Salvation is Right Now

Year B, Fourth after Pentecost, Lectionary Reading for June 20 2021, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

I can’t do it, folks. I can’t believe that Christianity is a get-to-heaven system of checklists. I can’t believe that we have a whole beautiful book of scriptures and a 2000 year history of tradition and liturgy all for what happens when we die. Is Christianity a faith, or an insurance policy? Do we sing praises, pray regularly, and give to the poor just to bribe God into letting us into God’s kingdom?

I really hope there’s a heaven where angels strum harps on clouds, where we get to see our long-departed friends and family, all in perfect health and happiness, and where we will effortlessly live in the presence of God for eternity. That would be amazing! But do we really have to wait until we die? And is that the whole point? This passage from second Corinthians is one of many scriptures that refutes the idea that salvation is only for later. Here are 2 of my favourites:

Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.

Luke 17:21

And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:15

Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is right here, right now, not just in the future. I love the way this video from the Bible project illustrates how Jesus’ ministry opened pockets of heaven here on earth wherever he went:

This brings me to today’s storybook. People tend to think of happiness as a goal to achieve, just like heaven. But we can choose happiness by choosing to live in God’s presence. God is always “at hand,” always available, always ready to be grasped. Even in moments of suffering, we can reach for God and find a little piece of heaven within our pain.

Julie Berry’s book Happy Right Now explores this idea from a child’s perspective. Sometimes it will rain, sometimes we have to say goodbye to a treasured friend, and we don’t always get the puppy (or friendly dragon) we want, but even in these difficult circumstances, we can choose how we react.

This book offers readers a list of helpful ways to cope with sadness, anger, and other overwhelming emotions. One page in particular shows the main character sitting quietly, taking deep breaths, and letting herself relax. Christianity has a long history of contemplative prayer as a way of listening to and connecting with God. Let’s celebrate that tradition with our children!

Contemplative prayer can be as simple as quieting your body, sitting silently, and letting go of surrounding distractions with a special word or phrase. I like to use “peace of Christ” when I get distracted, but you can help the children in your ministry choose a word of phrase that works for them. Sometimes children feel like they don’t know what to “say” to God in prayer; this is a great way to demonstrate that listening to God is equally important.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Where is heaven? How do you get there?
  • Is God far way when you pray, or right there with you?
  • What could make you happy forever?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Which of the strategies in the book have you already used to feel better?
  • Does following Jesus mean you will always be happy?
  • Do you have to be happy all the time?

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Who Do You Think You Are, Anyway?

Fourth after Pentecost, Lectionary reading for June 20, 2021; Job 38:1-11

Call me crazy, but I love the book of Job. Do I really believe that God ruined a man’s life to settle a bet with Satan? No. But we all suffer: Job, Jesus, every one of us. How we react and respond to our suffering and to the suffering of others is up to us, but there is no way to avoid suffering. Job and his friends spend most of the book arguing about why we suffer, but to me, that’s not the important part (other than offering us lessons in how NOT to help a grieving friend).

The book of Job shows us it is perfectly acceptable to cry out to God. We can pour out all our anger, frustration, bitterness, and pain in our prayers and still be loved by God. In the midst of our suffering, we can scream and cry and question, and God is big enough to bear it all and still love us.

My other takeaway from the Book of Job is that we will never fully understand the mystery of God. While modern science has answered some of the questions God asks Job in chapters 38-41, the message remains pertinent: we will never understand the mind of our Creator or the full glories of creation. Assuming we know God’s plans or God’s thoughts is hugely arrogant. We have clues in the Bible and in creation (what the Franciscans call the first bible), but we need to accept and even embrace the mystery in which we live.

This week’s reading from Job is a great opportunity to marvel at creation, and ABCs From Space is a perfect book to gawk over. It isn’t a storybook in the traditional sense, but as you browse its pages, you can’t help but wonder at the beauty, diversity, and mystery of God’s creation. Little kids will enjoy finding the letters and tracing them on each page, and older kids will enjoy reading the explanations in the back pages. This book is a real conversation starter and you’ll enjoy looking through it over and over again.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What is something people used to think about the world that we know is wrong now?
  • How did we find out?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Do you think we will ever know everything about the world?
  • Why do you think God made some things so hard to figure out?

