Year B, 3rd Sunday of Easter; Acts 3:12-19; Lectionary reading for April 18, 2021

When I was a child, sin terrified me. I was a Very Good Girl, and there was a lot at stake to keep it that way. While far from perfect, I wanted everyone, including God, to think I was. If I wanted to go to heaven, I had to be perfect, right? Once, shortly after my grandpa taught me how to make the sign of the cross, I did it with my left hand. That was it, I was sure I was going straight to hell, even though God had made me left-handed. I prayed and prayed for forgiveness, but I feared it would never be enough.

I lost my faith as a teenager, partly because I couldn’t keep up the perfection game. I didn’t understand how God could have made me so flawed and then wanted me to follow all these rules! I didn’t have enough scriptural understanding or guidance to survive that paradox. Rather than feel the shame of failing to meet God’s expectations, I rejected Him altogether. I was a sinner, so I gave up.

Eliza J. Murphy is also a Very Good Girl. She’s even captain of the Worm Rescue Team! But in Abigail Rayner’s book, I am a Thief!, she does something no good girl would ever do: she steals a sparkly green stone from her classroom. Eliza feels terrible about being a thief, but when she starts asking family members about their checkered pasts, she discovers that many of them have stolen things too — but that doesn’t make her feel any better.

Eventually Eliza realizes something important: even if someone is a thief, they are many other things too. Their mistakes do not define them, especially when they make amends. The children in our care need to know that they will mess up, make mistakes, and yes, sin, but that they are more than the sum of their deficits. They are beloved children of God. No matter what they have done, all they need to do is turn away from their mistake and back toward God to have their sins wiped away. There may still be worldly consequences for their actions, but God’s love and forgiveness are assured.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Have you ever stolen something? What happened?
  • How do you feel when you know you’ve done something wrong?
  • Does someone in your family write down all the mistakes you’ve made? Do you think God does?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why do you think Ms. Delaney tells Eliza that she’s brave?
  • Does this book tell you it’s ok to steal?

I loved reading this book, and I think you will too. Click on the book image to purchase it through amazon and you’ll be supporting my work on this blog. Thanks for reading, please subscribe so you always have a book suggestion ready for your ministry!

Rayner, Abigail. I Am a Thief! NorthSouth Books, 2019

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