Keeping promises can sometimes be difficult. This Christian secondary assembly suggests ways of dealing with the feelings that broken promises can cause, using the Bible story of Peter’s denial of Jesus as an example, to move students towards forgiving themselves and their friends

Resources
Preparation and resources; download pictures of the Kaledonia falls, Cyprus.

You need 3 readers for the reflection.

Engagement

Leader: If I were to challenge you to walk 2km, most of you would think it was fairly easy. It would probably take about 30-45 minutes. I expect many of you could run 2km, or maybe some of you might find that challenging without some training. Now, what if I told you this 2km was going to be a lovely forest walk in the Cyprus sunshine, following a stream to a waterfall; you’d probably be raring to go! What if I asked you to promise me to go? Would you say yes? [Encourage positive response.] Thankyou!

Now that you’ve promised to go, I should probably tell you that the walk, described as ‘easy’ by the guide books, includes 365 steep steps, eight sets of stepping stones (so lots of wet-feet potential) and five bridges – and you have to go there and back.

Not so keen now?

Reflection

Most of you will have made a promise at some point in your life, or agreed to do something, only to discover that what you had committed to was far harder or challenging than you anticipated. Did you agree to help decorate a room, only to find yourself still stripping wallpaper two days later, and you haven’t even bought the new paint yet? Did you say you’d babysit your kid sister, only for your Mum or Dad to be out far longer than they said they’d be? Have you ever joined a group, like Scouts or Guides, only to find out it wasn’t quite how you thought it would be? Or decided to learn a language only to die of embarrassment when you can’t ‘do’ the accent? Have you ever let people down by saying you’d be their friend, only to decide, well, maybe you wouldn’t be after all?

There’s a story in the Bible of how someone called Peter made great promises to Jesus, his best friend, only to completely lose his nerve when it came to the punch:

Reader 1 reads Mark 14 v 27 and 29
Reader 2 reads Mark 14 v 30
Reader 1 reads Mark 14 v 31

Leader: Later on the same night, after Jesus had been arrested and was on trial for his life, this is what happened:

Reader 3 reads Mark 14 v 66-72

Leader: Peter denied even knowing Jesus, or even having anything to do with him, just hours after he said he would die for Jesus. How about that for a spectacular breaking of promises?

How about you; have you ever had to go back on something you agreed to do, or a promise that you made? I’m not expecting quite the scale of what happened with Peter and Jesus, but more the sort of thing we mentioned earlier?

In the story we just heard, Peter realised what he had done as the cock crowed. You’d think that Jesus, when he found out about this, would never have spoken to Peter again. But he did. After Easter Sunday, the day when Christians believe that Jesus came back from the dead, the story continues.

Jesus appeared to his friends while they were fishing. Jesus asked Peter, three times, if he loved him. Each time Jesus pushed Peter a bit harder, and each time Peter was more emphatic that he did love Jesus. The conversation ended with Jesus predicting that Peter would die for this belief.

Jesus forgave Peter for his denial and Peter went on to become the very first Pope, and the inspiration for three books in the Bible. He did eventually die for his love of Jesus.

Response
I doubt if there is anyone here today who hasn’t broken a promise at some time in their life. Sometimes because we just didn’t understand what we were taking on at the time we agreed or promised. Sometimes because it became too difficult, and we decided to cut our losses and get out of it. Sometimes because things just got in the way, we were suddenly too busy, or other people wanted our time and we preferred to be with them.

Spend a few moments now, and think back to those difficult moments when you have broken a promise, or didn’t do what you’d agreed to do, and try to work out why you acted as you did.

Have you apologised to the person you let down? Perhaps you could, and then you could continue in your friendship, much as Jesus and Peter were able to.

You might like to use the following words as a prayer;

Sometimes it’s hard to be a friend,Sometimes it’s hard to keep my word.

Sometimes I just can’t do it.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep on goingWith promises or commitments I’ve made.Give me the strength to persevere,

To keep on going until I’ve done what I said.

Sometimes I realise I’ve not been trueSometimes I know I just can’t do it.Help us to be honest, to say sorry and move on,

And help me to hear and forgive.

Sometimes it’s hard to let go,I beat myself up and feel bad.Help us all to recognise we tried our best,And the best is all we can give.

Amen

This e-bulletin issue was first published in October 2008

About the author: Ronni Lamont

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