Eating Macaroni in the Bathtub

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.

Can we talk about dogma for a second?

Not a book review. More of a book warning.

I do not recommend a book unless I have read it and held it in my hands, and here’s why: there’s bad theology out there, theology that does real damage to real people, and I won’t have it in my life, and I won’t recommend it for inclusion in your ministry. Sometimes a book seems like a really great addition to a loving, Christ-centered library, but until you’ll leaf through it, you don’t know what kind of hurtful messages might be hidden therein.

While browsing my favourite online bookstore, bookoutlet.ca, I came across God Always Keeps His Promises: Unshakable Hope for Kids, by Max Lucado. Now, maybe I was naïve, but I bought it. I have three children’s books by Max Lucado that I love and will probably recommend some future week, so why not? Here’s why not:

My promise to God:

I believe the Bible is filled with God’s own words. And I believe His words will show me the way to heaven and to Him.

-Do Not Buy This Book

Folks, I love the Bible. I consider it a sacred source of wisdom on innumerable topics. But God did not write it. Divinely inspired? Perhaps. Divinely authored? Nope. The Bible is a collection of letters, stories, poems, and histories written across centuries by PEOPLE. People with their faults, biases, imperfections, and agendas, then collected into canon by more people with THEIR own faults, biases, imperfections, and agendas. Asking children to believe that everything in the Bible is the honest-to-goodness word straight from God’s mouth is irresponsible and harmful.

What happens when a child that made that promise actually *reads* the Bible, and not just Max Lucado’s interpretation? What happens when they notice all the inconsistencies? What happens when they notice that if they can’t be gay, they also can’t wear polyester-cotton shirts? What happens when they start to ask questions? Questions don’t kill faith; dogma kills faith.

The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.

Anne Lamott

I don’t know anything for sure, so I have decided to err on the side of love. When I read through the “One Another” passages in the New Testament, I see they are overwhelming focused on treating each other with love, patience, and forgiveness. So I will do my best to follow Isaiah’s instructions to do good, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow. If I mess up and rescue, defend, or plead for someone God really didn’t want to me help, I’ll let him sort out in heaven.