Well folks, I’ve been kicked out of the Amazon Associates program because of a lack of sales, so I no longer have clickable links on my page. You can find this book on Amazon, but check your local library first, and if you are lucky enough to live somewhere that still has a physical bookstore, go support it!

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Voiland, Adam. ABCs From Space. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017.

Pride Sunday!

Acts 15:5-13 Reading for June 6th, 2021

The trouble with following the Revised Common Lectionary is that sometimes, great events get left out! There’s nothing special for Mother’s or Father’s day, and nothing for Pride Sunday! I’m publishing this post only a few days before Pride Sunday, but hopefully you will still have time to track down a copy of this great book. I got mine at an Indigo bookstore, and I would guess most bookstores have a copy. Check your library too!

This affirming passage from Acts gives me goosebumps every time I read it. Much like earlier passages from Acts, like the story of Peter’s vision and Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, the message is clear: the Gospel is for everyone. Salvation is for everyone. There is nothing about your appearance, your past, your behaviour, your thoughts, your nationality, or your family background that you can hide from God, and still God welcomes you into the family.

In fact, you are saved even if you don’t live up to religious rules! Some people insisted that all the men of Judea had to be circumcised if they wanted to be saved, but Peter and Barnabas “were up on their feet in fierce protest” (Acts 15:1-2) defending that salvation is for everyone, no matter what you (or your genitals) look like.

What I love most about It Feels Good to be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, is its simplicity. We sometimes overthink concepts like gender identity or sexual orientation and decide they are too complicated to explain to children, but they really aren’t. It boils down to what the title says: it feels good to be yourself.

Teresa Thorn’s book explains that doctors and parents make an educated guess about each baby’s gender identity, but as that baby grows up and can communicate, they might tell the world that they got it wrong… and that’s ok! The book also reassures readers (kids AND parents) that there are too many ways to be a boy or a girl or non-binary to fit in a book. God’s world is full of glorious diversity, because that’s the way God made it!

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Are you a boy or a girl or something else?
  • How do you know?
  • Can you hide anything about yourself from God?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Is there only one way to dress/act if you are a girl?
  • Is there only one way to dress/act if you are a boy?
  • Does God love girls more than boys?

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Thorn, Theresa. It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. Henry Holt and Co., 2019.

Let Your Faith Grow

Year B, Third after Pentecost; Mark 4:26-34, Lectionary reading for June 13, 2021

It’s spring here in Saskatchewan, and everywhere you look, seeds are sprouting. Maybe it’s my childish heart, but to me, every spring feels like the miracle of resurrection. I have a difficult relationship with winter (ok, I hate it), so those cold days in March feel like the end of the world, like this is the year winter will last forever and I’ll never see green grass again. Then, slowly (really slowly this year) the miracle begins. The days get longer. The temperature warms. The snowbanks shrink. The buds swell on the trees, and if you squint at them in the right light, you can almost see a sheen of green in the treetops.

Spring is slow in Saskatchewan. We will have a +30C day when the grass is still brown, then a dump of snow during which we all nod and repeat “the farmers need the moisture,” then a few more warm days when you think it’s safe to plant the tomatoes (go back, it’s a trap!) and then an ice storm.

No matter the hairpin turns and unexpected valleys, spring progresses. We had our first thunderstorm of the year a few nights ago, and for me, that seals the deal. Spring has taken hold and I will have a reprieve from winter for a few months. We will have a few more nights of frost (guard those tomatoes), but God kept the promise, and life returns.

Maybe I love the seed parables because my faith is so small. Call it Seasonal Affective Depression, but there’s a part of me that, every winter, doesn’t really think spring will come. I’ve lived through enough winter/spring transitions to know better, but my faith is no bigger than a mustard seed. I watch the willows for catkins and listen for the chickadee’s love song because I’m afraid God has abandoned me.

But if I go to my spice drawer, I can see a mustard seed. It really is quite small (but hadn’t Jesus seen all the smaller seeds? I digress), and can’t I have that much faith? Can’t I muster up enough faith to fit in that tiny brown ball one more time? Surely. And when I do, when I breathe and pray and trust, the resurrection begins, even before the first thunderstorm. My body calms, my heartbeat slows, and the seed pushes out roots and a stem and the Kingdom is within me again.

