moan about the problem.

    Alternatively, ask for a (sensible!) volunteer to put up their hand and name a problem that they would like to change about the school. Ask the volunteer what the problem is, and then give them 20 seconds to have a good old moan about it for everyone to hear.

    If this feels too risky, before the assembly, arrange for a member of staff to come forward in the assembly, name one thing that they want to change about the school (for example, too much marking or not enough teaching time) and have a good old moan about it.

  2. Show Slide 2.

    The slide shows some of the things that we might want to moan about when we think about school:

    - school uniform
    - homework
    - the time when school starts (for example, its too early or the day feels too long!)
    - teachers
    - bullying

  3. In today’s assembly, were going to think about someone who wasn’t happy with what he saw around him. He had plenty to moan about! On 31 October 2017, it will be 500 years exactly since this man had what we might call a ‘good old moan’. And his ‘moan’ had a huge impact.

  4. Show Slide 3.

    The man was called Martin Luther. He was born in Germany in 1483, and his parents had wanted him to study law and become a lawyer. However, after Luther survived a dangerous lightning storm, he decided to give up law and dedicate his life to God. He became a monk and lived a life of prayer, learning and teaching the Bible.

    The more Luther studied, the more he felt that the Catholic Church had gone astray. One of the things he didn’t like was the fact that the Bible was in Latin. Most people couldn’t read or understand Latin, so they couldn’t read or understand for themselves what the Bible actually said. He also thought it was wrong that some priests were saying that they could sell forgiveness to people.

    So, Martin Luther decided to write a list of the things that he felt were wrong with the Church at the time. His list consisted of 95 items, and it is known as the 95 Theses’. Luther nailed his list to the door of the Catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany. He hoped that people would read his list and think about making changes to improve the Church. His list proved popular, and many people made copies of it and distributed it.

    However, the cardinals and the Pope were not so happy. They felt that Luther should apologize and take back his words. Luther refused to do so, stating that he had an obligation to God to do what he felt was right.

    By 1520, the Catholic Church had had enough. It declared Luther a heretic, and heresy was a crime punishable by death at the time. Luther went into hiding, where he translated the Bible into German and founded a new denomination known as Lutheranism. This denomination is part of what we now call Protestantism. Luther (and others) protested against the things that they felt were wrong with the Catholic Church and, in time, the Catholic Church reflected on some of the things that Luther had protested about and things changed.

  5. To help us to understand a little bit more about what Martin Luther protested about, how he went about it and the result, let’s listen to this song.

    Show the YouTube video, ‘Martin Luther (“Manic Monday” by the Bangles)’.

  6. So is moaning and grumbling a good thing? In the Bible, it says, ‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing.’ (Philippians 2.14)

    Show Slide 4.

    But Martin Luther didn’t really just moan. He identified something that he felt was wrong, unfair and needed to change. He made constructive points to get others to think and act. He had ideas about what changes he thought were needed and he acted to begin to make this happen.

  7. In a similar way, if we are unhappy with a particular friend and how they treat us, we could just moan and grumble, talking about that person behind their back. Alternatively, we could calmly speak to the friend to communicate what we felt was unfair about their behaviour. The first of these options is moaning, whereas the second is taking constructive action to address a problem.

  8. This next quotation sums up the difference between moaning and constructively trying to change something for the better.

    Show Slide 5.

    ‘Don’t complain about things youre not willing to change.’

  9. Another person in history who wasn’t happy with how things were and sought to change them was Mahatma Gandhi. He said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’

    Show Slide 6.

    Gandhprotested peacefully against British rule in India. Seventy years ago, in 1947, India achieved independence. Gandhi’s protest – like Martin Luther’s – demonstrated a willingness to work towards making things better, rather than just moaning and grumbling.

Time for reflection

Lets think about one thing in our local community that we feel is wrong, unfair or unjust.

Perhaps it is seeing homeless people in our town. Perhaps it is the knowledge that bullying, racism and other discrimination is happening. Perhaps it is a sense of feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to do about it.

Now lets pause to consider what change we can make today towards this. How can we be part of the change we want to see? Do we need to speak to someone in a constructive way to say that we think something is unfair, or needs to change? Can we do anything to make a difference?

Dear God,
We acknowledge that throughout history, there have been people brave enough to speak out when they have seen things that they considered unfair or wrong.
We thank you for their example.

We pray now for wisdom and insight for ourselves so that we can see clearly when things are wrong and need to change.
Help us to avoid the temptation to ‘have a moan’, but instead, equip us with the energy and abilities to make a difference.
Help us to speak out and to act for the good of others.

Help us today to be the change we want to see in the world.

Publication date: October 2017   (Vol.19 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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