Do you remember The Little Engine That Could? A train full of toy animals, dolls, and every kind of thing boys or girls could want was stranded and could not get over the mountain to the village of children on the other side. What would they do?
- A shiny new engine, asked by the dolls and toys to help replied, “I pull the likes of you? I am a passenger engine. Indeed not!”
- A big engine, stopped by the toy clown waving a flag said, “I am a freight engine. I am a very important engine indeed. I won’t pull the likes of you!”
- A rusty old engine when asked replied: “I am so tired. I must rest. I can not. I can not. I can not.”
A very little engine was asked next by the dolls and toys and saw the tears in their eyes before replying, “I’m not very big, but I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
“Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. ‘I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can — I think I can.’”
We all know the ending of the story.
“‘Hurray, hurray,’ cried the funny little clown and all the dolls and toys. ‘The good little boys and girls in the city will be happy because you helped us, kind and little blue engine.’ And the little blue engine smiled and seemed to say as she puffed steadily down the mountain. ‘I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.’”
There are plenty of churches who behave much as the engines in the story.
- The shiny new church that says to people in need: “I’m busy paying for my building!”
- The large mega church: “I’m too busy with my own ministries.”
- The established churches struggling to survive: “I’m too tired and discouraged to help you!”
Meanwhile there are people all around who desperately need to hear the hope offered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday that only God’s church can offer.
“Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where the women were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.” – Matthew 28:2–4
There was one very little church which had once been vibrant and full of life, but was now struggling.
On a typical Sunday morning there would only be ten or twelve people, but they prayed about the needs of their community and two from their church joined a year-long intensive Bible study. During one class both people felt the need to open their very little church to an after-school ministry for local school children: “With God’s help,” they said, “I think I can — I think I can — I think I can?”
Within a few weeks, thirty children were being dropped off at the same, very little church where they would be greeted with cookies and begin an hour and a half of fun, music, games, and Bible study. Over the next few months and years, some of those children along with their parents began attending this same little church. “With God’s help … I think I can — I think I can — I think I can.”
“The angel spoke to the women: ‘There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.” – Matthew 28:5–6
One man in the same community had a heart attack and nearly died. While in the hospital, he made a vow to serve God more faithfully and come to this same very little church. Another man, discouraged with church life brings his whole family looking for a fresh start. Both men become a source of inspiration and motivation for others. “With God’s help … I think I can — I think I can — I think I can!”
A new year-long Bible study is started, but this time the very little church now has its own class full of people who are looking for answers and seeking ways to serve God. One woman in the class persuades her whole family into joining the Bible study, while another woman begins teaching youth in the Sunday school. A couple living together asks to be married in the same little church. The class forms a choir. “With God’s help … I think I can — I think I can — I think I can!!”
“Hurray, hurray,” cries this preacher, and people everywhere at this very little church are smiling on Easter Sunday as she puffs steadily on in service of God. And God replies: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The little church says: “With God’s help, we thought we could — we thought we could — we thought we could!!”
With God’s help, you can too!
“Now get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples.” – Matthew 28:7–8
What will you do this Easter Sunday?
There is a church just down the road that would be thrilled to see you and welcome you. “Hurray, hurray,” cries this preacher and people everywhere as all of our churches big and small celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Hallelujah!!
About Larry Davies
Larry Davies is currently the Lynchburg, Virginia District Superintendent for 89 United Methodist Churches. He has been the pastor of small, medium, and large churches. For many years, Larry managed and trained sales people in the automobile business. He is also the author of Live the Light: Five Weeks to a Light that Shines and three other books. Larry is the founder of Sowing Seeds of Faith, a worldwide prayer ministry and writing ministry, www.SowingSeedsofFaith.com. His columns and blog posts appear in several newspapers, magazines, and websites. Larry is a graduate of Virginia Tech and received his Master of Divinity at Duke University. Mell, Larry’s wife, recently retired from Concord Elementary School. Larry has two children and two grandchildren and a lively but older Springer Spaniel named Daisy.