Please plant some seeds with the kids in your ministry. I don’t care what time of year you happen upon this post; just plant some seeds. And when they sprout, lower your adult defenses and let yourself feel the same wonder the children feel. Something as still and cold as a stone has come to life before your very eyes!

But you’re here for the book, and since I made you read all that, I’ll give you two!

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss does not pass my usual test for diversity, and there’s even an illustration of a man smoking a pipe (ah, the 1940s), but this little book is irresistible nevertheless. A little boy plants a seed, everyone in his family expresses their doubt, but the little boy has faith. He waits, he waters, he pulls the weeds, and eventually, a carrot the size of the mustard shrub in the parable pops out of the soil.

Another great choice for this passage of scripture is Elly MacKay’s If You Hold a Seed. Part of the beauty of this book is the passage of time. A boy plants a seed in this book too—but it’s a tree seed. No one discourages this boy, but trees take a long time to grow, and the illustrations point that out. If you go with this book, I’d recommend bringing in some seeds from the trees in your area for kids to look at. Break open a pine cone and look at those tiny seeds that will grow into a pine tree! If a tree can put its faith in a tiny seed to secure its future, maybe I can believe that winter will come, even if it hasn’t been above -30C for a week.

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Krauss, Ruth. The Carrot Seed: 75th Anniversary. Harper Collins, 2020.

MacKay, Elly. If You Hold a Seed. Running Press Kids, 2013.

The Lord Looks on the Heart

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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Ends and Means

Second after Pentecost, Mark 3:20-35, Lectionary reading for June 6, 2021

Satan can not cast out Satan, only God can cast out Satan; you can not do good through evil means.

This passage of scripture comes early in Jesus’ ministry. He hasn’t been teaching and healing for long, but word has spread. There are so many people crowded around him, his family can’t get close enough to check up on him and see for themselves if all the rumours are true. His family wonders if he’s out of his mind, and the scribes think he’s possessed by demons.

But hang on a minute. Moments ago he healed a man with a withered hand, and before that he performed several other miracles: he healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28), healed many others at Simon’s house (1:29-34), cleansed a leper (1:40-45), and restored a paralyzed man (2:1-12)! The religious authorities accuse Jesus of using the power of Satan to do these works, but Jesus points out what the crowd already knows: these miracles are only possible through God’s power.

Satan can’t achieve evil ends with good works, and neither can we achieve positive outcomes if the path is one of evil, deception, or cruelty. Whenever humans try to use just a *little* evil in the name of the greater good, things fall apart. It’s as though Satan is waiting for us to steal that money we promise to use to help widows and orphans, only to pounce and really get us in his grips, and convince us that stealing a little more won’t hurt, and neither will spreading that rumour or starting that fire. If you want to do good, you gotta do good!

While this is a tricky idea to get across to little ones, I found the perfect story to make the concept easier to understand. The Snatchabook is a little critter who desperately wants a bedtime story, but doesn’t have anyone to read to him. His solution? He will steal some books! The families of Burrow Down miss their books and want them back. What’s worse, they accuse each other of stealing the books, leading to suspicions and hurt feelings. Eliza stays up all night to solve the mystery and meets the Snatchabook. She explains that stealing is wrong and helps the little fellow make amends.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a bedtime story! But the Snatchabook learns that stealing stories isn’t the right way to go about meeting that need. Once the books were all returned and the Snatchabook made his apologies, the families of Burrow Down welcome him into their homes for story time. The wrong way often seems like the easy way, and it takes guidance from caring adults for children to learn that doing the wrong thing only ever leads to more wrong things, while doing the right thing, even if it seems like so much more work, will lead to even better things.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • Do you know anyone who has stolen anything? Ask for stories without names.
  • Why do you think people steal?
  • Do you think there’s ever a good reason to steal?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Would you let the Snatchabook into your home after he stole all of those books? Why?
  • What do you think the Snatchabook should have done instead of starting to steal?
  • When you can’t think of a good way to solve your problem, who can you go to for help?

Docherty, Helen. The Snatchabook. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013.

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Follow the crowd or follow God?

