Second after Pentecost, Lectionary reading for June 6, 2021

“If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”

I’ll pause here so you can roll your eyes. Most of us heard a version of this question from a caring adult in our lives, and we likely dismissed it as an overreaction to whatever it was we wanted to do along with our friends. Hanging out at the mall after school isn’t as bad as jumping off a cliff, right? Trying one cigarette isn’t a death sentence, right? Shoplifting the occasional pack of gum doesn’t make you a criminal, right?

As adults, we can see the ‘slippery slope’ associated with any of those behaviours, but as kids, they seem harmless, especially when judged against the ultimate standard of children and teenagers: fitting in. I don’t want to diminish the importance of fitting in; we are a social species, and belonging to a group is crucial for our well-being. We need each other. The trick is finding a group where you can belong, and still be yourself.

The Israelites are about to learn the hard lesson that a little conformity is good for us, but neglecting our values to fit in with the crowd never ends well. Despite Samuel’s eloquent warning, the Israelites couldn’t resist the glamour of an earthly king, and just as warned, things go south rather quickly.

Striking a balance between fitting in and staying true to ourselves is a struggle we all face from childhood onward. The more we find our identity in God, the easier it becomes, but short of sainthood, I’m not sure we ever quell the little voice that pushes us to join the crowd.

Poor Camilla knows this struggle all too well. She really wants to fit in, and while trying to choose the perfect outfit for the first day of school, she breaks out in stripes! The doctor gives her some cream to try, but since she’s not sneezing, coughing, dizzy, drowsy, or twitching, she’s sent to school the next day… only to break out into all kinds of strange patterns. There doesn’t seem to be a cure until an old lady (as sweet and plump as a strawberry) appears and knows the secret to what sets Camilla apart from the crowd, and how she can return to her “normal” appearance.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What makes you different from other people?
  • Do you ever try to hide what makes you different?
  • Do you wish you could be the same as other people?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • What makes people who follow Jesus different?
  • What do you find difficult about following Jesus?
  • Where can you find help when it’s hard to follow Jesus?

God gave us Jesus so we would have a role model to follow rather than a long list of rules. Rules can be helpful, but Jesus broke some rules because they didn’t match his values. A Bad Case of Stripes doesn’t get into the difference between rules and values, but I think it will give the children in your ministry plenty to talk about on staying true to ourselves and living according to Jesus’ values rather than those of the crowd.

Shannon, David. A Bad Case of Stripes. Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004.

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