Year B, Sixth Sunday of Easter, Acts 10:44-48, Lectionary reading for May 9th, 2021

The Jews in Jesus’ time thought they had a monopoly on God. They were the chosen people. They were in covenant with God and knew how to follow the rules to stay right with God. They had high standards of conduct, and if you did not live up to the standard, you could be denied entry to the temple— and therefore, God. Several scenes in the book of Acts report how this understanding of God and who God loved changed for Jesus’ followers. Peter has a vision to help him understand all are welcome, Philip baptises the Ethiopian Eunuch, and here, the Holy Spirit falls upon Gentiles (non-Jews).

The followers of Jesus needed to hear the lesson that all are welcome in the Kingdom of God repeatedly, and I don’t judge them for that one bit. Are we not the same, 2000 years later? Throughout human history, from long before Jesus walked the earth up to the present day, we have struggled with us/them thinking. WE have the answer; THEY are doomed. WE are civilized; THEY are barbarians. WE are human; THEY are animals.

You don’t have to look very hard to find cute videos of Black and white children hugging each other or claiming to be twins because their shirts match. They are heartwarming and give us an opportunity to pat our collective selves on the back. “See, we do live in a post-racial society!” The older those cute little children grow though, the more aware they become of differences around them, and how adults judge those differences. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that most of the world thinks different=wrong.

Fighting back against that thinking is a critical task for parents, teachers, and those who minister to children. The Holy Spirit flowed out upon the Gentiles and Jews alike, because God loves the diversity of creation. Why else would God have created so much diversity?

I wish a single storybook could innoculate our children against fearing and hating difference, but it takes consistent messages of acceptance over a lifetime to fight against the persistence of ‘othering’. Still, a storybook is a pretty good place to start, isn’t it? When Todd Parr writes and draws about diversity, you can’t help but be pulled into the message. His bright, silly illustrations lighten the mood and open our hearts to a deep truth: we are all human, even if we eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub.

Todd Parr’s message of self-confidence, inclusion, and acceptance should be read once a week for best results, but even if you only read it once in your children’s ministry, you are helping to break down the walls we build between US and THEM, and making the world a little more loving.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What makes you different from anyone else?
  • How do you feel when you meet someone who looks or acts differently than you?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why do you think God made so many different kinds of people?
  • What can you do to get to know people who are different than you?

Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope you will use It’s Okay to Be Different in your ministry! Please consider subscribing to get email updates every time I write a post, and remember to share posts with your friends in children’s ministry! If you click on the book image, you can purchase the book and help support my work with a small commission.

Parr, Todd. It’s Okay to Be Different. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009.

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