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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Adopted into the Kingdom of God

Year B, Trinity Sunday, Romans 8:12-17; Lectionary reading for May 30, 2021

To get a handle on this passage of scripture, it’s important to define two key concepts: slavery and adoption. Why does Paul use these two words to encourage the community of Roman believers?

Slavery was a common practice in Rome; in fact, 30-40% of the population was estimated to be enslaved. Slaves completely depended on the whims of their masters for survival. They had few rights and could be executed for disobeying their masters. They could be tattooed or branded by their owners, and had a life expectancy of only 17 years, while many Roman citizens lived into their 60s.

And adoption?

In Rome, during Paul’s ministry, they considered an adopted child equal in every way to a biological child—with full rights of inheritance and to the family name. Since having children the good old-fashioned way was unpredictable, wealthy Romans frequently adopted boys to insure they could pass down their fortunes and family names. When a child was adopted in Rome, they immediately gained the status and power of the adoptive family. There was no stigma attached to adoption in first century Rome; rather, adopting out a child was one way for a family to gain status!

Paul used these two familiar practices to demonstrate the shift we experience when filled with the Holy Spirit. We are not slaves to God, only doing God’s bidding out of obligation. We are not slaves to sin, dependent on greed, gluttony, and lust for satisfaction. Instead, we are adopted! When God adopts us into God’s family, we are loved unconditionally and have access to God’s status and power. We inherit the Kingdom of God!

What a great day to talk about adoption in our contemporary lives! Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz is a touching depiction of adoption based on the author’s own experience. This book pulls readers into the excitement of waiting for the new baby to arrive along with the parents and their community. The mommy and daddy have dreamed of this baby and love her unconditionally, just as God dreamed of us and loves us conditionally.

Over the Moon can spark discussions about family diversity with the kids in your ministry. Children’s literature has come a long way towards better representation of diverse families, but adopted and foster children are still too often left out of the conversation. If you would like more recommendations for books featuring adoption or fostering, leave me a comment and I will send you a list.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What is adoption? (Be prepared to hear about pets!)
  • How many kids can a parent love?
  • Does God love some kids more because of who their parents are?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why are the mommy and daddy so excited to meet the new baby?
  • What will the mommy and daddy give the baby as it grows?
  • What does God give us as we grow?

Katz, Karen. Over the Moon: An Adoption Story. Square Fish, 2001.

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Here I am! Saying Yes to Hard Things

Year B, Trinity Sunday, Isaiah 6:1-8; Lectionary reading for May 30, 2021

Image Description: a mountain with forests in the foreground, with the text from Isaiah 6:8 overlaid: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!”

Following Jesus is hard work. Yes, we have been set free and born again of the Spirit, but no one said life would be roses and sunshine henceforth and forevermore. In fact, if we are to follow Jesus, suffering is inevitable. God transforms our suffering to bring us closer to the Kingdom, but it is still suffering—rotten, terrible, painful, suffering—just like Jesus experienced on the cross (well, hopefully not to that extreme).

God transformed Jesus’ suffering from death to life to show us that our lives follow the same pattern of death and resurrection. I’m not just talking about physical resurrection or even eternal life in Heaven, but the kind of resurrection we experience all the time right now: those moments when we’ve lost all hope, but… plot twist! Things work out. We experience these moments of resurrection throughout our lives, and I believe they are meant to give us hope that all our suffering is redeemed. That belief didn’t make my ankle hurt any less the moment it broke in three places, but as I suffered through surgery, recovery, and physical therapy, I trusted God would somehow transform my suffering; and God did. My experience with that pain and limited mobility deepened my resolve to make my community and the world more accessible and inclusive.

Isaiah has no illusions about what God asks of him. God asks Isaiah to tell painful truths to the Israelites, truths they won’t want to hear. But Isaiah is a faithful servant and doesn’t hesitate to answer God’s call, despite the difficulties ahead. The last sentence in this chapter summarizes what Isaiah knows about suffering and doing God’s work: “Israel’s stump will be a holy seed” Isaiah 6:13, NLV.

And which book is the undisputed champion of inspiring kids to do hard things?

