I want to start with making sure we have a shared understanding of what a “grudge” is. You see, sometimes people do things or say things which cause us to feel bad, to feel hurt or sad or angry… that’s what we feel. But those feelings turn into grudges when we hold onto them, when we carry them around.
That’s where a grudge gets its power: from being held… and carried. And when we hold our grudges, and never let go of them, they can weigh us down. [Get bag of grudges.]
Imagine with me that this big bag is full of grudges. [Heft it up on to your back and continue…]
You see, there once was a town where everyone carried their grudges, just like this. They carried so many grudges that the town came to be known as “Grudgeville.” The people there were so weighed down by all their grudges that all they could see was the ground at their feet, and they struggled even to walk. It had been decades since they’d even been able to look into one another’s eyes.
And one day, a visitor came to the town. They were curious and observant, and asked the people, “I see you all are carrying these great sacks, and you never put them down. What, may I ask, are you carrying?”
“Well,” the people replied, “these are our grudges.”
“My goodness, wouldn’t you like to put them down?”
“Why, we’d love to,” the townspeople replied, “but we’ve no idea how!”
“Well,” replied the visitor, “I think I can help you. I know some words which contain some powerful magic, enough to allow you to let go of your grudges. I will tell you those words, but you must understand that the power in their magic lies in the sincerity and humility and truth with which you speak them. In other words, you must mean what you say.”
“Oh, please do tell us. What are the words?”
“There are only five words. The words are these: I’m sorry. … I forgive you.” [Ask the congregation to repeat the words again with you.]
And with that, the people mustered their courage and began to speak these words meaningfully to one another, and as they did, they began to [carefully take the sack off your back as you talk] put down their grudges.
[Stretch your back as you continue…] And my, how good it felt! They began to skip and dance about [do this], and to behold one another… and [look up] the trees and the sky!
And from that day, the town of Grudgeville was transformed. It wasn’t that there were no more bad feelings; there were those, as there are everywhere, but the people apologized and forgave one another and from that day on the town became known by a new name: Joytown.
I acknowledge with gratitude the original version of this story, by Barbara Marshman, which you can read here with suggestions for its use in worship. I wanted to take time to define a “grudge,” which is a word young children aren’t familiar with. I also wanted to emphasize the idea that the power of a grudge lies in its being held.
Prop: I used a large duffel bag, which I filled with some fairly heavy items, so it really bent me over when I carried it, and the relief was real when I shed it.