Good morning boys and girls!
How many of you like to go out on a nice, sunny day and play with your friends? Has anyone ever said that they can't play with you because they don't like you, or because of where you live, or because of who your parents are? Well boys and girls, I certainly know how you feel because I was shunned at times when I was your age.
Jesus also knows how you feel because he was often rejected because of what he told people. For example, in Luke 4:14-21 he attended worship services in the synagogue in his hometown. He was asked to read a portion of Scripture, and the reading he chose was written by the prophet Isaiah. That particular reading talked about the long-promised Messiah.
After he finished his reading, he told the people that he was the long-promised Messiah that Isaiah talked about. The people couldn't accept this statement because they saw him only as the son of Mary and Joseph, or as the son of a carpenter. That was a shame, because when they rejected him, they rejected someone who was part of the body of Christ that the apostle Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 12:21-31.
Boys and girls, someone else who knows about rejecting people is a little boy named Johnny. Johnny was lying in his bed after a nice bath getting ready to go to sleep. His mommy and daddy were seated on the bed beside him. They were talking about things that had happened that day. Johnny's daddy asked him, "Did you play with the new boy next door, today?" "No, he's weird," said Johnny.
"What do you mean?" asked his father. "He talks funny." said Johnny trying to copy the way the new boy talks. Johnny made himself laugh, but his parents didn't laugh. "I think the boy has trouble starting words," said his Mother, "but if you wait for him, he can say anything anyone else can say. You just have to wait for him."
"I still think he's weird," said Johnny.
"Well," said his father, "God gives different gifts to different people. You learn soccer fast, but you learn piano slowly. You start words quickly, but he starts words slowly. Starting words is not one of his gifts. Do you know what gifts God has given him?"
"No, I didn't think about it," said Johnny.
"When you think someone is weird, you aren't looking for the gifts God has given them, so you won't find them," said his mother. "Tomorrow, you can find out one of his gifts. Maybe he is good at a game."
"Maybe he can play marbles," Johnny said.
"Remember in Church the story of Pentecost where God gave something to each of the disciples that made their faces light up, gave each one something wonderful?" asked his father.
"Yes!" said Johnny. "They all caught on fire."
"The Bible doesn't say they caught on fire," said his mother. "It says there was something like fire on their heads. Maybe it was like fire because it was a bright light." "Maybe it was like fire because it warmed their hearts," said his father. "We do know that God gave them the gift to love one another, and God has given you that gift too, Johnny. God has given you the gift of playing nicely with the boy next door."
Johnny had never thought about that. He'd thought about other gifts from God but never the gift of playing happily with the boy next door. So, he thought about that. But first they said a prayer , and boys and girls, I'd like to you to close your eyes, bow your heads and repeat that same prayer after me.
Dear God, thank you for giving us the gift of loving you and loving each other. Help us play happily with the people next door. Amen.