31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
July 9, 2017
1 Corinthians 12: 14-31
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Can a car be a Christian? How about a truck? Because if they can, then I think that the Little Blue Truck is a Christian.
The Little Blue Truck exemplifies the best characteristics of a Christian’s life. He is kind and friendly; He pays attention to and says hello to each creature as he goes rolling by; He is helpful; and He is forgiving.
Two weeks ago, the Rev. Dr. Michael Lake was with us in worship, and he preached on the importance of forgiveness, of forgiving one another. In the passage we heard that day from Matthew, Jesus instructed his followers to forgive not just seven times but seventy-seven times or as some translations put it, seventy times seven.
The gospel of Luke also records Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness, but in Luke it says “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:3) Well, that’s a little different than forgive seventy times seven.
“Rebuke the offender”. It sounds so harsh, but I’ll bet there are at least a few of us who really like the idea of that. First, I get to tell off the person who hurt me, and then only if they apologize and promise to change their ways, do I have to forgive them.
These words from Luke potentially give us an excuse to fuel our desire for payback and retribution. They are words that can give us an excuse to not forgive, an excuse to nurse our grudges and hug our hurts.
But the Little Blue Truck does neither. Yes, the dump truck is rude and insulting. Yes, the dump truck runs the Little Blue Truck and the duck off the road. Yes, there might have been some small satisfaction in seeing the self-important dump truck get stuck in the mud.
But when Little Blue hears the Dump’s cry for help, he doesn’t turn his back and pretend he doesn’t hear. He does not pull up alongside the Dump, staying safely on the road, and rebuke the Dump until the Dump apologizes, humbles himself, and asks for forgiveness.
Instead, Little Blue follows Christ’s call. He does unto another as he would have them do to him; he loves his “enemy”, doing good, and expecting nothing in return; Without reservation, he drives into the mud to help.
Think about all of the excuses we might want to use to not get dirty and help. ‘I really don’t have time’. ‘He’s not my kind of truck’. ‘Why should I help the Dump when he was so rude? When he has not apologized? When he has not shown that he has learned his lesson?’
‘Would he have helped me if the tires were reversed? And could I get that promise in writing before I roll one single tread into the muck?’
So many excuses to ignore Jesus’ words to “Love [our] enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27)
So many excuses to ignore Jesus’ words, and I get it. They are hard words. I struggle with them myself. I fail at following them.
They are challenging words, but there they are. They cannot be ignored or excused away. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27)
Love. It, too, is a hard word. It is hard to just love someone – love them for who they are, love them where they are, love them without condition or reservation.
But it is our calling from God through Jesus Christ. Love one another. Love others as you would have them love you. Love and do good, expecting nothing in return.
Which is exactly what the Little Blue Truck is doing when bump, bump, bump, he goes, into the mud to help the Dump. Showing love, doing good, and expecting nothing in return.
And here is the twist in the story that I just love – because who expects a twist in a fourteen page children’s board book. Despite the Little Blue Truck’s kindness, compassion, and desire to help, despite pushing with all of his might, he cannot budge the Dump Truck even one little bit and now both of them are stuck in the mud.
Despite Little Blue’s selfless motivation, despite his true desire to help, despite using all of his strength, he cannot do it alone.
So “Help! Help! Help! cried the Little Blue Truck. Beep! Beep! Beep! I’m stuck! I’m stuck! [And] Everybody heard that ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ The cow came running with the pig and the sheep.” (Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle)
Now, we could have some conversation about why the animals all came running to help Little Blue and not the Dump Truck. We could talk about how it wasn’t right, but maybe the animals weren’t Christians.
Maybe they were like all of those others Jesus described – the ones who love only those who love them in return; doing good only to those who do good to them; lending their help only to those they hope to receive from.
You’ve seen it. Perhaps you’ve even done it a time or two – supporting someone’s charity walk so they will support yours, buying something from a co-worker’s child’s school fundraiser so they will buy from your kid’s. It reduces giving and kindness down to economics, this in exchange for that.
And it might be the way of the world, but it’s not the Christian commandment for love.
Regardless of why the animals come, they do come, and into the mud goes the cow, the pig, the sheep, the horse, the goat, and the duck to all push Blue who pushes the Dump.
And still, “they couldn’t quite budge that heavy load. Then who hopped up but the big green toad.” (Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle)
And this is the twist I love – that it is the big green toad, who is the smallest of all of the animals, who is the tipping point, whose effort finally enables the trucks to get unstuck.
If it is the Little Blue Truck that teaches us the Christian values to love unconditionally, to love our enemies and do good, expecting nothing in return, then it is the big green toad who teaches us that we cannot be a Christian alone.
Christianity is about community. You cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ on your own. You are, we are, all a part of the body, the body of Christ, and each one of us is needed.
You are important. You are needed. Our praise of God would not be the same without you. Someone’s faith life, heart, and soul would not be nurtured today if you were not here. Our ministry and mission to make the world a better place in Christ’s love would be diminished, if not for your part.
You are a part of the body, and you are important; you are needed.
So can a Little Blue Truck be a Christian? I don’t know, but what I do know is that this Little Blue Truck inspires my Christian faith journey, inspiring me to be more loving, to do good, giving without expecting anything in return, and reminding me that no matter how small I may think my contribution is, I am needed; I am important; I am a part of this Christian body; and through my little acts of big love, God is blessing this world.