Watty Piper’s classic The Little Engine That Could has a fresh new look thanks to one of my favourite author/illustrators, Dan Santat, but the text remains the same. The funny little clown still does his best to convince The Shiny New Engine, The Passenger Engine, The Freight Engine, and The Rusty Old Engine to help pull the toys over the mountain, but none will put aside their own comfort for the broken down train. The toys don’t give up though, and ask one more engine, The Little Blue Engine.

My favourite part of this book is that The Little Blue Engine has never gone over the mountain before, but agrees to help the toys. She takes a chance and chugga-chugga-chuggs over the mountain, answering the call despite uncertainty and inexperience. Can we do the same? Are we willing, like Isaiah, to say yes to God, despite our own uncertainty and inexperience? Can we submit to difficulty, even suffering, trusting that we will be transformed?

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What’s the hardest thing you ever had to do?
  • Do you always want to say yes when your family asks you to do something?
  • Who encourages you when things get difficult? Who do you encourage?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Why did the Little Blue Engine say she would help?
  • God sometimes asks us to do difficult things. How can we say yes to God?
  • How does God help us get over the mountains in life?

Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could. Grosset & Dunlap, 2020.

Storybook Ministry is reader supported! I may receive a small commission from purchases made through the links on this page as a part of the Amazon Affiliates program.

Can’t You Understand Me?

Year B, Pentecost Sunday, Lectionary reading for May 23, 2021: Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost is one of my favourite days of the liturgical year. I can’t help but imagine the excitement of the scene; the joyful chaos of all those people suddenly understanding each other! I have lived in and traveled to many countries, and without exception, the language barrier is the hardest part. I remember buying a bottle of pop in Korea and really wanting a straw, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the right word. Finally, I had it! “Une paille, chusayo!” Except I asked for the straw in French and said please in Korean. Sigh.

I lean towards believing in biblical miracles like this one, but even if you don’t, there is so much power in this story. Fifty days after the resurrection, still struggling to find direction, the Holy Spirit fills the disciples and they can communicate! God removed a tremendous obstacle from the path of their evangelism. They could ask for the straw and say please in the right languages!

Even if the disciples weren’t actually speaking languages from Mesopotamia and Cappadocia and every other nation under heaven, somehow they understood and were understood. Something bridged the difference between the disciples and all the other Jews in Jerusalem. They could communicate and spread the teachings of Jesus and the good news of the resurrection, without the usual barriers.

I look at all the languages of the world as more evidence that God loves diversity. But while diversity makes life beautiful and exciting, sometimes it also makes it messy and difficult. Sadly, many people have a tendency to assume that people who don’t speak English fluently are less intelligent. Immigrants are often judged by how quickly they acquire the language of their new home, and meet with frustration rather than patience when they are learning.

Do we really need to learn multiple languages to understand each other? It would help! But God gave us a universal language; one we were all born with. Kindness, empathy, compassion, patience: even when we speak different languages, these character traits help us understand each other. This lovely book by Karen Katz states toward the end:

All around the world, children want to go to school, to walk in their towns and cities, to play outside, and to share food with their families. They want to do all these things and feel safe. No matter how we say it, we all want peace.

Karen Katz

Even if the disciples didn’t spontaneously start speaking other languages, the Holy Spirit filled them and showed them that all people want the same things, no matter where they are from and what language they speak. The same goes for us. When we slow down and take the time to get to know the people in our communities and around the world, it becomes clear that no matter the language we speak, we all want the same things: faith, hope, love, and peace.

Can You Say Peace? is meant to be read on World Peace Day, September 21, so you might need to adjust how you read the first page, but I hope your little congregants will enjoy this trip around the world! The book teaches 11 different ways to say peace, and lists even more at the end. Maybe people in your ministry will know even more! Even if everyone speaks the same language in your ministry, this book helps remind us all that God’s children around the world may speak differently, look different, and behave differently, but we all want peace.

Questions to ask before you read:

  • What language do you speak at home? Do you speak any other languages?
  • Have you even tried to talk to someone who doesn’t speak your language? What was it like?
  • How can you communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language?

Questions to ask after you read:

  • Have you visited any places where people speak a different language? What was it like?
  • What are some things other than peace that you think every child needs?
  • Choose one word for peace and encourage the children to practice it and see if they can remember it for next week!

Katz, Karen. Can You Say Peace? Square Fish, 2016.

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