Year B, Third after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Lectionary reading for June 13, 2021

Last week we read how Israel demanded a king so that they could be ruled like the other nations. God gave in, but not without first issuing a stern warning through Samuel. Enter Saul, who, on the surface, looks like the perfect king, but his character flaws quickly become apparent. He is prideful, dishonest, and has no integrity. In the verses just before today’s passage, God rejects Saul as king and pledges to find a new, better king for God’s people.

God tells Samuel to travels to Bethlehem to meet Jesse’s sons. God will select one of these sons to be king, so Jesse brings forth his three oldest sons, thinking surely God would want someone tall and strong, but God passes over the three brothers and Samuel asks if there is another. Jesse answers, “there remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” Does God really want to make a king of a little shepherd boy?

Yes. God isn’t interested in how someone looks; God is interested in our character. God wants a humble, obedient king for the Israelites, someone to make up for Saul’s pride and dishonesty. This story reminds us that God doesn’t care how impressive we look, God only cares about our hearts.

As much as we like to think we are similarly focused on character rather than looks, we all have deeply held biases that are difficult to overcome. We can’t control the external messages we get as children about people who differ from us, but we can interrupt and challenge our biases when we notice them. Little kids are lucky though, because most of those biases haven’t yet taken hold, and they are like Cyril the squirrel in Cyril and Pat.

Cyril is a lonely squirrel in Lake Park until he meets his new friend, Pat. Sure, Pat doesn’t look exactly like him, but Cyril doesn’t mind, because Pat is so much fun to play with! They ride skateboards, play hide-and-seek, and outwit Slim the dog. The other animals in the park notice Pat is actually a rat, but Cyril never hears their warnings because he’s too busy pointing out all of Pat’s great characteristics!

Eventually, the other animals get the message across: Pat is a rat, and squirrels can’t be friends with rats. Pat slinks back to the city streets, and Cyril’s life just isn’t the same. He misses his friend’s big heart! Pat comes through for Cyril in a crisis, and finally the other park animals realize that Pat is more than what they see on the outside.

Cyril, like God, looked past appearances and saw straight to Pat’s heart. It didn’t matter that Pat’s fur was ragged and dirty. Instead, Cyril saw Pat was clever, a great joker, and a brilliant sharer. Without the biases of the other animals, Cyril found a great friend where no one else was looking.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • How can you tell if someone will be a good friend?
  • Can you tell if someone is kind just by looking at them?
  • Has someone ever warned you to stay away from a certain kind of person? How did that feel?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why did Pat leave the park?
  • Why didn’t Cyril defend Pat when the other animals were being mean?
  • How can we make sure we give everyone a chance, no matter what they look like?

Gravett, Emily. Cyril and Pat. Two Hoots, 2019.

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