Good morning, girls and boys. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been the new kid? Okay, my next question is, raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a group when a new kid comes in. Today we’re thinking about belonging, and what it takes to really feel included.

I brought a book you may know, just to help us think about it. It’s called The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi, and it’s about a little girl named Yoon-hey (spelling to help me with pronunciation), who moves to the United states from Korea. On her first day of school someone on the bus asks her name. (Show pages.) She says Yoon-hey. “Oh it’s yoo-hey, like You, Hey! What about Hey You?” When she gets to the classroom and they asked her name, she says, she hadn’t picked one yet. She’d let them know by next week. She goes home and tells her mother she wants an American name. She doesn’t want to be different. She starts trying out different ones.

The next morning she finds a jar on her desk full of names. Her classmates are giving her suggestions- they say she can pick which ever she likes. Her friend Joey says, “Don’t you have any name?” She shows him her name stamp, the red Korean letters on the paper. He asks if he can keep the paper.

Later Joey runs into Yoonhey in a store and hears her name. Mr. Kim says it means Grace. On Monday the jar is gone. She decides to introduce herself as Yoon-hei. They mispronounce it but keep trying.  They talk about names and the meanings behind them. Then they say goodbye to Yoonhay. Who took the jar? Joey. He wanted her to keep her own name. And she did!

So it sounds to me that by the end of the book, Yoonhey was starting to feel like she belonged. What did it take for her to feel that way? (for everyone to accept her as herself, for her to be brave and be open to others, for others to be open to  her) This reminds me of someone who believed that we all belong to each other and to God. Jesus. Jesus always treated everyone with respect, as one of God’s treasures. He took time to let each person know that they belonged-important. Little ones to him belong. That sounds good enough to be in a song!

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for Jesus, the one to whom we belong. Help us always remember to welcome others into our circle, the way that Jesus did. We love you. Amen.

This children’s message was given April 29, 2018, on the fifth Sunday of Easter,  Year B, to help illustrate the theme of belonging in God’s kingdom. The scripture of the main sermon was Acts 8:26-40.